Yeh Duniyawale Poochhenge:  Revisiting Mahal (1969)
24th August 2000 was the day Kalyanji (of the music director duo Kalyanji Anandji) passed away. Here we revisit a Bollywood film that had some wonderful and memorable compositions by the duo.
 
Most Bollywood fans will always tend to associate the title Mahal with Kamal Amrohi’s 1949 thriller that starred Ashok Kumar and Madhubala.
 
However, there was one more film titled Mahal that starred Dev Anand and Asha Parekh. The film, released in 1969, was declared a surprise hit at the box office.
 
Rajesh (Dev Anand) is an egalitarian gambler who is considered to be lucky at the gambling wheels due to his Midas touch. He also works as a secretary to Shyam (Abhi Bhattacharya). He often gambles to help others. His mother (Pratima Devi) is always at loggerheads with him, chiding him for gambling.
 
She laments that his father was cheated by his friend and that was reason enough for his untimely death. Notwithstanding the family's parlous financial situation, Rajesh is a happy-go-lucky man. Rajesh has a younger sister Munni aka Chanda (Azra) whom he dotes on. Chanda is in love with Ramesh (Sudhir).
 
In Calcutta, Roopa’s uncle receives a proposal for Roopa (Asha Parekh) from Shyam. Both are scheduled to meet. But Shyam has an exigency. He writes a letter to Roopa and asks Rajesh to deliver it to her.
 
Shyam is interested in getting married to her. But Roopa is not interested in the alliance. Even before Rajesh can convey the message, Roopa and her friends mistake Rajesh for Shyam and rag him. But things are sorted out and all of them set out for a picnic. Finally, Rajesh tells Roopa that he was just getting even with her. This infuriates Roopa.
 
Motilal (Rajan Haksar) runs a gambling den. He asks Rajesh to carry out an important assignment for him in Darjeeling, for which Motilal cooks up a story saying that his real name is Ravi and that he is the sole legal heir of Seth Dinanath, his father’s younger brother.   
 
Motilal says that Seth, who is on his death bed, wants to meet his nephew Ravi and atone for his sins. All that Rajesh has to do is to visit Seth Dinanath and pretend to be Ravi until the old man’s death. 
 
Moti manages to convince Rajesh to pose as Ravi and gives him forty thousand rupees in cash for the job. 
 
Seth has a huge tea estate in Darjeeling. After Seth’s death, Ravi would be the legal heir. But he is hesitant to meet his uncle as his splenetic uncle had ill-treated his family. 
 
Meanwhile, Rajesh has discovered that Ramesh is none other than his childhood friend and he loses no time in fixing the marriage of Ramesh with Chanda using the money that Motilal has paid him.  Once the marriage is solemnized, Rajesh confides in Chanda about an important assignment that he has to complete and boards the train to Darjeeling. Moti has given him a notebook that contains details of the family history.
 
Soon after Rajesh leaves for Darjeeling, Motilal is murdered. The suspense now starts building up gradually.
 
Before Rajesh reaches Darjeeling, he encounters a mysterious woman (Farida Jalal in a brief but memorable role) on the train. The woman leaves her scarf behind. He also meets an old man (David) who is baffled that Rajesh is drawing the portrait of his daughter Roopa.
 
Rajesh is picked up from the station and housed in Hotel Mount Everest. A driver comes to pick him up from the hotel. Rajesh meets Seth Dinanath and introduces himself as Ravi. Sethji is confined to a wheelchair and he tells Ravi that he was eagerly looking forward to his arrival. He expresses penitence for his past misdeeds.
 
Ravi is introduced to Sethji’s nurse (Farida Jalal). Sethji asks Ravi why the time 9.33 am is important for him. He wants to test whether Ravi is his nephew or an impostor. Ravi gives the correct answer and Sethji is convinced that Ravi is his nephew. Sethji tells Ravi that he has been put up in a hotel and has also been enrolled in a popular club so that he becomes well-known in social circles in Darjeeling.
 
In the skating club, David meets Ravi and invites him home for his daughter Roopa’s birthday party. Roopa is not too happy to meet Ravi (or Rajesh) and makes her unpleasantness clear to him. Roopa’s mother (Ratnamala) keeps on shrieking for no particular reason. She is concerned about Roopa going astray. Unable to pacify a livid Roopa, Ravi returns to his hotel room where the nurse is waiting for him. She soon bids him goodbye addressing him as Rajesh.
 
