Hi, this is FC Flashback. This month, we are celebrating the films of Vijay Anand and I’m talking about one of his early classics, Kala Bazar, made in 1960.
For many of you, the idea of a kala bazaar, might be alien. Once upon a time, before multiplexes arrived, movie tickets were sold in black right out side the theatre. Men and sometimes women would merge into the crowds, mumbling the rates of the tickets they were selling. If you want to see it done, hang outside a single screen theatre the day a Salman Khan film releases.
In Kala Bazar, Dev Anand plays Raghuvir, a common man who becomes a successful black marketer to earn money for his family. But his conscience haunts him. Raghuvir falls in love with Alka, played by a sparkling Waheeda Rehman. Alka is morally upright. She is also engaged to another man, Nandkishore, played by Vijay Anand himself. But that doesn’t stop Raghu. He pursues her relentlessly. She reciprocates once she comes to know and understand him. Raghu’s crimes eventually catch up with him. Kala Bazar illustrates how money and corruption fray a man’s soul. But the film insists that even the worst among us have the potential for redemption.
There is so much to admire in Kala Bazar, starting with the incredible music by S.D Burman with lyrics by Shailendra. Each innovatively picturized song is a stand-alone classic – Khoya Khoya Chand, Rim Jhim Ke Tarane Leke Aayi Barsaat, Apni Toh Har Aah Ek Toofan Hai and of course Na Mai Dhan Chahoon. Look at how brilliantly Vijay Anand captures Raghuvir’s torment.
Kala Bazar also has a refreshingly mature attitude about love and relationships. Alka falls in love twice and then she makes a choice between her two suitors. There is no drama here, just an acceptance that human beings are complex creatures and the heart, as Woody Allen infamously said, wants what it wants.
There are glorious shots of Marine Drive, with its art deco buildings and scenes set in two of Mumbai’s most iconic theatres – Metro and Liberty. Kala Bazar captures our unique movie madness. A long scene is set at the premiere of Mother India – years before Om Shanti Om, Vijay Anand gave us the ultimate celebrity cameo sequence – we see Dilip Kumar, Guru Dutt, Lata Mangeshkar, Mohammed Rafi, Mehboob Khan and Nargis. It’s an absolute delight.
Kala Bazar was the only film to feature all the Anand brothers – the eldest, Chetan Anand, plays a lawyer who triggers both Raghu’s corruption and his redemption. You see three powerhouses of Indian cinema coming together to create an exceptional film.
Truly they don’t make them like this anymore. You can see Kala Bazar on Youtube.
All this month, Film Companion will celebrate the works of filmmaker Vijay Anand. You can follow our series FC Flashback which aims to reintroduce legendary actors, filmmakers and technicians to a young audience.