Rebecca is a classic mystery penned by Daphne du Maurier in 1938, which was adapted for celluloid by Alfred Hitchcock in 1940. The lady in the title role is already dead in the story but she; through her memories, the references to her in people’s talks and her belongings left behind; continues to haunt the life of the new wife of her husband. It’s a great psychological mystery whose climax was changed in the movie by the director, Alfred Hitchcock to suit the mentality of the American audience those days.The great singer-musician of Indian cinema, Hemant Kumar adapted this story for a Hindi movie – Kohra (mist) in 1964, taking Biswajeet in the male lead, i.e., as the dead woman’s husband and Waheeda Rehman in the central role of the hero’s wife. Interestingly, despite the story revolving around the memories of the dead lady (called Poonam in the movie), the director has not shown her face despite several flash backs. He has allowed the audience to see either her body starting from the neck (in the front pose) or see herself from the back side. And that’s the reason, I remained unaware for a pretty long time as to which actress played this character who is the soul of the story. Just a few years back when Biswajeet, the hero of this movie, revealed this secret in an interview, then only I (and several like me) came to know that she’s an Anglo-Indian actress – Thelma who used to do supporting roles in movies.In this Indianized version of Rebecca, widower Raja Amit Kumar Singh (Biswajeet) marries Rajeshwari (Waheeda Rehman) who enters his mansion with a lot of hope for her joyful future only to be stunned by the high-handed attitude of Daai Maa (Lalita Pawar) who looks upon her derogatorily and always compares her with Poonam, the deceased wife of her husband. By misguiding her to wear the attires of Poonam and imitating her mannerisms, Daai Maa brings about a rift in her relationship with her husband too. But one fine morning, the dead body of Poonam is found and Raja Amit Kumar Singh is arrested under the charge of her murder. Gradually the inner secrets of Poonam’s life come to the fore. The ultimate truth is revealed in the climax taking place in the court-room.Director Biren Naag has quite skilfully adapted the classic story of Rebecca for this Indianized story and changed the climax once again (firstly it was changed by Alfred Hitchcock in the Hollywood movie – Rebecca) which suits the taste of the Indian audience. The drama takes some time to pick-up but it is quite speedy in the later part and keeps the audience spellbound.Gorgeous and talented Waheeda Rehman is the main attraction of this black and white movie. She impresses in all kinds of scenes – romantic, emotional and painful. Biswajeet is okay in the male lead. The supporting cast has done its part well. However the best performer is definitely Lalita Pawar in the role of Daai Maa (a role akin to the role of Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca). It is definitely one of her best performances. Music is, in fact, the biggest strength of this classic suspense thriller. Producer of this movie, Hemant Kumar has composed as well as sung the songs which include gems like – Ye Nayan Dare Dare and Raah Bani Khud Manzil. The movie contains Lata’s classic songs like – Jhoom Jhoom Dhalti Raat and O Beqaraar Dil as well. Asha-Mahendra Kapoor duet – Kaahe Bajaai Tune is also in this movie. The beautiful lyrics have been dropped by the pen of Kaifi Aazmi.
Cinematography, art-direction, editing and production value aspects of this black and white movie are all up to the mark. The movie proves to be a memorable experience for the viewer after it is over.
Those who have not read (or seen) Rebecca, should not miss this classic Bollywood mystery. However, those who have read the novel or seen the Hollywood movie, will also find it quite engrossing and entertaining. And it’s a very big treat for the fans of Waheeda Rehman.
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