A shocked Ravi follows her to her home where she sings a song (the nurse can also dance well, so it seems). She tells Ravi that he should poison his uncle the next day and that they could share the property equally after his death. Else she will spill the beans to the uncle that he is an impostor.
Ravi agrees but the next day he subverts the attempt to poison his uncle.
 
David reprises his violin playing act from Shehar Aur Sapna (which is a tad irritating) and assures Roopa that Ravi is a good choice for her. He informs Roopa that Ravi is the only heir to the wealthy Seth Dinanath.
 
Roopa thaws and falls for Ravi’s charms.
 
Ravi and Roopa meet, get drenched in the rain, lose their way and finally locate a desolate cottage that has a bonfire and a cot along with pillows, mattresses, and blankets. But mercifully Ravi and Roopa don’t get swayed by emotions (unlike Aradhna and the song Roop Tera mastana) – instead they sing a dulcet duet.
 
 
But soon enough Ravi is trapped. He receives a call from his uncle and when he rushes to the mansion, the uncle is dead. One more shock awaits Ravi as he realizes that the uncle (Seth Dinanath) who is dead is not the same person (Sapru) whom Ravi had met on his first visit to the mansion. The police arrive and arrest Rajesh. 
 
Rajesh’s friend cum brother-in-law Ramesh is the police inspector who is in hot pursuit after Rajesh. It dawns on Rajesh that he has been framed.
 
As Rajesh escapes, he spots Badriprasad, the impostor and follows him to his house. But the impostor is also murdered and it is revealed that Farida Jalal was Badriprasad’s daughter. She tells him that they had been forced to act as per the instructions that were given to them. 
 
Rajesh gloms onto her words because that is the only way he can find out clues to trace the real assassin.
 
Rajesh’s mother is convinced that he is the assassin and bristles at her son but Chanda is convinced that her brother cannot be a murderer. She shields him when he visits her during raksha bandhan but the house is surrounded by the police. 
 
Ramesh steamrolls the family and holds Rajesh guilty of the murder. Still, Rajesh manages to escape with support from his sister.
 
 
Seth Dinanath’s will is not traceable. The secret of this will is in a ring that is in possession of Shyam who claims that he is Sethji’s long lost nephew Ravi.
 
Is Shyam telling the truth? Who is the real heir to Sethji’s huge fortune?
 
Who killed the nurse and the impostor? Who killed Motilal? How will Rajesh prove his innocence and escape the gallows? Will his adroitness come to his aid? Who murdered Seth Dinanath?
You have to watch the film for answers to these questions (No spoilers please!).
 
The film is fairly engaging and one can actually forgive the tacky production values (especially scenes that have been shot indoors) as well as a few glaring loopholes in the plot. Roopa’s ambivalent feelings for Rajesh are inscrutable at times. The subplot involving Kamal Mehra and his comic antics ends up slowing the pace of the film that is otherwise brisk due to the slick editing.
 
The debonair Dev Anand delivers a stellar performance even though his character has similarities with the one that he portrayed in Jewel Thief (1967). His mannerisms are more subtle here and are bereft of prolix normally associated with his characterizations.
 
 
The screen chemistry between Dev Anand and Asha Parekh is sparkling. Of the supporting cast, Farida Jalal and Azra stand out with their earnest performances. Sudhir looks charming but scores average in the acting department. Kamal Mehra and Sundar ham as usual.
 
This was one of the earliest films of Farida Jalal and she has performed a sexy dance number along with Dev Anand. Incidentally, this was also one of Azra’s last films.  Azra was the daughter of yesteryear actress Sarojini and producer Nanubhai Vakil. The beautiful Azra began her career with Mother India (1957) and acted in films like Babar, Junglee and Ganga Jamna but she did not make much headway in Bollywood despite having an excellent screen presence.
 
It is a mystery how a beautiful actress like Azra never got the recognition that she rightfully deserved.  Azra married into the reputed Lokhandwala family (they are builders – you would have heard of Lokhandwala Complex in Andheri (West), Mumbai) in 1971 and then no one heard of her. It was only recently revealed that Azra was very much in Mumbai and lived in a palatial mansion in Bandra. But she chose to shun the limelight after marriage and is quite happy in her space.
 
