CID (1956)

Long before TV came into our lives, a family treat would be to go out for dinner or for a film at a local cinema. And though Bobby was the first film I saw, CID was the first black and white film I remember. I don’t recall anything of the film except a very brief bit from the climax, but you can imagine how gripping that must have been to have stayed in my memory for well over thirty years.

Mehmood and Dev Anand in CID

CID was made just ten years after Dr Kotnis ki Amar Kahani, and the difference in the two films is unbelievably vast. This is slick, fast-paced noir, with none of the theatrics and melodrama of the Kotnis flick. It has superb music, some fine acting, and—other than a passing nod to the hypocrisy of the rich (à la Shree 420 etc)—no pretensions whatsoever.

Dev Anand and Shakila in CID

The film gets off to a flying start. There’s a series of brief telephone calls between a group of people, including a woman, and orders are given for a man to be ‘persuaded’. If he resists persuasion, he’s to be—you know what. A goon called Sher Singh (Mehmood) is deputed for the task.

Sher Singh is assigned a task

The proposed victim, we discover, is Mr Srivastav, the editor of Bombay Times. He’s a staunchly upright man, on the verge of exposing an arch criminal. The criminal’s tried bribery and threats, but Srivastav has stood firm. Sher Singh’s threatening phone call makes Srivastav phone Shekhar (Dev Anand), a Detective Inspector in the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to tell him about the threat. Shekhar promises to come at once.

Srivastav phones Shekhar

While Shekhar and his right-hand man Havildar Ram Singh are on their way, Sher Singh arrives at Srivastav’s office. Srivastav doesn’t yield, and Sher Singh, after stabbing him, leaves. (I wonder why he doesn’t wait to see if the man’s died; it doesn’t look as if Sher Singh’s in any hurry, anyway). On the way out, Sher Singh is seen by a petty thief called Master (Johnny Walker). Master’s been creeping about the Bombay Times office trying to find something to steal—a typewriter, perhaps—and ducks when he sees Sher Singh.

Master catches a glimpse of Sher Singh

Shekhar and Ram Singh pass Sher Singh at the lift, but don’t take any notice. When they reach Srivastav’s office and find him stabbed, Shekhar realises that the man they passed was probably the culprit. Leaving Ram Singh to call an ambulance, Shekhar rushes off in pursuit. He doesn’t have a vehicle of his own, so hijacks the car of a girl called Rekha (Shakila), who’s thoroughly indignant at being treated in this cavalier fashion.

Shekhar hijacks Rekha's car

Rekha, in fact, is so indignant that after the chase has gone on for a while, she snatches the car key and pitches it out, bringing the car to a halt. It’s started raining, and despite searching, Rekha isn’t able to find the key. So, much to her annoyance, they spend the night in the car, her in the back, Shekhar draped over the steering wheel.
Next morning, after a tuneful wakeup call (Boojh mera kya naam re), Rekha’s discovery of the key, and her subsequent driving off without him, Shekhar makes his way to Srivastav’s office.

Shekhar arrives at Srivastav's office

At Srivastav’s office, Shekhar meets the police inspector, Jagdish (Jagdish Raj, who else? This is one of his earliest films). They cross-question the Bombay Times staff and discover that Srivastav was planning an exposé, though of whom, nobody knows. Shekhar finds a clue: a cigarette butt that smells weird… since Srivastav didn’t smoke, it seems likely that his murderer did.

...and finds a clue

After a while, the scene shifts to Jagdish’s office. When Shekhar had galloped off after Sher Singh the previous night, Ram Singh had discovered Master, whom Jagdish is now interrogating. There’s a brief interlude thanks to the arrival of Master’s headstrong girlfriend (Kumkum, in a delightful role):

Master's girl arrives at Jagdish's office

When Shekhar arrives, Master admits that he’d seen the murderer, well enough to be able to identify him. Srivastav, in the meantime, has died without having gained consciousness.
Soon after, in a meeting with his boss, the Superintendent of Police, Mr Mathur (K N Singh), Shekhar is able to give him some good news: the article Srivastav sent to the composing room just before he was stabbed indicates that he was planning an exposé. Also, the lab’s discovered that the cigarette found in Srivastav’s office was laced with charas.

