Anokhi Raat (1968)

Asit Sen directed some of my favourite films, including Mamta and Safar. I’ve just added another to the list: Anokhi Raat. I’d wanted to see this film for two reasons: one, it stars Sanjeev Kumar, who’s one of my favourite actors. Two, it features the classic Oh re taal mile nadi ke jal mein: a beautifully lyrical song in more ways than one. By the end, I had plenty more reasons to label it a great film. Read on.

Baldev Singh `Baldeva’ (Sanjeev Kumar) is a chowkidar at a dak bungalow. He’s a sweet, simple soul, a welcome mat over whom everybody except his friend Naubat (Mukri) rides roughshod. Baldeva’s sweetheart is the shy village belle Gopa (Zahida), whom he’s dreaming of marrying.

Baldeva and Naubat

Cut to a huge mansion, where a despondent servant, Ram Das (Anwar Hussain) hangs price labels on dozens of objets d’art before going to the front gate. Here, he hangs up a notice that there’ll be an auction on November 2nd. Ram Das then heads indoors, where the daughter of the house, Rama (Zahida again, in a chic urban avatar) is trying to bear up with imminent destitution.

Rama

Rama lives with her crippled grandfather (Badriprasad). Six years earlier, Rama’s father had borrowed money from a certain Madan. Rama’s father’s dead now, and Madan (Tarun Bose) is demanding repayment, along with interest. There’s no way Rana and her grandpa can pay, so everything they own is going to be auctioned off, the proceeds going to Madan.

Rama's grandfather and Ram Das

Madan’s in the mansion, along with his lawyer (Brahm Bhardwaj). Madan’s a widower and has children; he also has his eye on Rama, and tells Rama’s grandfather that he’ll waive off the debt if Rama will marry him. Rama’s grandfather refuses outright. But Rama realises she doesn’t have much choice, so she agrees to marry Madan.

Rama and Madan

Shortly after, a car arrives with a couple: the elderly Rai Saheb and his young wife Prema (Aruna Irani). Rai Saheb is a friend of Madan’s and wanted to bid for some of the items in the (now cancelled) auction. When Prema discovers Rama’s going to marry Madan, she’s sarcastic and bitter.

Prema, Madan, Rai Saheb and the lawyer

Meanwhile, a huge storm’s built up. It’s pouring and there’s thunder and lightning. Rama, ever the gracious hostess, invites Madan, the lawyer, Rai Saheb and Prema to stay for dinner.

Rama helps serve dinner

Just then, another unexpected guest arrives: an artist-cum-singer (Parikshit Sahni, billed as Ajay Sahni). He’s very wet and asks for shelter. Madan senses the subtle attraction between the artist and Rama, and instantly goes on the offensive.

Rama and the artist

But Rama insists the artist stay on. When he refuses to have dinner for free, Prema persuades him to sing for his supper. What follows is the soulful Mile na phool toh kaanton se dosti kar li.

Mile na phool toh...

The storm’s showing no signs of abating, and finally Madan bullies Rama into letting Rai Saheb and Prema stay the night. But he draws the line at entertaining the artist too, and boots the young man out.

Madan lashes out at the artist

The front door’s just about closed behind the artist when another lot of unexpected guests arrive: a fearsome dacoit and his gang. The people in the house recognise the dacoit as the notorious and much wanted Baldeva Daku, who supposedly murdered his wife and since then has been on a killing spree. Yes, it’s good, sweet Baldeva—but fierce, bitter and not very nice now.

A changed man

The artist realises he’s left a satchel behind in Rama’s house and returns, to find himself in the midst of Baldeva’s gang. The dacoits demand food, and as the night passes, Baldeva starts discovering more about the people in this strange drama being enacted.

Rama, the artist, Prema and Baldeva

How did Prema end up married to somebody twice her age and obviously not a doting husband? Is there a way out of Rama’s predicament? Most important, whatever happened to Baldeva and Gopa?

A wonderful film, an unusual combination of suspense and human drama. Worth watching!

What I liked about this film:
Sanjeev Kumar is (as always) a first-rate actor, who does a great job of portraying the many nuances of Baldeva’s character. Parikshit Sahni’s still a little raw (forgivable; this was his first film) but makes up for it by being very handsome!
The music is superb. My favourite song is Oh re taal mile… but another great one is the lovely Mahalon ka raja mila, ke rani beti raaj karegi. This, by the way, was composer Roshan’s swan song: the film’s dedicated to him.
The story’s a sensitive, intelligent one. And, in a refreshing change from the usual masala movie, this one doesn’t have all the ends neatly tied up at the end.
One last thing: very easy on the eyes. The black and white is crisp and clean, the cinematography excellent. It did, after all, win a Filmfare award for Kamal Bose.

