Dharmendra-Waheeda starrer suspense-thriller

There have been many Bollywood movies made under the title – Baazi. The most famous one among them is Dev Anand-Geeta Bali starrer film which was released in 1951 and directed by Guru Dutt. However today I am reviewing a lesser known Baazi starring Dharmendra and Waheeda Rehman which is a suspense-thriller and which was released in 1968.pctv-1000050636-hdBaazi (bet) is the story of the mysterious death of Mr. D’ Silva whose niece – Liz (Waheeda Rehman) is a money-minded girl. Liz calls her beau, Ajay (Dharmendra) who is a responsible police officer, for her help when she gets the news of her uncle’s death. When Ajay reaches there, he is told by the attending physician that Liz is not in her senses and he had better do the needful for the cremation of Mr. D’ Silva. Ajay does everything with the help of the priest of a nearby church. Pall-bearers are called, coffin is arranged and Mr. D’ Silva is peacefully buried in a nearby Christian graveyard. The thing which catches Ajay’s attention is that a stranger, standing behind all the people present at the time of the burial, is found to be weeping all alone. Upon Liz’s coming to her senses, Ajay consoles her and decides to live in her house for a couple of days. However in the darkness and calmness of the night, he finds a stranger woman also weeping on the grave of Mr. D’ Silva. He gets suspicious. He also finds that not much grief has occurred to Liz upon her uncle’s demise and she is in a hurry to occupy her father’s inheritance which, according to his will, would be hers only upon either her marriage or her uncle’s death who was supposed to be her guardian. Now since the uncle is dead, Liz gets not only his life-insurance money but also becomes the heiress of her father’s wealth. Instead of grief, Ajay finds her in a delightful mood.

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The twist in the tale comes when an old villager reaches the police station with the grievance of his son, Prakash’s going missing. When Ajay sees the photo of the missing man, he is stunned to find that the same person whose name is being told to him by the complaint-lodger as Prakash, was buried by him as Mr. D’ Silva. The mystery deepens with a couple of murders and the fact that when the grave is dug to verify the identity of the dead person, the coffin is found to be empty. Now Liz is the prime suspect in the eyes of Ajay and he arrests her. However his senior police officer releases her on bail and asks Ajay to keep a watch on her. The mystery is resolved in the climax.index1Well, I won’t be surprised if any reader of this review tells me that the story is an adaptation of (or inspiration from) an Agatha Christie work. In fact, I was taken aback in the climax when the mystery got resolved and the identity of the real culprit was exposed. The revelation made me feel like reading the climax of a work of fiction by Agatha Christie.india-baazi28india29Director Moni Bhattacharjee has handled the suspense story pretty well and though the suspense takes some time in building up, the plot of the movie starts taking shape right from the very first scene. The curiosity is maintained throughout and a couple of scenes would have been spine-chilling for the viewers who had watched the movie in theatre when it was released. Guessing the culprit may prove to be difficult even for those who read (or watch) mysteries quite regularly.

The flip side consists of the regular Bollywood formulae and some superficial characters (and scenes). Actually, prior to the multiplex culture, an Indian filmmaker was bound to stretch the movie to around two and a half hours because then only the traditional audience was supposed to find it to be its money’s worth. That’s why undue comic and romantic scenes were inserted in the movies to fill the time-duration. This movie is around 2.15 hours long but it could have been shortened by 20-25 minutes by omitting the character of an insurance company detective (Johnny Walker) and his comic encounters with two Christian ladies (Shammi and Helen). Johnny Walker has been given a second persona of Liz’s so-called cousin arriving from London but despite giving him adequate footage, nothing is revealed about that character in the climax (though the audience can make its own guess).

Kalyanji Anandji’s music is just okay. Neither memorable, nor bad. Only Aa Mere Gale Lag Ja (by Lata Mangeshkar) remains in memory after the movie is over. A song picturized on Waheeda, Helen and others in the beginning reels of the movie (in the form of a play on the stage) is entertaining. In fact, the movie could have been trimmed by omitting a couple of songs too.

Art direction, cinematography and production value aspects are satisfactory.

Performance-wise talking, Waheeda Rehman has acted in many good suspense-thrillers, however Baazi is a low-profile movie when compared to her much talked-about suspense movies. Her character in the movie seems to be containing some gray shades and she has impressed like always. However, the heart-conquerer is Dharmendra, the dashing and smart hero who performs quite naturally. All others have supported the lead-pair properly.

This long forgotten movie is not a classic but a thoroughly interesting suspense-thriller and a decent one-time watch. The mystery-fans will definitely like it.

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About Jitendra Mathur

A Chartered Accountant with literary passion and a fondness for fine arts
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