Shekhar briefs Mr Mathur

Shekhar gets Ram Singh to bring out the files on the known charas addicts, and picks out one whom he thinks will help. Along with this man, a disguised Shekhar (if a moustache and long sideburns count as a disguise) manages to enter a charas den where he meets, recognises and arrests Sher Singh.
Master is brought in to identify Sher Singh and does so with trepidation, since Sher Singh glares horrifically at him.

Sher Singh tries intimidating Master

There’s a brief pause here for a song and a little bit of romance. Shekhar, on his way to Mr Mathur’s house, finds himself travelling all the way with Rekha, who (though she obviously finds him attractive) thinks he’s stalking her. It finally turns out she’s Mr Mathur’s daughter, and all’s well. Love’s in the air.

Rekha realises Shekhar isn't a stalker

But Shekhar has a problem on his hands. Though Sher Singh is in police custody, he refuses to say who paid him to get rid of Srivastav.
Just as Shekhar’s despairing of getting to the truth, he gets a phone call from a mysterious woman who tells him she has information regarding Srivastav’s murder—Shekhar can visit her; she’s sent her car for him.

Shekhar receives a mysterious phone call

Shekhar agrees and gets into the car. This has tinted glasses and curtains so he can’t see where he’s being taken, though I find that hard to believe. It’s broad daylight, and Shekhar’s not blind.
The girl he’s led to (Waheeda Rehman, in her debut) is beautiful, flirtatious—and obviously aware of what’s going on. Her conversation’s a little puzzling; she asks Shekhar if he’s fond of parrots, then goes on to say she knows he’s recently acquired a parrot that won’t talk—but for which she’s willing to pay him up to Rs 50,000.

...and meets the caller

It takes Shekhar a while to cotton on: Sher Singh!
But this cop’s an honest one, and he refuses to accept the bribe. The girl, therefore, knocks him out with drugged sherbet, and has him left on the Bombay-Agra Road, from where somebody eventually brings him to Mr Mathur’s house and Rekha’s loving care.

Shekhar regains consciousness in Mr Mathur's home

It’s Rekha’s birthday, so once Shekhar’s recovered, Mr Mathur invites him to join the party. Joining in the celebration is one of the city’s most respected philanthropists, Seth Dharamdas (Bir Sakhuja):

Shekhar is introduced to Seth Dharamdas

…and Rekha’s childhood friend, Kamini, whom Rekha hasn’t seen for the past four years, but whom Shekhar instantly recognises.

...and Rekha's friend Kamini

What does Kamini have to do with all of this? And why does Dharamdas whisper fiercely to her to leave the party? Who paid Sher Singh to murder Srivastav?

This is really not a whodunit, when you think of it. The murderer, in fact is shown fairly early in the film, and the reason for the crime is obvious right from the start. But it’s an exciting tale of how Shekhar discovers who’s behind it all, and ends up in a mess that’s reminiscent of Hitchcock: innocent man is framed and is chased by the law while he tries to clear his name.
Good solid entertainment, fine camera work, good acting, and more. A must-watch.

What I liked about this film:
Just about everything. CID is one of my favourite films; I’ve seen it I don’t know how many times, and have always enjoyed it. Particular highlights:
The music. This is among O P Nayyar’s best scores, with gems like Ae dil hai muhskil jeena yahan to Aankhon hi aankhon mein ishaara ho gaya.

Waheeda Rehman. She’s a little (very little!) gauche in the first scene where she appears—when she tries to bribe Shekhar—but through the rest of the film, you can see definite glimpses of the fine actress she was to become later. And her character, Kamini, is one of the best developed in the film, an intriguing personality whose past and present remain enticingly ambiguous.

