As the classic film starring Dev Anand and Kalpana Kartik completes its 60th anniversary, we go back in time to see how writer-director Vijay Anand got his start to become one of India’s top filmmakers.
60 years of Nau Do Gyarah: The emergence of Vijay Anand
Mumbai - 31 Dec 2017 19:47 IST
Updated : 02 Jan 2018 17:20 IST
The title of Vijay ‘Goldie’ Anand’s Nau Do Gyarah refers to the colloquial phrase meaning ‘to run away’. The youngest brother of filmmaker Chetan and actor Dev Anand, Vijay Anand got his start assisting his famous brothers and then branching out to take the director’s chair himself.
The script for Nau Do Gyarah was written by the 23-year-old Vijay himself and he shot the film in 40 days, with brother Dev and sister-in-law Kalpana Kartik in the lead. Interestingly, the film’s assistant director was Amarjeet, who had earlier assisted Chetan Anand and later directed Hum Dono (1961), Teen Devian (1965) and Gambler (1971). Jeevan, Shashikala and Lalita Pawar rounded out the cast.
In an interview with author-filmmaker Nasreen Munni Kabir, Vijay Anand had said, "I didn’t want to be a film director. I just took the chance. I thought if I succeeded or failed, what the hell! I didn’t care about success or failure. I was doing my master’s and thought I would make Nau Do Gyarah and go back to studying English literature. Unfortunately, I could not go back to studying."
The film begins with our protagonist Madan Gopal (Dev Anand) being kicked out of two flats (for which he can't pay the rent). By a stroke of luck he discovers an old letter from his uncle that says he is to inherit a total amount of Rs11 lakh, Rs9 lakh in property and Rs2 lakh in cash (playing on the film's title).
The intrepid Gopal buys a truck which converts into a house on wheels and drives from Delhi to Bombay. While doing so, a runaway bride Raksha (Kalpana Kartik) flees from her wedding to the greedy-for-money Surjit (Jeevan) and climbs aboard Gopal's vehicle as a stowaway.
The early part of the film serves as a travelogue of Old Delhi, showing landmarks and the vast countryside. The ditty sung by Kishore Kumar, ‘Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke’, was the first song to be shot in the film.
The first half of the film, which seems inspired by Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night (1934) starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, is like a road movie as it is filmed largely outdoors. Raksha disguises herself as a young Punjabi boy, but her cover is soon blown when she inadvertently exposes her nail-polished toes. Madan and Raksha bicker, sing songs and decide to take up an alliance to travel to Mumbai.
Intrigue finally arrives in Nau Do Gyarah (this is, after all, a Vijay Anand film) after 45 minutes have passed. Madan discovers that his uncle has died and another nephew, Kuldeep, has inherited the booty. With the help of his friend Radheshyam (Madan Puri), Madan decides to pose as a married couple with Raksha to get a job as a manager on Kuldeep’s estate at Mahabaleshwar.
There, they find themselves in the midst of a suspicious family consisting of Kuldeep (Rashid Khan), his mother (Lalita Pawar) and his small siblings. Madan and Raksha resides in the manager’s allotted cabin and flirtatiously begin to act like a long-married couple.
Meanwhile, Kuldeep invites his girlfriend Neeta (Shashikala) home to meet his mother and family. It is then revealed that Neeta, a dancer, is also involved with Raksha's beau Surjit. Her introduction leads to a cabaret song, choreographed by Surya Kumar, and features Shashikala and Helen (in a special appearance).
Sung by Asha Bhosle and Geeta Dutt, 'Kya Ho Jo Phir Din Rangeela Ho' was one of eight songs composed by SD Burman and written by Majrooh Sultanpuri for the film. The cabaret number, which opened with a shot of a fashionable cigarette holder and rings of smoke, showed a preview of Vijay Anand’s style and was followed by elaborate set sequences, a track and the dancers.
Somehow, Jeevan and Shashikala, who are perfectly cast as the scheming pair Surjit and Neeta, figure out that Madan and Raksha are not really married and plan to blackmail both as well as Kuldeep and his mother. The latter are hiding an important secret and covering up a murder.
The road movie has shifted gears to become a murder mystery and Vijay Anand amps up the suspense. Nau Do Gyarah has that Hollywood touch, with the Mahabaleshwar mansion’s long, winding staircase straight out of a Hitchcock movie, and the way the characters are framed for the camera.
Vijay takes full advantage of the charming, roguish Dev Anand persona and his easy, teasing camaraderie with his wife, Kalpana. It became her swansong as she retired from acting after this film.
The film also works due to the winning combination of SD Burman’s compositions and Sultanpuri’s evergreen lyrics which enhance Nau Do Gyarah’s situational songs. They both encouraged the film’s young director to give his inputs in music as well. Acclaimed composer Jaidev was, incidentally, assistant music director on the film.
Mohammed Rafi and Kishore Kumar both sang for Dev Anand while Asha Bhosle sang for Kalpana Kartik. Geeta Dutt was brought in to voice Shashikala’s character Neeta, particularly the song ‘See Le Zuban’, choreographed by Zohra Sehgal, credited as Zohra Saigal. A decade later, Vijay would add a similar song in Jewel Thief (1967) that took forward the tension simmering between the characters and plot.
For the overdrawn finale of Nau Do Gyarah, Vijay heightened the tension with the ticking sound of clocks and watches and fast cuts showing closeups of each character. Although many plot points of Nau Do Gyarah are similar to Taxi Driver (1954), the film is decidedly different from the others that were released that diamond year — Mother India, Pyaasa, Naya Daur, Do Ankhen Barah Haath, Tumsa Nahin Dekha and many more.
The film, a big success all over India, solidified the Navketan banner and Vijay Anand went on to become a stalwart of the Hindi film industry with his contributions. In the same interview with Kabir, he recalled, “At that time, Navketan needed to produce a film. Raj Khosla, who was working at Navketan, was making Kala Pani (1958) and could not make up his mind about what he wanted to do next.
"In those days people were on the payroll [of the studio] and Navketan wasn’t making the kind of profit that you could wait around for a year before making a film. So they needed a script and needed to produce a film. Our manager, Mr Prashar, told Dev saheb: “Goldie has got a very beautiful script. Shahid Lateef bought it and he is no fool. He was going to make it, but couldn’t. So the script is just lying about. Why don’t you listen to the story?”
Dev initially thought Vijay was too young to direct but his kid brother stuck to his guns about directing his own script. Dev finally read the script and liked it and there was no looking back. A new voice emerged in Hindi cinema with Nau Do Gyarah.
Speaking to Kabir, Vijay Anand had stated, “I was not aware of international cinema. I respected my seniors for their contribution to Indian cinema. But somehow I couldn’t be what they were. I did not want actors to perform in a theatrical manner, nor did I care much for larger-than-life stories.”
That, in a nutshell, was Vijay Anand, the filmmaker.