Singapore (1960)

I’ve been exceptionally busy over the past few weeks, and even had to give up the idea of publishing a post last week—simply because I didn’t have the time. But today is the birthday of my favourite Hindi film star, Shammi Kapoor—how could I not post a tribute?

So, even though it’s meant doing some crazy juggling of schedules, here we go. A Shammi Kapoor film that, while it’s not classic Shammi, is at least fairly entertaining. And has the distinction of being the earliest Hindi film I’ve seen which was actually filmed abroad, not just set abroad.

Singapore was an Indo-Malayan production, and the story begins in Singapore itself. In a club, Ramesh (Gautam Mukherjee) and his girlfriend Shobha (Shashikala) meet up, totally unaware that some pretty shady characters (including Chang—Madan Puri, looking a clone of his China Town self) are keeping an eye on them.

Even the lampshade on the table where Ramesh and Shobha sit has a bugging device. This enables Shobha’s father Shivdas (K N Singh), who’s sitting in an upstairs room (and obviously owns this joint) to listen in on the conversation between his daughter and Ramesh.

Ramesh has been living and working in Singapore on behalf of his childhood friend-cum-boss, Shyam, who lives in India. Shyam has inherited a large rubber estate here, and Ramesh’s job is to now sell it off.
Shobha is worried that once the rubber estate deal is done, Ramesh will return to India, leaving her all alone. Ramesh cheers her up now by telling her that’s not the case; in fact, he’s realised the rubber estate shouldn’t be sold at all…

…an opinion he repeats when he phones Shyam (Shammi Kapoor) later that evening. Ramesh informs Shyam that he’s discovered a map which indicates the existence of a treasure on the estate; Shyam would be well-advised to find and appropriate the treasure before he sells the estate.

All very well, but in the midst of this conversation, Ramesh realises there’s somebody lurking around in the room next to his office. When he gets up to investigate [having first, prudently, hidden the map], he’s attacked and lugged off by two men. Another [who seems to be blessed with the deliciously unbelievable name of Lo Mein] enters, and places the phone receiver back on the hook.

Shyam is, not surprisingly, puzzled. So he books a seat on the next flight to Singapore—and meets, on the plane, a stylish Malay woman who introduces herself as Maria (Maria Menado, one of the hottest Malay filmstars of the period, and also the first Malay woman to become a film producer). They get acquainted during the flight.

[When did Air India stop dressing their air hostesses this way?]

When they disembark, Shyam is greeted by Cha Chu (Agha), who works at Shyam’s Singapore office. He’s come to receive Shyam and give him the sad news that Ramesh has still not turned up. After giving Maria a lift to wherever she’s headed, Cha Chu takes Shyam to the office, where he’s introduced to the rest of the staff, including Cha Chu’s girlfriend, the steno-typist Chin Chin Choo (Lilian).

After some preliminary ‘seeing the sights’ [and, this being a Shammi Kapoor film, singing to a bevy of lovely ladies in the process], Shyam and Cha Chu get down to work. They report Ramesh’s disappearance to the police, and then come back to their own office for a chat. In the course of this conversation, Cha Chu mentions that Ramesh was in love with Shivdas’s daughter, Shobha. We also learn that Shivdas, like Shyam, owns a rubber estate. Cha Chu suggests that Shobha may know where Ramesh is, and tells Shyam where to find Shobha: she dances at the New India Club.

Shyam, arriving at the New India Club, doesn’t realise that the girl who’s dancing here isn’t Shobha but her cousin, Lata (Padmini). When he introduces himself after the show, Lata (who’d been told, by Shobha, about Ramesh’s old pal), is friendly and welcoming—and even invites Shyam to come home and meet her uncle and cousin.

It takes a while before the misunderstanding is cleared and Shyam discovers that the lady who seems so callously unconcerned about Ramesh is actually not Ramesh’s fiancée after all. Shobha herself is suitably worried about the disappearance of her sweetheart, and admits that she has no idea where he’s vanished.