The music by Kalyanji Anandji had some brilliant and soulful compositions like – “Ankhon Ankhon Mein Hum Tum”, “Yeh Duniyawala Poochenge” and  “ Aiyee, Aap Ka Tha Hamein Intezaar”.
 
The cinematography by Pratap Sinha is a feast for the eyes with the beautiful locales in Darjeeling that have been aesthetically captured on camera. The indoor scenes have been shot in Filmistan Studio and Mehboob Studio.
 
The film is a fast-paced thriller and some of the credit has to go the slick editing by Ramchandra Mahadik. Produced by Mahipatray Shah, Mahal was directed by Shanker Mukherjee.
Don't miss this edge-of-the-seat thriller.
 
(After working in the corporate world for close to two decades, Bhagyalakshmi Seshachalam started her second career innings as a head-hunter. She is passionate about Hindi movies and loves retro music. When her family shifted to Chennai in the 80s, Bhagya had a taste of Tamil cinema too. In the long term, she plans a book on two of her favourite directors – Guru Dutt and K Balachander. She travels across the country on work and is based in Mysore.)
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    Ramesh Poapt

    1 month ago

    mast mast!!

    Deep discount: Restaurants delist from online food platforms
    Challenging the deep discounting practices of online food delivery platforms like Zomato Gold and EasyDiner, over 300 restaurants in Gurugram under the umbrella of the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) on Thursday observed a #Logout campaign.
     
    According to a report in Inc42.com, these restaurants reportedly delisted themselves from "platforms such as Zomato Gold, EazyDiner, Dineout's Gourmet Passport, Nearbuy, MagicPin among others".
     
    "The situation is now aggravated through the anytime, anywhere, any-day discounting behaviour by aggregators. So now restaurants have come together to detox consumers from discount addiction," NRAI president Rahul Singh was quoted as saying.
     
    Home-grown restaurant search and delivery platform Zomato last month introduced the "Infinity Dining" plan for its "Gold" subscribers that allows them to have unlimited a la carte at partner restaurants.
     
    "For the same price that users would spend on a typical two-course meal, they can now order anything and everything you want from the entire menu (yes, the entire menu!) with unlimited servings of their favourite dishes," Gaurav Gupta, Chief Operating Officer & Co-founder, Zomato, wrote in a blog post.
     
    Zomato said its Gold subscription programme has grown almost 100 per cent in the past eight months.
     
    The plan has been introduced in partnership with 350 restaurants - with at least a 3.5 rating -- in Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru.
     
    The restaurants under the NRAI in Delhi and Mumbai have also reportedly threatened to delist from these dining platforms.
     
    Last month, the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) officials met representatives from online food delivery firms like Zomato and Swiggy and offline industry leaders and directed them to sit and solve their differences and boost equitable growth in the industry.
     
    The meeting was called to discuss issues such as deep discounting and opening up of private label brands by the online food platforms that has affected the operations of offline restaurants across the country.
     
    Sources had told IANS that both online food delivery platforms that also included Uber Eats and Foodpanda and the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) along with other offline hotels and restaurant associations gave their set of recommendations and justifications to the DPIIT officials on their concerns.
     
    Another grudge from offline restaurant owners was that food delivery platforms used technology to study dishes that their consumers like and created their own private labels along with deep discounting.
     
    The online restaurant aggregators argue that they have created employment for thousands of people and must get support from the government.
     
    Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.
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    Arumugaraja

    1 month ago

    In US, coupons are issued by restaurant chains for lean days or hours or less favorite locations.
    This la carte is unsustainable.

    Vyjayanthimala: Poise and Spunk amid Glitz and Glam –II
    There were rumours that Vyjayanthimala had an affair with Dilip Kumar that came to an abrupt end after she signed Raj Kapoor’s Sangam (1964). Despite the fact that both Dilip and Vyjayanthimala appeared in several successful films together, it is disheartening to note the way their relationship became strained in later years.
     
    Dilip Kumar and Vyjayanthimala weren’t on talking terms even when they had chance meetings during Bollywood shindigs in Mumbai. Several years later it was Dilip Kumar’s wife Saira Banu who engineered a truce. Yet, the credit has to go to both the actors for delivering a scintillating performance in HS Rawail’s Sangharsh that released in 1968. Even though the film was a damp squib at the box office, it got some mileage because it was Dilip’s last outing with Vyjayanthimala. When the film was being shot, Dilip and Vyjayanthi were not on talking terms with each other but the animosity is conspicuous by its absence in the film. 
     
