Many movies have been made in Bollywood under the title Raaz (mystery). The movie buffs belonging to the current generation are well aware of the so-called horror franchise of the Bhatt Camp making movies under this title out of which the first one starring Dino Morea and Bipasha Basu which was released in 2002 is definitely a quality movie and it was a huge commercial hit. Prior to that two movies were made under the title Raaz. The first one was the debut movie of Rajesh Khanna and Babita. It was a suspense-thriller and released in 1967.Today I am reviewing the second one which is the least known movie among all those titled as Raaz. It was released in 1981 and it’s a traditional suspense thriller starring Raj Babbar and Sulakshana Pandit in lead roles.Raaz (1981) starts with the scene of a railway station known as Bhavani Junction on which the heroine of the movie – Seema (Sulakshana Pandit) is waiting for her train to start her journey to an estate for the purpose of her employment in the household of Kunwar Chandrapaal Singh as the governess of a little girl (Baby Geeta Khanna). One handicapped man who moves with the help of crutches (Dr. Shreeraam Lagoo) is also wandering on the station. The train comes and Seema boards it. In her compartment, she finds a strange fellow-passenger Sujeet (Sujeet Kumar) who tries to make advances to her but she keeps him at bay. Suddenly another stranger enters with a revolver in his hand and as the train passes through a dark tunnel, shoots Sujeet dead and then sits there itself (in the train compartment) relaxing. Badly frightened, Seema finds one more revolver lying on the floor of the compartment but the moment she grabs it, the killer strikes her hand and throws that revolver out of the window of the running train. When the train is about to reach some station, the killer exits and then only does she start shouting for the incident of the murder that has taken place in front of her eyes.
After giving her statement to the police, Seema reaches her employer’s house and then she comes face-to-face with a person who is none else than the killer of Sujeet. Now she is in deep trouble. She wants to run away from that house and that place but can’t because her condition is more or less that of a house-arrest. Local cop Khan (Kaader Khan) who is the investigating officer of Sujeet murder case, wants to take her full statement because he smells that she knows much more than she has told to the police but now she is under even higher pressure to keep her lips tight because her beloved niece (Baby Priya) who has been hitherto staying in the hostel, has been brought to the household of Kunwar Chandrapaal Singh. The handicapped stranger who moves with the help of crutches, is also found roaming about that household. When questioned about it, he terms himself as a novelist and his claim is unreliable because his activities are weird and suspicious. A greedy person(Bharat Kapoor) who happens to be the son of the partner of Kunwar’s father, is also there in the scenario who keeps on extorting money from him.
Gradually Seema comes close to Kunwar Chandrapaal Singh and then she becomes aware of his deceased wife (Saarika) and the misdeed and betrayal of Sujeet who once happened to be a fast friend of Kunwar. One day Khan arrests her under the charge of Sujeet’s murder because of her finger-prints being found on the revolver thrown out of the train(found out by the police later) coupled with the deductive reasoning applied by Khan, culminates into a conclusion drawn by him that she only is the murderess. At the time of her arrest, Kunwar is out of station. When he returns, he not only comes to know of her arrest but also the fact that she has confessed for Sujeet’s murder. What happens thereafter takes the movie to its climax in which the complete suspense of Sujeet’s murder is unravelled.Raaz starts in the fashion of a mystery or a thriller but gradually it turns into a family drama. There was scope of romance too in the story but director Harmesh Malhotra decided to keep the story sans any romance between the lead pair. Only the love track and the marital life of Kunwar Chandrapaal Singh and his deceased wife has been shown in brief which involves a song too. In the first half, the narrative covers the murder, then the fear and apprehensions of Seema who is the eye-witness to the murder and the drama taking place in the household of Kunwar. In the second half, the back story of Kunwar’s love-life and marital life is shown alongwith Sujeet’s betrayal and the events leading to his murder. Once the findings and the analysis of the investigating police officer convince him to arrest Seema, the narrative takes the shape of a courtroom drama. It’s in that part only when the movie appears to be a genuine mystery. However the climax arrives soon to unearth it.As said earlier, the narrative stresses more the drama than the mystery. The development of an affectionate bond between Seema and the little girl (whose governess she is) has been given ample footage alongside the tension reigning between Seema, the eye-witness to the murder and the supposed murderer who is present in the household itself whom she is compelled to live with in the same house. The investigation of the crime has been given relatively less footage. All the same, the drama is quite interesting and does not bore the spectator anywhere. It’s better if this movie is watched as a family drama with an element of thrill therein instead of watching it as a murder mystery.
The narrator has shown good imagination in the beginning itself when the TTE in the compartment is shown as reading a newspaper whose main headline is -‘Murder in the Train‘. Similarly, in the opening sequence when Seema is wary of her co-traveller Sujeet, she is shown as reading a Hindi novel titled as ‘Maut Ki Ghaati Mein‘ (in the valley of death) which is authored by Colonel Ranjeet (perhaps because the author’s name is not visible with clarity).
The narrative has certain plot-holes which are a specialty of Bollywood suspense-thrillers. Both the mystery and the thrill are traditional or old-fashioned with no contemporary flavour. The deductive reasoning applied by Khan and his retired senior (Iftekhar) when analyzing the facts, is admirable. It’s different that that reasoning lands them to a wrong solution of the murder mystery.
Technically the movie is ok. The main drama is shown as taking place in an estate and so the cinematographer has got an opportunity to show some natural beauty. Action and thrills are according to the trend in that period. The movie is not unduly long.Sulakshana Pandit and Raj Babbar have done well as the principal characters of the story. Both the child-artistes – Baby Geeta Khanna and Baby Priya look quite innocent and they have also performed very well. All others are routine. Ram Sethi has done good comedy.
Ravindra Jain’s musical score alongwith his lyrics is strictly okay. Tum Jo Hamen Itni Pyari Lagti Ho is the best song of the album. Sulakshana Pandit has been a singer-actress and she has sung the songs filmed on her herself only. In addition to herself; Lata Mangeshkar, Hemlata, Vijayeta (Sulakshana’s younger sister who was also a singer-actress), Rashi and Suresh Wadkar have given voices to the songs.
Raaz is not some great or extra-ordinary mystery or suspense thriller. However this traditional mystery is a decent one time watch for the mystery fans as well as for the audience of family and social dramas.
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