Shyam’s evening at the Shivdas residence is quite eventful, especially as the two cousins leave him to his own devices at periodic intervals. During one of these intervals, he’s lighting a cigarette when he sees a woman walk by in the corridor beyond, and slip out of the house. Shyam recognises her: it’s his steno, Chin Chin Choo!
He isn’t able to investigate that further, because Shivdas arrives just then, as does Lata, who introduces the two men to each other.

The next day, at his office, however, Shyam questions Chin Chin Choo. She denies it; it wasn’t her at Shivdas’s home.

And, another lady resurfaces: Shyam receives a phone call from Maria, the Malay woman he’d met on the Bombay-Singapore flight. Maria wants to show Shyam the sights [in essence, hit on him], so he agrees to meet her.

They cavort around in some gardens, and Maria makes it pretty obvious that she’s attracted to Shyam. She tries to persuade him to sell off the rubber estate; at least that, and the problems it entails, won’t prey on his mind any longer. [Hmm. Something fishy].

When Shyam doesn’t really listen, Maria invites him to come over to her home—and, while he’s there, someone (through a window that’s been conveniently left open) takes a pot shot at him. Shyam escapes unhurt, but Maria is quite distraught, and takes a bit of calming down.

Shyam is mystified: why would anybody want to kill him? He’s just arrived in Singapore; nobody even knows him.

As it happens, on his way back from Maria’s home, Shyam sees Shivdas and Chin Chin Choo together in Shivdas’s car, but they speed off. Shyam is now definitely suspicious. What is going on?

Shyam, therefore, has a chat with Cha Chu in the office, and even Cha Chu is bewildered. They sit at the desk (which is the same one from which Ramesh had phoned Shyam the last time they talked). And, in the course of discussing what could have happened to Ramesh and why anybody would want to kill Shyam—they discover a quirky cigarette case that Ramesh kept in the drawer…

Even more interestingly, they find, tucked away among the cigarettes, the map. Ah! Finally. Something to go on. Shyam and Cha Chu peruse the map, and Shyam thinks it over.

The next day, the newspaper carries an advertisement inserted by Shyam, regarding the mysterious map: if anyone knows what it’s about, they’re welcome to it. Shyam’s theory is that Ramesh was abducted because of the map, so he’s hoping his pal will be released in exchange for the map.

[He takes the precaution of making a copy of the map and keeping the original back in the cigarette case. Smart cookie, our Shyam].

Shivdas, having seen the ad, phones, and Shyam explains his logic. Shivdas agrees; yes, that might help get Ramesh back. He also informs Shyam that he (Shivdas), along with Lata and Shobha, are off to their rubber estate for the day. Why doesn’t Shyam come along? They’ll have a picnic.
Shyam accepts the invitation, and makes a big show of taking along the map (actually, the copy he made)—he places it in a file and tells Shivdas that on the way back, he’d like to stop over at the police station and show it to the cops.

On the rubber estate (which abuts Shyam’s own estate), Shyam and Lata are soon left to themselves by both Shivdas and Shobha. The two lovebirds go off to sing and dance and cootchy-coo a bit…

…while Shivdas sneaks back to the car and retrieves the map from the file which Shyam had left there. He sets off into the rubber estate (presumably making his way into Shyam’s estate as he does so), following the map.
As it happens, Shobha, looking out of the window just then, sees her father walking purposefully [suspiciously?] off, and decides to follow him.

En route, two ruffians abduct Shobha, without her father’s even realising it.
When Shyam, back at the estate house after romancing Lata, discovers that both Shivdas and Shobha have gone off into the estate, he heads out after them. He sees Shivdas soon enough, and calls out to the man to stop. Shivdas doesn’t—

—until some unknown, unseen sniper shoots him and Shivdas falls to the ground, clutching his chest and gasping for water. [Does being shot cause a sudden uncontrollable thirst?] Shyam dutifully rushes off to find some water for the injured man, but when he returns, Shivdas has disappeared. Oops.