     
    Earlier, Dilip Kumar had used his star power to oust Vyjayanthimala from Ram Aur Shyam. When the actress describes her unceremonious removal from the film in her autobiography, we experience a sense of anguish and a feeling of solidarity with the actress. No wonder, Vyjayanthimala has maintained a stoic distance from Waheeda Rehman, who replaced her in Ram Aur Shyam. 
     
    Since she had concentrated on her Bollywood career, she lost career opportunities in Tamil Nadu. Tamil audiences are fickle. They had forgotten all about her. So after her marriage there were no offers for Vyjayanthi from Tamil cinema. Her contemporary Saroja Devi who got married in 1967 – a year earlier to Vyjayanthi’s marriage to Dr Bali- continued to receive plum roles even after her marriage to Harsha.
     
    Vyjayanthimala’s tryst with Raj Kapoor’s masculine charm and womanizing ways is now part of Bollywood folklore. Her grandmother had opposed her fraternizing with Raj Kapoor and later with Dr Bali. But unlike Suraiya who sacrificed her love for Dev Anand under stiff resistance from her grandmother Badshah Begum, Vyjayanthimala was defiant and stood her ground. She was naïve enough to believe that Kapoor would marry her.
     
     
    Sources even said that Kapoor had drugged her during the shooting of Sangam and had seduced her. Rumors were rife that her grandmother was furious when she learnt about the affair and was even more devastated to know about her granddaughter’s premarital pregnancy. Now – how much of this is fact and how much fiction – no one knows. But when the affair fizzled out, the woman in Vyjayanthi refused to give up on life and rose to power. She married Raj Kapoor’s family physician Dr Bali who knew about her affair with Raj Kapoor.
     
    Nazrana was the only other movie in which Raj Kapoor and Vyjayanthi appeared together. The movie was a remake of the Tamil superhit Kalyana Parisu (1959).
     
    Despite the fact that Dr Bali was a much married man, reports say that the actress sponsored Dr Bali’s hefty alimony that he had to pay to his first wife Ruby with whom he had three sons. How and why she got attracted to Dr Bali remains a mystery though. Love is obviously blind!
     
     
    As the actress has pointed out in her autobiography, Vyjayanthimala who was always dominated by her grandmother Yadugiri Devi, started feeling the absence of a man in her life and Dr Bali apparently filled the void. He was smitten by her right from the day he set his eyes on her. On her part, Vyjayanthi was gullible and meekly accepted Dr Bali’s assertion about her ditsy character. Despite having a curmudgeon of a grandmother, Vyjayanthi was resolute about getting married to her lover.
     
    Vyjayanthi’s marriage with Dr Bali lasted a mere 18 years and after his death, she got locked in an acrimonious legal dispute with his sons. There were many properties in Dr Bali’s name in Tamil Nadu (in Ooty) as well as a palatial flat in Bombay. It is strange that Dr Bali’s sons fought the legal battle after knowing fully well that their father couldn’t afford the alimony that their mother had demanded. Vyjayanthimala is emotionally intelligent. This is the reason she was able to overcome all the legal hurdles.
     
    Any other actress would have been shattered in the wake of all the controversies that surrounded her. Raj Kapoor’s PR machinery let out a rumour that she was Mysore Maharaja’s illegitimate child and that the Maharaja had a soft corner for her actress mother Vasundhara Devi.  Vasundhara Devi was born in 1917 and died two years after Dr Bali’s untimely death due to cardiac arrest. Vyjayanthimala looks like a carbon copy of her mother. She was paid a pittance for Sangam though the film raked in crores. Though she denies that there was an affair with Raj Kapoor, the latter’s sons went to town proclaiming that Vyjayanthi was lying through her teeth.
     
    Vyjayanthi put her heart and soul into Amrapali (1966) a film about the doomed courtesan who turned to Buddhism for spiritual solace. Her dances in the film were spoken about as were the revealing dresses that she wore in the film. But the film bombed at the box office.
     
     
    Vyjayanthi expected a national award for her performance in Amrapali but she lost it to Nargis for Raat aur Din. Nargis’ equation with the Gandhis skewed the reward in her favour. Nargis’ grandmother Dilipa Bai was related to Motilal Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru’s father.
     
