It Happened One Nightby Deepa Gahlot July 5 2018, 3:13 pm Estimated Reading Time: 2 mins, 16 secs
Noir thrillers had their own visual glamour—smoky bars, shadowy streets, men in trench coats and Fedoras, femmes fatale, damsels in distress and an innocent caught in a web of deceit. Atul Kumar’s new production, Detective Nau-Do-Gyarah, checks all the boxes and goes an affectionate tribute-cum-spoof.
It is a crazy, adventurous and completely delightful tribute to noir cinema and graphic novels, seamlessly blending comedy, murder, espionage and a “39 Ka Aankda” MacGuffin (Hitchcock fan would know what that is) that indicates “desh ko khatra”.
Those who are familiar with noir and Hitchcock-inspired Bollywood films of the Fifties would smile at the name given to the leading man – Shekhar Kumar. (In dozens of films, Ashok Kumar and Dev Anand were called Mr Shekhar). Sukant Goel plays the hapless doctor, who goes to watch a mentalist’s show at the Royal Opera House and gets a mysterious Russian woman (Anna Ador) tagging along with him to his Khandala home. When she gets killed, Shekhar has to escape cops and gangsters in pursuit, to find out who did it, so that he can prove his own innocence and save the country.
At some point he finds himself handcuffed to the haughty Miss Maya (Abir Abrar), who first mistakes him for a killer and then falls in love with him. On his quest to solve the puzzle of seemingly nonsensical (“icchadhari bandargah”) instructions given by the dead spy, Shekhar finds himself in many tight spots and eventually in the lair of the KN Singh-inspired villain Rai Bahadur Sinha (Atul Kumar).
The actors speak with the stylized, slightly nasal tones that were used by actors in that period, and the plot devices are as corny as they used to be then—characters just changing hats to turn unrecognizable, or a religious book stopping a bullet. The ‘hero and heroine’ don’t get to do the mandatory dance in a wedding party, but the live jazz band (there is Howrah Bridge-inspired night club number (remember the slinky Madhubala song Aaiye Meherban?), placed above all the action going on the multi-layered set, keeps the proceedings moving on briskly. The choreography, lighting, sets, costumes and spoofy script (Pallav Singh, Niketan Sharma) are excellent, and controlling all the Noises Off kind of over-the-cop chaos is director Atul Kumar having a blast, and quite disguising the grueling rehearsals and precise coordination that must have gone into pulling off a production of this splendid scale. Detective Nau-Do-Gyarah is good, nostalgia-inducing fun! Incidentally, Nau-Do-Gyarah was the title of Vijay Anand’s 1957 directorial debut, starring Dev Anand and Kalpana Kartik.