If you think this is getting convoluted, wait on, as Shivdas’s body resurfaces—this time in Shyam’s bathroom, and that too at an uncomfortable time when the police (who suspect Shyam of having had a hand in the disappearance of Shobha and Shivdas) have come visiting. Lata is also around, so at one fell swoop, poor Shyam finds himself:

(a) being spurned by his girlfriend, who’s convinced he’s a murderer and kidnapper; and
(b) arrested by the cops

Who killed Shivdas? Why? Is there really a treasure? And who is Chang’s mysterious boss [considering this boss is masked, obviously pretty curvy despite the bulky trench coat, and speaks with a very familiar accent, it’s not hard to guess]?

What I liked about this film:

Shammi Kapoor. He’s at his debonair, suave best here—and very funny too in his disguise as a Pathan named Khan Gulab Khan.

Some of the songs. The music of Singapore isn’t, in my opinion, one of Shankar-Jaikishan’s best scores for a Shammi Kapoor film. Even more disappointing, my favourite song from the film—Rasa sayang re—turns out (thanks for telling me this, Bombaynoir) a pretty faithful lift from a traditional Malay song. Dhokha khaayegi na yaaron ki nazar is a delightful song, though, and Shammi is in his element.

Edwina Lyons! This is one film where she’s quite visible, both in Dhokha khaayegi na yaaron ki nazar and Rasa sayang re, as well as in a scene set at a gambling table where she rakes in the moolah, and even gets to cry out “Don’t fight!” to Shammi Kapoor and another actor.

What I didn’t like:

Oh, the sheer ineptness of the script. There’s a little suspense building up in the first half-hour or so of the film, but it falls flat as a bad soufflé after that, because it becomes fairly obvious who the baddies are and why they’re hounding Ramesh and Shyam. And the plot holes are among the most gaping I’ve seen: for example, Maria’s being on the same Bombay-Singapore flight as Shyam, and sitting next to him too, turns out later to not be a coincidence—but how did she manage it?

Spoiler ahead:

How, for example, can a man whose corpse has been found by the police—and, one assumes, autopsied, or at least checked for being actually dead—turn up again alive? And, anyway, why go through all that drama? (since it eventually doesn’t seem to serve much purpose)

Spoiler over.

I have a feeling that Singapore was something of a run-up to China Town for Shakti Samanta. There are similarities between the films. For instance, besides Shammi Kapoor, both films also feature Helen, Madan Puri, and the actor who plays the role of Inspector Chung in Singapore (does anybody know who this is)?

Other than that, there’s a definitely Oriental feel to both films: the settings, of course; but also the music [and the font of the title credits!] More than that, there’s the fact that the suspense angle dominates in both Singapore as well as China Town. China Town wins hands down—the script is more taut and suspenseful, and Shammi Kapoor’s role(s) are much meatier, plus his chemistry with both Helen and Shakila is better than with Padmini.

But, if you haven’t seen China Town, and get a chance to see Singapore, do watch: it’s fair ‘time-pass’. It’s not a bad film, and Shammi Kapoor is—as always—so wonderfully watchable.

40 thoughts on “Singapore (1960)

  1. This looks great. I love the screencaptures of Shammi, especially that one with the cigarette case. Madan Puri seems to have played that role a lot – you mention China Town which I haven’t yet seen, but it also reminds me of Howrah Bridge.

    So many movies to watch …

    carla (filmi geek)

    • Yes, Madan Puri did seem to play the Oriental baddie in a lot of films, didn’t he? It’s been so long since I watched Howrah Bridge, I’ve forgotten even whom it featured – other than Ashok Kumar and Madhubala, of course.

      I know what you mean about that “so many movies to watch” thing. Put China Town on your list well before Singapore, though, if it comes to choosing between these two.

  2. Really good to see you back, Madhu. It’s a relief to know that it was mainly work that was keeping you away from the interwebs – you know what I mean. Whenever a regular stays away for a while – and you don’t know why – it makes you worry a bit.