Waheeda Rehman in CID

Dev Anand. Yes, I am a Dev Anand fan, but even I find his mannerisms irritating. CID is one of those rare films where the mannerisms are missing, and he’s just a personable, keen and interesting cop on the tail of a criminal he can’t yet identify. A great performance. And he looks gorgeous.

Dev Anand in CID

What I didn’t like:
It would be sheer nitpicking (and a spoiler!) to say more about this, except that there’s a very convenient coincidence towards the end that I thought farfetched.

Other than that, a superb film. Do not miss it if you like Hindi suspense thrillers; this is among the best in the genre.

Little bit of trivia:
Raj Khosla, who directed this film, was gifted a Dodge by the producer (Guru Dutt) after the success of CID. Zohra Sehgal, today better known as an actress, was the choreographer for the film.

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21 thoughts on “CID (1956)

  1. CID!
    I never had the opportunity to see this movie.
    I sure have t pick this up on my next visit to India!

    Didn’t know Zohra Sehgal was a choreographer once!
    Thanks for that bit of trivia!

    Shakila was such a beautiful actress! Her face literally glows! Was she also a good actress?

    As a child I always thought that it is Pucch mera kya naam re instead of Boojh mera kya naam re. And further on: mera kaala kaal dil hai, mere gore gore baal instead of mera kaala kaala til hai, mere gore gore gaal! Didn’t have much time for logic.

    Another movie, which I would love to see is Baazi. But I always get confused, which film is which. Don’t they have same/similar plots?

  2. You must see CID – it’s very good, and except for a little bit of romance and some comic relief, it pretty much concentrates on the crime. I remember, when my husband and I first bought a VCD player, this was the first VCD I bought. It’s looking a bit scratchy now, so I’m seriously thinking of buying the DVD! Fortunately, it’s a fairly popular film, so getting hold of it isn’t a problem.
    You aren’t the only one re: Boojh mera kya naam re. As a kid, I made exactly those same mistakes regarding the lyrics – except that I figured out it was gore-gore gaal! Though, if you think about it, both could well have fitted in; she could well have been asking him to ask her name (rather than guess it) and she could’ve been admitting to being wicked! :-)

    Shakila was very pretty, I think. She was okay as an actress, fairly run of the mill. In any case, I don’t recall her in any roles that required great histrionic ability.

    Baazi is good too, also crime. But the hero isn’t a cop – he’s a poor man who gets ensnared in the web of a criminal gang. A couple of good songs, but on the whole (despite starring Geeta Bali as the sort-off vamp) not a patch on CID.

  3. Thank you Dustedoff.
    I’m so glad to get this recommendation. I’ve been in two minds since for ever, about it. Now I’ll just go ahead and buy it.
    The reason for this doubting is a very vague memory I have of it from my college days when we went to see this in a cinema hall where old films played on a regular basis. It was Waheeda Rehman’s gaucheness. All I can remember is a song (did she sing one or am I thinking of pyaasa? :-/

  4. imdb calls this a thriller in the “Bombay noir” style! No matter what style, its such an absorbing and fun movie! Dev Anand was pretty good in some of his early films and this was one of them (my other all-time Dev favorite is Bombai Ka Babu). Waheeda was luminous in this. She made a way bigger impression than the heroine did – probably because the heroine didnt really have much to do apart from providing a love interest for Dev and a few songs. Great trivia about Zohra Sehgal. I had no idea she was a dancer/choreographer either.

    I didnt know there were theatres that played re-runs of oldies. Where was this?

