Gumnaam (1965) is a take on the classic whodunit of Agatha Christie – Ten Little Indians (or Ten Little Niggers) which has also been published under another title – And There Were None. It’s a murder mystery based upon revenge which is inflicted upon all the conspirators who had aided and abetted a murder. I had read the classic murder mystery of this legendary mystery writer of 20th century – Murder on the Orient Express in which too many sympathizers to a murder victim become accomplices in inflicting revenge upon the killer. However in this movie, there are too many people involved in the original murder conspiracy who now have to become victims of the revenge-seeker. Raja Nawathe has ably directed the movie which is thoroughly engrossing alongwith a good dose of comedy and romance and some very good songs.Gumnaam (the unknown) starts with the original murder and thereafter killing of the original conspirator who is sharing his joy with his accomplices over phone. The face of the person murdering the original conspirator is naturally not shown to the audience and credits start coming on the screen. After that we listen (and watch) a hilarious song – Jaan Pehchaan Ho which is a rock-n-roll dance number picturized upon eye-masked males and females in a club. This foot-tapping song was later featured in the opening sequence of the Hollywood movie – Ghost World in 2001. After this song is over, the story takes off properly with certain gentlemen and ladies present in the club being bestowed upon the reward of a free luxury trip and needless to say that they are all connected with the original murder.The chartered plane in which these protagonists, ignorant of the misfortune awaiting them, lands in a secluded place which is an island containing a dense forest. Leaving them all behind alongwith the air-host (Manoj Kumar, our hero), the pilot who was pretending for the plane to be in a breakdown state, flies it off. The six gentlemen and two ladies reach an old but big house giving an eerie look with a suspenseful song floating on the air. The house is inhabited by only a cook (Mehmood) who has been awaiting his guests. And then starts the sequence of murders of the guests, one by one.The movie is just very good for the suspense thriller fans with the mystery deepening with each fresh murder. I had watched the movie in the Mini Gem theatre of Kolkata (then Calcutta) in November 1989 with a very small audience giving company to me. When Helen was murdered on the big screen before my eyes, I felt chills running down my spine. Coincidentally, when I was returning to my residence (a room in which I was living singly those days), the bus was also not having many passengers and by the time it reached Dharamtalla (my residence was in Chittaranjan Avenue), I found myself remained in it as the lone passenger. The scenes were of the movie were haunting me and the experience of reaching my room itself proved to be no less than a short movie for me.The director has done his job very well and kept the audience guessing about the murderer till the revelation of the mystery in the climax. Shankar Jaikishan has given him excellent support by composing very good songs including the title track – Gumnaam Hai Koi. I have already mentioned – Jaan Pehchaan Ho. Mehmood’s comedy is just superb and the song picturized upon him (with Helen) – Hamen Kale Hain To Kya Hua Dilwale Hain – is one of the unforgettable Bollywood songs picturized upon comedians. One more song picturized upon Helen and Nanda – Iss Duniya Mein Jeena Hai To Sunn Lo Meri Baat, Gham Chhod Ke Manaao Rang-reli, Aur Maan Lo Jo Kahe Kitty Kelly – is one of Helen’s best numbers. It has one romantic song also (naturally for the romantic pair of Nanda and Manoj Kumar) – Ek Ladki Hai Jisne Jeena Mushkil Kar Diya.The performances are good. Nanda, Manoj Kumar, Pran, Helen, Madan Puri, Manmohan, Tarun Bose and Dhumal, all have done well. Mehmood has already been admired by me. The duration of the movie is quite okay and there is no boredom throughout. Good screenplay has been written according to the taste of the Indian audience while borrowing the plot from the mystery-queen’s classic work. However the revelation of the mystery and the climax could have been made better. Photography is quite good and art director has also done his job nicely. Costumes and hair-styles of the ladies are also praiseworthy.
Movies have been made in Bollywood later also in the same genre and on the same storyline. But none is a match for Gumnaam which is one of the best murder mysteries ever made in Bollywood and a good one-time watch for its mystery. For its songs, it can definitely be watched again.
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