    Coming to Singapore. I remember this movie disappointing me because it starts off promisingly and then becomes a hotchpotch somewhere halfway into the film. Not Shammi’s fault – he’s his usual self but the scriptwriter seems to have hit writer’s block after the first hour or so.

    Also, the fact that Shammi and Padmini hardly seemed to have any chemistry together didn’t help IMO.

    I do like the songs, though they’re not classics. My favourite is “dhoka khaayegi na yaaron ki nazar”. It’s catchy. And of course it has Edwina. :-)

    It was also good to see a new face – Maria Menado.

    Thanks for being able to come up with this post, even when you’re so hard-pressed for time. Am sure Shammi up there appreciates it, as do all of his fans down here. :-)

    • Thank you, Raja! That’s sweet of you. :-) Yes, it’s been mainly work, but then, you know what happens – when you get completely swamped by work and don’t even have the time for a break, it can stress you out so much, it can lead to other problems… that’s what happens to me. Fortunately, not that often!

      And I had to make time for a post on Shammi Kapoor’s birthday. Unfortunately (fortunately?), I’ve already reviewed most of my favourite Shammi films, so it had to be one of the lesser ones this time. I agree Singapore becomes a hotchpotch halfway through. The writer seemed to have gone through a phase of “Oh, let’s put this in!” and “we must have that element in a suspense film!”, but didn’t really know how to plot the film.

      Still, Shammi, Edwina, the songs, the prettiness… decent enough time-pass.

  3. Oooh! I had bookmarked this film a long time ago meaning to review it sometime, this being one of the Shammi Kapoor films I have never seen. Thanks for the review, Madhu. Plot holes or no, I’m watching this asap – Shammi looks scrumpilicious. :~) I hope he’s having a great birthday up there with Geeta again.

    ps: I think Inspector Chung was played by Mohan Barodia. (Not 100% sure.)

    .

    • You should watch it, even if just for Shammi! At least, it’s not a ‘non-Shammiesque’ Shammi film (if you know what I mean) like Rangeen Raatein, Rail ka Dibba or Shama Parwana. He looks fabulous here, and is fun and charming in his usual style.

      Thank you for the Mohan Barodia hint. It could be him. (His name’s in the credits, at least).

  4. Madhu, good writeup and plot summary! But when I saw this film, I didn’t even know about the film China Town, and I thought of it mainly as a sort of offshoot of Howrah Bridge. That’s what I talked about when I wrote this up, a little over four years ago:

    http://roughinhere.wordpress.com/2008/08/23/there-is-a-lot-of-fun-to-be-found-in-singapore/

    And by the way, when I first picked up Singapore, it was because it was a Padmini film! What do I like about this film? Hmm…

    This is my favorite song/dance in the film (which I just posted to FB also):

    • I like Tu kahaan kho gaya too, Richard – though the song not as much as Padmini’s dancing. I thought she was really rather wasted in this film, not so much as a dancer, but as an actress. Even though she’s supposed to be the leading lady, the film seems to be skewed completely so that most scenes involve Shammi Kapoor, and all Padmini does is dance a little and weep and rave a little. Sad. :-(

      I’m off to read your post on the similarities between this and Howrah Bridge. It’s been such a long time since I watched that film, I’ve forgotten much of it. But I do recall, now that you mention it, the China Town setting, and more…

  5. Singapore is the firm of our early college days, when we , aa SJ fan group among boys, and a motley group of die-hard Shammi fan girls would not miss a Shammi Kapoor movie.

    I remember liking this movie – for Shammi Kapoor, because SJ music was an abject failure, in our view at that time.
    The great idiosyncrasy of those days was to let Shammi lip sings to Mukesh’s voice. Somehow, we could never associate the combination.
    SJ has used Mukesh for eve Rajendra Kumar, in Aas Ka Panchhi.!!??

