Bimal Roy has been a highly revered filmmaker of Bangla and Hindi cinema with classics like Madhumati, Do Bigha Zameen, Bandini and Sujata to his credit. I got surprised when I found his name on the cover of the VCD of this movie which was released in 1957. By name, it seemed like a B grade movie to me but again, Mala Sinha was considered an A grade heroine of her time. So I decided to watch this movie which is a murder mystery directed by the well-known comedian – Asit Sen and produced by none other than the legendary filmmaker Bimal Roy.I watched it with a low expectation though I am a very big mystery fan. I like Agatha Christie’s novels very much and among them too, the novels of Hercule Poirot series are my most favourite ones. When this murder mystery ended, I felt the same satisfaction I always get by reading the mystery queen’s Hercule Poirot series novels. The hero of this movie who is a private detective, always helping the police (like Poirot), resolves the mystery of a rich man’s murder in the utmost interesting way. I have read hundreds of mysteries in Hindi and English (alongwith the Bangla mysteries of Satyajit Ray pertaining to Feluda Series) and seen dozens of mystery movies. Still the revelation of the suspense was beyond my wildest guess. Yet, I found it thoroughly logical and satisfying.
The story starts with the visit of handicapped and poor Dinanath (Gajanan Jaagirdar) to his rich brother Srinath (Gajanan Jaagirdar in double role), seeking help from his brother who had usurped the ancestral property through a fake will of their father. There is mention of a third brother Pitambar too who is missing. Srinath accidently murders the lawyer (Murad) who was involved with him in the fraud of the fake will, in his bid to get the real will from him. In this murder, his accomplice is a cabaret dancer Lily (Lilian). Now he seeks the services of a private detective, Rajesh (Abhi Bhattacharya), i.e., our hero saying that he feels some danger to his life. Shobha (Mala Sinha), i.e., our heroine who works in his mansion also seeks Rajesh’s services to steal the will of Srinath’s father. Rajesh denies to Shobha but accedes to the request of Srinath. He reaches there with his comedian assistant but despite himself being present in the household during that night, Srinath is found murdered in his room in the early morning hours when the police officer reaches there to arrest him under the suspicion of the lawyer’s murder.
Now the investigation starts with Rajesh and the police working in association. There is no dearth of suspects. Right from Shobha who is actually the daughter of the third brother, Pitambar to the physician of Srinath who was cheated by him in the patent issue to the embezzling manager to Lily to a servant pretending to be deaf and dumb; all are suspects. Now one dark shadow also comes into picture which gets visible to the inhabitants of the mansion and astonishingly disappears when there is an attempt to catch it. Finally Rajesh succeeds in not only catching the murderer but also unearthing the whole mystery behind the murder.
This underrated and forgotten movie is one of the ignored gems of Bollywood. It’s a real treat for the mystery and suspense-thriller fans. The screenplay has been brilliantly written by Raghunath Jhalani (who later became a successful film director himself) and Asit Sen has directed it excellently. The movie grips the viewer from the very first scene and keeps him tightly tied till the very last scene. The suspense takes its time to emerge but once it emerges, it deepens and deepens only. The movie is thoroughly engrossing, no doubt.
The director has arranged laughter moments through the deaf and dumb servant (Dhumal), the maid servant, Champa (Kammo) and the Rajesh’s assistant (I don’t know the actor’s name who has played this role). Quite contrary to the norms prevailing in that black and white era, there are only 5 songs in the movie. Resultantly, the flow of the narrative is not hindered much by the songs and the momentum of the story is well-maintained. Though there is romance between the hero and the heroine, it has quite sensibly been kept under control without much footage being given to it.
Songs composed by Bimal Da’s standing music director, Salil Chowdhury are not great but ok. Editing, cinematography, art direction and allied technical aspects of the movie are satisfactory.
Abhi Bhattacharya was not a hero material by his outer persona. However he was an actor par excellence and he has done full justice to the Hercule Poirot type role of the detective. Mala Sinha hasn’t got much to do. Gajanan Jaagirdar has given brilliant performance in the double role. You can’t get at a glance that the two different roles are being performed on the screen by the same actor. Other actors have done their bit more or less satisfactorily. Poor performance, if any, has been oveshadowed by the admirable plot and the freely flowing narrative. Lilian’s Hindi accent is terribly poor but it doesn’t make much difference in the movie.
All in all, Apradhi Kaun (who’s the culprit) is a highly admirable whodunnit and a great one time watch. I unconditionally recommend it to all the mystery fans.
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