What I didn’t like:
The switch from Baldeva’s story in the beginning to Rama’s story is a little jarring. I thought it was too abrupt; it took me a while to adjust, because Rama, after all, is a spitting image of Gopa.

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16 thoughts on “Anokhi Raat (1968)

  1. Oooh must find this. Asit Sen is one of my favorite directors too. I’ve read conflicting things as to whether he is the same Asit Sen as the character actor; do you know?

  2. This is a lovely movie – I really liked it so much, I couldn’t imagine why I hadn’t seen it earlier. And yes, I do think this was the same Asit Sen – will try and find out more.

    • I guess now (in 2014) both you and Greta of-course know better that the director Asit Sen is not the same as the actor, interestingly it was the actor Asit Sen who directed my father in his first film.

      • I’m embarrassed now to even see this comment of mine! Yes, I do know now that Asit Sen the director is not Asit Sen, the comic actor. Incidentally, it amused me to see the comedian Asit Sen in a cameo in Asit Sen’s Mamta.

  3. I loved this movie too! Unfortunately, the copy i have doesn’t have the beginning scenes with Ashok Kumar; it started with Rama which i always found a bit odd. So it was nice to get an idea of how the film actually started.
    I adored Ajay Sahni in this and I nearly fell off my chair when i realised he was none other than Parikshat Sahni, he looked just soooo handsome.

  4. Oh, if you missed the initial scenes between Sanjeev Kumar and Zahida, it must’ve been a little confusing to have the scene switch suddenly to Baldeva (the dacoit’s) past.
    But yes, isn’t Parikshit Sahni absolutely gorgeous in this? *starry-eyed grin*. It’s what prompted me to put him on my list of Bollywood’s hottest men of the 50’s and 60’s. He’s just too handsome for words!

  5. Hello,

    Just when the movie was nearing its end, the DVD became corrupted. I tried in vain on youtube for the last scene. So, what was the ending?

    Thanks.

  6. Aww… that’s an awful thing to happen. It just happened to me with Funtoosh, so I can sympathise. Here goes.

    Spoiler follows:

    The servant Ram Das sneaks off to report Baldeva’s presence to the police. Baldeva had overheard him saying that he (Ram Das) would use the prize money for Baldeva’s capture to pay off the debt to Madan. Therefore, when the police arrive, Baldeva puts up a perfunctory resistance, then surrenders, saying he’s out of ammunition – though, as the constable who examines his pistol later sees, it’s loaded. As the inspector’s taking Baldeva away, Baldeva confirms from him that the prize money will be given to Ram Das. Lastly, he asks the artist for a favour: the picture the artist had painted of Gopa/Rama. The artist gives it to him, and the last shot is of Baldeva going off in the police jeep, with Rama, the artist, and the others looking on. There’s a last, small moment where Rama clutches the artist’s arm and shoulder as she watches the jeep moving off, and the artist looks at her… lovely hint of a romance that’s beginning.

    Spoiler ends

    Thank you for reminding me of this film – I love it.

  7. Thank you, dustedoff! It was a wonderful movie with great songs, and tight editing. I am now pleased with the “ending.”

  8. Asit Sen was one of my father’s favourite directors, in his prime he was really good, Anokhi Raat was not one his good films. I am quite surprised to see that you and many people like it now. Back then, the film flopped, we too did not like it, we found it quite silly, particular those scenes where Aruna Irani and the others, sit around and chit chat with Sanjeev Kumar almost as if they are at a party or something.
    I think I have mentioned it in my blog, but all the same I am repeating it here, the antiques that you see in the film were not fake they were real and belonged to the film’s producer.

    • “particular those scenes where Aruna Irani and the others, sit around and chit chat with Sanjeev Kumar almost as if they are at a party or something.

      Yes, you’re right about that. I did find it hard to believe. On the other hand, I thought it lent a sort of surrealism to the film – in fact, I thought the entire film oddly surreal in many ways and on many levels.

      And I remember you mentioning that the antiques were real! Quite amazing.

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