    • Yes, compared to some of the other fantastic scores Shankar-Jaikishan composed for Shammi Kapoor’s movies, their music for Singapore was rather underwhelming. And Mukesh singing playback for Shammi just sounds odd – though it’s been done in Bluffmaster too. Kalyanji-Anandji used Mukesh as Shammi’s voice in Socha tha pyaar hum na karenge:

      • That is a good song IMO. Mukesh’s voice almost always covers my apprehensions of watching Manoj Kumar on screen lip synching to ‘romantic’ or even ‘sad’ songs. (I avoid Manoj Kumar’s films, remember. not his songs)

        • We shall agree to disagree, Chris! I like Manoj Kumar – though, I hasten to add, only in his non-patriotic, non-’serious’ films, like Gumnaam, Woh Kaun Thi?, Shaadi or Nakli Nawab. On the other hand, I find him pretty unbearable in stuff like Purab aur Pacchhim or Shor.

  6. I literally jumped at the title of this film! Yaaaaaaaay! :D :D My grandma got to see Shammi shooting for a song. I am so jealous of her! (She also got her photos taken with Dharmendra in the 70′s. DOUBLE JEALOUS!)

    I have the DVD, but it doesn’t work. :( -sad- I feel like I should be able to identify all the landmarks, since I’ve been there 100000 times, but no. It looked so different!

    I also wondered why all the girls in the background were dressed in Chinese costumes. They still do that now, but only for Chinese New Year. Too hot to do that now. My grandma used to wear that too.

    • Oh, I’m jealous of your grandma too! Lucky lady! :-)

      Places actually do change quite a bit over time. I remember watching the 1962 Shashi Kapoor-Leela Naidu film The Householder a couple of years back, and while some of the Delhi landmarks (like the Red Fort and Jantar Mantar) are easily recognisable, others (like the Mehrauli area) don’t look anything like how they are in the film. Back in 1962, Mehrali seems to have been large stretches of totally uncultivated, open ground with only a few medieval tombs here and there. Today, the tombs are still there, but they’re mostly surrounded by residential neighbourhoods.

      • I knowwwwww! :( If it had been ME instead of her… :P And in Vancouver most of my family had seen someone or the other… one of my aunts saw Kishore. JEALOUS OH MY GOD.

        Oh, is that good? And is it in English or Hindi? I should see that, once I get time. Maybe my grandma will know the landmarks. But trust me, I’ve been there gazillions of times. Singapore is so tiny that every year we end up going to the same places for the field trips. But it’s fun to hang out with friends.

        I remember once we were sitting at a table in a coffee shop, and my friend said, “I actually can’t believe we’re in Chinatown and alone at a table without our parents.” ‘Twas cool. :D

  7. I translated a couple of songs from this film for Tom, and remember remarking on how handsome Shammi looks in this film.

    Like Richard, I like Tu Kahan kho gaya also.

    I must see the song that Edu appears in. She looks so very young and so lovely in the screen cap :)

    • Edu is pretty much in the forefront in Dhokha khaayegi na yaaron ki nazar – and that song, even otherwise, is great fun. The scene from which I’ve taken that Edu screen cap occurs shortly after this song. She sits at a roulette table, urging the wheel to spin her way, and is very triumphant when she wins. Sweet! :-)

  8. To me every movie you review seems charming. So even though I have seen China Town, I plan to see Singapore whenever I get a chance. One reason why the name of this movie stuck in my mind was, I was compiling ‘city’ songs when a song from this movie turned up.

    • ‘City songs’ sounds an interesting theme! This one has two, actually. One is Yeh shahar badaa albela:

      (which reminds me quite a bit of Aji aisa mauka phir kahaan milega)

      And the other, which is Dekhoji dekho… jeevan mein ek baar aana Singapore:

  9. I like this film even with plotholes and also that song by Mukesh. It is a difficult one but I will probably choose his songs in the b/w era marginally beating Dev-Rafi-Kishore and Dilip-Rafi-Talat combos.Obviously RK will feature prominently there alongwith Manna De, but I like his songs in Madhumati,long list of songs for Manoj Kumar and the 2 songs mentioned here those he sang for Shammi.
    I think by searching ‘Rasa Sayang’ in Youtube , we also get the original song. If this is a Indo-Malayan production that might explain the ‘inspiration’.
    There was a film called ‘Hong Kong 1962′ as well.