    Later when Saroj Khan was choreographing for Pyar Hi Pyar, Vyjayanthimala would get flustered saying, “Would I get an award if I twisted my body the other way?” Her disillusionment with Bollywood paved the path for her premature exit from the industry. She realized that she was getting a little long in the tooth to play the leading lady (she was only 34 years old when she quit!).
     
    As offers slowly started drying up, Vyjayanthi realised that she was reaching the end of her rope. But I am still perplexed – both Mala Sinha and Sharmila Tagore got married in the same year as Vyjayanthi (1968) and both of them had long innings in Bollywood many years after their marriage. Then why did Vyjayanthi have to quit so early? Was it because she was disenchanted with everything that was happening around her? May be her experiences had made her believe that continuing to be active in Bollywood would be like attempting to catch a tiger by its tail.
     
    For an actress who had such an unceremonious exit from Bollywood, it was dance that seemed to have rejuvenated her and given her a global identity as a world class Bharata Natyam dancer. For the uninitiated it would appear as if Vyjayanthimala’s later success as a dancer was a pyrrhic victory – but the actress doesn’t think so.  Dance has remained the weather glass of her identity as an Indian woman of substance.
     
     
    When Uttam Kumar became dour on learning of the dance sequences in Choti Si Mulaqat, it was the dancer in Vyjayanthimala that comforted and reassured him. Uttam Kumar’s lugubrious dance moves weren’t a match for Vyjayanthimala’s spunky dance movements in the film. 
     
    She gave the impression of being indolent when she acted with Shammi Kapoor in Prince but when Shammi made snarky comments about her, she demonstrated a rare intrepidness to cold shoulder him.
     
    Time and again, the actress has demonstrated her resilience even when she was a victim of pummeling by her co actors. She remained great friends with BR Chopra and Yash Chopra. Until Raj Kapoor’s death in 1988, she maintained a distance from him urging Dr Bali to also do the same. 
     
    She pooh-poohed Shatrughan Sinha’s pot-shots at her and remarked, “Who is he?” forcing the loud mouthed Bihari babu to remain “Khamosh”. Later she became a politician; then she quit politics citing ideological differences with the Congress party with whom she was associated.
     
    Vyjayanthi became a mother only when she was 38 years old. Her only son Suchindra Bali studied in Bombay before the family shifted base to their palatial mansion in Chennai. Suchindra tried his hand at acting (Aanch, 2003) but quit films when he realised that he wasn’t cut out for it. Today he runs resorts and owns a chain of restaurants in South India.
     
     
    Age hasn’t withered Vyjayanthimala passion for dance. She occasionally makes an appearance on stage and doesn’t disappoint her audiences who are awestruck with her nimble dance moves. She believes that there is nothing wrong if an actress looks glamorous even when she grows old.
      
    Happy birthday Vyjayanthimala!
     
    This is last part of a two part series.
     
    Read the first part: 
     
     
    (After working in the corporate world for close to two decades, Bhagyalakshmi Seshachalam started her second career innings as a head-hunter. She is passionate about Hindi movies and loves retro music. When her family shifted to Chennai in the 80s, Bhagya had a taste of Tamil cinema too. In the long term, she plans a book on two of her favourite directors – Guru Dutt and K Balachander. She travels across the country on work and is based in Mysore.)
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    COMMENTS

    Jatinder

    1 month ago

    Read both the parts. Weird article. It is laced up with accusations galore, rumors unfounded, and negativities about celebrities. Joining together a few picures of the great actress, Vyjantimala, and throwing in a few genuine details, which are available all over the Internet, and then adding SPICE in the form of unsavory comments is not a professional writing. Where was the need to publish this, that too in two parts?

    Ramesh Poapt

    1 month ago

    very good one ( with little spicy gossip).
    she paid price for what she did that she should not have).
    but great actor....

    Ramaditya Bhardwaj

    1 month ago

    Vyjyantimala is an all time great actress. Such actress and dancer are born once in centuries.For me she is the undisputed queen of Indian cinema. She is very close to my heart.Happy birthday madam vyjyantimala.

    Sandeep Reddy

    1 month ago

    Why South Indian Brahmin heroines have affinity for much married men.Strange phenomenon.But don't type cast me now.

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