  5. Thank you, all for reading! What would I do without loyal readers? :-)

    bollywooddeewana: Yes, I agree the 60’s had an abundance of suspense thrillers, but the style changed a lot between the 50’s and the 60’s. The 60’s are more bright and colourful (not just literally); there’s more gadgetry, and of course by then spy thrillers had become pretty popular too. I think my favourite suspense film from the 60’s is Ittefaq, followed by Teesri Manzil, Gumnaam, Aankhen, Shikar, Woh Kaun Thi, Mera Saaya, Saajan… and so many more.

    pacifist: Yes, there’s a Waheeda Rehman song in this – Kaheen pe nigaahein kaheen pe nishaana, but even though she’s gauche, I think she’s sweet! Pyaasa had Jaane kya tune kahi, picturised on her.

    bawa: I don’t know how many times DD showed this! I think it was one of their favourites too. :-)

    Ava: Absolutely! I can’t think of any other 50’s suspense film that I like as much.

    bollyviewer: I like Bambai ka Babu too (Suchitra Sen is so beautiful, and the songs are sublime), except the end always saddens my cliche-ridden soul! Agree totally re: Waheeda eclipsing Shakila; Shakila’s more a supporting actress than anything else in CID, and not half as interesting as Kamini.
    Oh, I don’t think theatres in India show re-runs any more. In small towns and villages, yes – but those too only from about the 80’s. The first time I saw this was when I was about 8 (or maybe younger) in Bhopal or Gwalior – not sure where. At that time, re-runs were fairly common.

  6. Oh sorry, I didn’t mean showing old films all the time, but in between two new releases there would be this gap which always showed some old film, usually from the 60s, but sometimes from the 50s.
    And not even all the shows. Just the afternoon one.

  7. Yes, even after I had pressed ‘submit’ I realised it couldn’t be the pyaasa song in my head because Waheeda looked and acted very well in it.

  8. I remember seeing old films on afternoon shows sometime during the 80’s and 90’s – but even then they were English, not Hindi. These days, my only chance of seeing a 50’s (or perhaps 60’s) old film full screen is if there’s a retrospective on as part of a film festival – or if they colourise an old film (not the best way, I think! I didn’t much care for what they did to Mughal-e-Azam. Some things are best left untouched).

    Yes, Waheeda Rehman was very good in Pyaasa, wasn’t she? In fact, she’s all right in the latter half of CID too, just a littlw awkward in the beginning.

  9. I love the music to CID, and, as you say, the film is rather good too. As always, Waheeda Rehman and Johnny Walker were splendid. I really liked all the secret passageways in the villain’s abode. Too cool! And that’s an interesting take on Dev Anand. I’ve liked what I’ve seen him in, and Taxi Driver remains a favorite! Cheers.

  10. theBollywoodFan: Another plus point about CID (other than those passageways in the villain’s abode!) are the fine performances from the supporting cast – I love Kumkum, Tuntun, and even the guy who plays Havildar Ram Singh (I have no idea who he is, but he makes a perfect plain clothes havildar!)
    Taxi Driver is a good one too. Other favourites of mine include Paying Guest and Nau Do Gyaarah.

    Sabrina: Oh, good! I’m looking forward to your review! :-)

  11. Have just read your post – I do wish Dev Anand had said more about CID in his autobiography; it’s a film I’d love to know more of! The only interesting bit of trivia I know is that Guru Dutt gifted Raj Khosla a Dodge convertible after the film became a hit. :-)

  12. Hai,
    I watched this a few days ago and I quite like it though I didn’t the story was too developed. Dev Anand is a great dapper hero and Waheeda’s amazing in her Hindi debut outshining the heroine Shakila.. Se does this in Pyaasa too (with Mala Sinha in that case).

    Prabhu Dayal.. Is he the murdered editor dressed up to look old with his head shaved? Must try to spot him (and also Paul Sharma)!

    • Well, now you know what Prabhu Dayal looks like, thanks to Ash! It’s being a long time since I watched CID, so I don’t remember the characters played by different actors too well, other than the main ones… do you recognise whom Prabhu Dayal played?

      Oh, and I don’t know who Paul Sharma was, either. Or Shyam in Pyaasa – though I do remember the man who is with Sheela Vaz in Leke pehla-pehla pyaar.

  13. I wonder why no one mentioned this song? It was deleted from the film . Was quite popular as well , it was there in Binaca Geetmala where I came to know about it and like it.
    .

    reason for its exclusion are the lyrics apparently.

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