    • So Padmini is the 3rd heroine with no onscreen chemistry with Shammi Kapoor after Nutan and Vyjayantimala? It seems RK did better in that department.

      • I do think Shammi’s chemistry with Nutan in some bits of Basant was good, like in the song, Chori-chori ek ishaara ho gaya hai:

        But his chemistry with Asha Parekh, Sadhana, Saira Banu (Junglee!), or even Kalpana (in Professor) was in a different realm altogether.

        Incidentally, the Shammi-Ragini chemistry doesn’t click either, in Mujrim.

    • I’ve seen a song (featuring Helen) from Hong Kong, but it was terrible audio and video quality.

      Yes, I’ve linked to a version of the original Rasa sayang re song – you can click on the link in the post and see the song on Youtube. It’s a jazzed-up version, but it’s pretty obviously the same tune. You’re right, I think too that the fact that this was an Indo-Malayan production would account for the ‘inspiration’.

      • I was a little surprised that you did not find the original ‘Rasa sayang’ earlier, YT search gives us both versions.
        Note. Shammi’s songs like Yamma yamma, Suku suku , Aiga aiga i.e. with starting words which have no meaning are unfortunately ‘not’ original either (dare I say blatant rip offs), though I like them.Refer itwofs.com for originals.

        • We seem to be talking at cross-purposes, Chris. In my comment, I said I’d linked to the original song. If you read my post, I’ve written (in the ‘What I liked’ section) that the original is a traditional Malay song – and I’ve linked to the song.

          Yup, lots of Shammi songs which are rip-offs. Several of them appeared in my ‘inspired songs’ post and in the comments that followed it.

  10. Hello Madhu! You know how I feel about You & the way that You write & what crowns it all is that I have some of My PKK Fans (which includes You) here commenting too & that gives Me even more pleasure Your a Perfectionist so never want to settle for less & rightly so! I Love ‘Singapore’ because it allowed Me to act & dance madly mainly & yes I did watch that Movie some Years ago & it was OK But then all Indian Movies are just OK by Me maybe because I was part of that World & took all for granted eh!
    It gave Me My Daily Bread!!!
    Keep up the Good Work! Madhu Dear!

    • Thank you, Edu! I was so happy to see you here, and especially so because you looked as if you were enjoying yourself, dancing and even getting to speak. That really thrilled me. :-)

  11. I have often thought what will we do as the films of our favourite stars come to an end. Regards Shammi Kapoor we have already watched and rewatched the good ones (Junglee, Professor, Dil Deke Dekho etc), we are now left with Rangeen Raatein, Singapur, and Jeevan Jyoti of Shammi with a thin moustache :)

    The value of these films will slowly increase when we are really left with nothing more :-(
    I started watching Singapur online, and haven’t finished watching it yet :) but am determined to do so with the philosophy of short supply in my head.

    • I still have Raat ke Raahi tucked away. Not that pencil-moustached Shammi, since this was from his post-Tumsa Nahin Dekha days, but I don’t hold out much hope. An old Shammi film (moochh and all) which I’d seen years ago as a kid and rather enjoyed was Hum Sab Chor Hain – I’d like to see that again.

  12. I have to plead guilty to hopefully checking your Amazon author’s page for a new release more frequently than your blog lately, so I’m pleased to hear you’ve been busy with other things too! As usual, your summary has been wonderfully helpful – I think I’ll watch the songs you recommend and leave it at, considering the backlog of films I already have to deal with.

  13. Hey Dustedoff, can I ask you for a favor? Can you please translate the lyrics of Rimjhim Ke Tarane for me? It’s for a project. You don’t have to if it’s too troublesome. :D

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