Year of release – 1960
*ing – Dev Anand, Suchitra Sen, Nasir Hussain, Achala Sachdev, Dhumal, Rashid Khan, Jagdish Raj
Producer – Jal Mistry, Raj Khosla
Director – Raj Khosla
Music – SD Burman
Bombai Ka Babu is unconventional in many ways. First, it is a family drama from the suspense/ crime thriller stable of Raj Khosla. It has just a hint of crime noir in the start giving it a Khosla touch. Second, it has the most bizarre relationship between its main leads – the most sanctimonious bond in the world is treated in ways unheard of! Third, coming at a time when the reel world flourished mostly in happy romances, this one has a very unconventional touch to its conclusion.
Loosely based on O Henry’s ‘A Double Eyed Deceiver’, it is a story about a conman Babu (Dev Anand) who flees Bombai (now Mumbai) after accidently killing one of his accomplices, Balli (Jagdish Raj). He travels across the country and reaches Jogendranagar, a small village in Punjab. Trying to escape the police, he finds a shelter with Bhagat (Rashid Khan), a village thief who blackmails him into another crime plot. Masquerading as Kundan, the long lost son of village head Shahji (Nasir Hussain), Babu enters their life. Shahji, his blind wife Rukmini (Achala Sachdev), his accountant (Dhumal) and the whole village celebrates his arrival without any suspicion or question. Reluctant all the way, Babu whiles away his time in the household looking for ways to dupe the innocent family. But he is soon engulfed by a trouble – that of the presence of Maya (Suchitra Sen), his supposed sister! Maya is a radiant beauty with an attractive persona who is overjoyed by the return of his brother, revelling in the company of her friends and dancing to the tune of “Dekhne mein bhola hai...” As moments pass, Babu finds himself getting attracted to Maya and is soon head-over-heels in love with her. But of course, it is damn difficult to flirt around with the girl as she is supposed to be his sister. He cannot propose love to her without revealing his true identity as it is the most unnatural, most heinous feeling in the world – developing feelings for one’s own sister!
The film captures Babu’s turmoil and exasperation through various incidents. Whenever he hints about his feelings to Maya, she gets cautious about his strange behaviour and playfully rebukes him. But when he is insistent, she goes to him with a rakhi and is flabbergasted when he refuses to acknowledge the sanctimonious bond between them. Now nothing in the world could stop her suspecting that something fishy is going on with her brother. Why is he behaving in such a strange manner? Which brother would deny a rakhi and even try to stop his sister’s marriage?
For Babu, everything is grimy as he is neither inching towards his goal of robbery, much to the chagrin of Bhagat, nor can he express his love to the girl who is soon going to be married to another man. Tough man Babu breaks down in “Saathi na koi manzil...” Dev Anand keeps himself devoid of his flamboyant body movements, giving his Babu the right mix of broodiness and helplessness. He is picture perfect as the caught-in-his-own-deed Babu who doesn’t know how to handle these difficult situations. The frustration clearly shows through his body language. The instigated look on his face every time Maya calls him “Bhaiyya” is proof enough of the perplexed state of his soul.
Suchitra Sen as Maya is spot on with her dialogue delivery and facial expressions. She is a darling in “Dekhne mein bhola hai...” where she is exploding with pride and happiness in being reunited with her brother after 20 years. Her eyes have a mischievous glint as she warns her brother of the charming ways of other village belles. In “Deewana mastana hua dil...” both the leads share a happy sort of camaraderie. But Sen is best in the scenes where Maya is baffled by her brother’s inappropriate behaviour towards her. She shows a whole range of expressions in her role of Maya. The look on her face when she says “aurat aur behan mein fark hota hai” (there is a difference between a woman and a sister) is award winning!
Nasir Hussain and Achala Sachdev have comfortably portrayed their roles of Maya’s parents. Dhumal is not much utilized by the director – there is just one comic scene where he gets to flaunt his comic timings. And that too looks forced and could have been done away with. No one more than the lead pair shines in this unconventional saga. Raj Khosla has dealt this novelty with utmost sincerity without losing his focus. The dream sequence where Babu proposes his love to Maya has been canned beautifully. The romance has been deftly handled and the editing is taut which makes this film a sweet ride. Khosla has kept the script tight, interspersed with beautiful gems by SD Burman.
This album is one of the most accomplished works of Dada Burman with each song being a classic hit. “Deewana mastana hua dil...” (a breezy rendition by Asha-Rafi), “Dekhne mein bhola hai...” (Asha stumps you with her ‘baabu chhinanna’), “Saathi na koi manzil...” (a very poignant Rafi) are the stand outs here. Other songs like “Taak dhoom...”, “Kachchhu kaha nahi jaaye...” (Asha-Rafi) and “Chal ri sajani...” (Mukesh is the king of folksy numbers) are appropriately placed and utilized well. “Kachchhu kaha nahi jaaye...” is the dilemma tale of Maya, “Saathi na koi manzil...” is the poignant saga of Babu and “Chal ri sajani...” is the final nail in Babu’s coffin.
This film was way ahead of its time in 1960. But what else could have been expected from the geniuses like Raj Khosla and Dev Anand who have given some very unconventional and ahead of its time films to Hindi Cinema.
The only question left with me after this unusual entertainment is why did they rope in Suchitra Sen as Maya? There was no dearth of capable actors to play Maya opposite Dev Anand. Sadhana would have fitted the bill perfectly. Even Waheeda would have been a good choice. Then why go for a Bangla actor with an awry diction? Was it because it would have been awkward for the leading ladies of Hindi Cinema to play Dev Anand’s sister, given the hint of incest in his character in the film? Was it for the sake of the audience, to spare them the conflict of watching either of their favourite pair in an incestuous relation? Did the director need a new face for this role so that the viewers could digest the experience? Or was it a simple matter of Suchitra Sen’s acting prowess and superstar persona which overwhelmed Raj Khosla and Dev Anand to cast her in the movie?
I sincerely want to believe that its Sen’s cinematic calibre which landed her in an unconventional and powerful role. (I am clearly experiencing her magnetic force working around my Cinematic conscious. It won't be long before I am a proclaimed Suchitra Sen fan.)