Article Hindi

55 years of Teesri Manzil (1966): 5 reasons why the film remains a classic

The musical thriller, released on this day, was another blockbuster idea from producer Nasir Husain.

Sonal Pandya

Teesri Manzil (1966), starring Shammi Kapoor, Asha Parekh, Prem Chopra and Helen, remains a special film for many reasons. The film, which was conceived and written by producer Nasir Husain, was a perfect amalgamation of remarkable talents who came together to create this classic musical thriller.

Revolving around the death of a young woman named Rupa, Teesri Manzil has all the elements of an engrossing mystery. Rupa’s sister Sunita (Parekh) is determined to unmask the killer while dodging the intentions of Anil aka Rocky (Kapoor) who may or may not have had something to do with the murder.

There is also Rupa's suspicious fiancé Ramesh (Chopra), a jealous dancer named Ruby (Helen), a wealthy man played by Premnath who assists Rocky in his scheme to win over Sunita, and veteran character actor Iftekhar as — what else? — a police inspector investigating the case.

On the 55th anniversary of the film's release today, we look at five reasons why the feature worked.

1. Vijay Anand joined the film as director, the first time he directed a feature outside the Navketan banner.

Nasir Husain handed over the directorial baton for his third film as producer to Vijay Anand. He knew Vijay as actor Dev Anand’s younger brother and the director of Nau Do Gyarah (1957) and Kala Bazar (1960) for Dev Anand's Navketan.banner.

Incidentally, Navketan’s Guide was also being made at the same time as this film, though it was released earlier and cemented Vijay’s reputation as a star director. The success of Teesri Manzil, coupled with the stylish, innovative ways in which he filmed the hit songs and thrilling sequences, showed he knew how to handle both the story and the pressures of a big production.

2. The star cast consisted of Husain regulars as well as some notable additions.

Dev Anand was originally supposed to play the hero of Teesri Manzil, until a row at a party made Nasir Husain go back to Shammi Kapoor, whom he had worked with in Tumsa Nahin Dekha (1957) and Dil Deke Dekho (1959). He also cast Asha Parekh, whom he had introduced with Dil Deke Dekho, and reunited her with the film’s hero in Teesri Manzil.

How Dev Anand lost out on the lead in Teesri Manzil

Meanwhile, he added Helen, Prem Chopra, Premnath and Salim Khan as the hero’s friend. They all played key roles that mattered to the central storyline and weren’t tacked on merely to increase the film's runtime. And all of them were working in a Nasir Husain production for the first time.

Kapoor and Parekh’s chemistry was set given their previous work together and the cast did their bit to deliver the suspense, with a bit of fun along the way.

3. Hero Shammi Kapoor produced a memorable performance during one of the lowest periods of his life.

During the making of Teesri Manzil, Shammi Kapoor’s wife, actress Geeta Bali, contracted smallpox and later died on 21 January 1965. Nasir Husain and Vijay Anand gave him space to grieve but called him back to work eventually as they felt the film sets would ground him back to reality.

Recalling the past at the film’s screening in 2010, the late actor had said, “There are many beautiful moments I spent during the making of Teesri Manzil. There are some sad moments of my life that occurred during the making of film as well. I lost my wife in that period of time in 1965 and then we continued to work.

“She was there when I started working in Teesri Manzil. She would have been very happy to see my contribution in this picture, which I am very proud of," Kapoor added.

In the film, Kapoor showcases his range as a romantic hero, a performer as the club’s drummer, and as a man who is trying to right a wrong to help the woman he loves. In the book Goldie, the Man and His Movies, author Anita Padhye writes, 'Before Teesri Manzil, Shammi was known as a casual, wild dancer, but the movie gave him a very different image. There is a sense of sobriety as he goes about his antics to hide the truth from the heroine. Thanks to Goldie, Shammi comes across as a mature actor rather than someone who 'overacts'.'

4. The chart-busting music by RD Burman that ushered in a new sound in Hindi film music

Teesri Manzil was not RD Burman's first try as an independent music director; he had already composed the music for Chhote Nawab (1961). But it was with this film that the younger Burman,burst out from the shadow of his legendary father SD Burman. The six songs composed by RD Burman were sung by Mohammed Rafi and Asha Bhosle and all went on to be hits.

The Pancham Manzil: An excerpt from RD Burman: The Man, The Music

Director Vijay Anand had faith in RD Burman, but he still had to convince the hero Shammi Kapoor, who was won over after he heard the tunes in person. From the playful 'Aaja Aaja' to the romantic 'Deewana Mujhsa Nahin' to the crowd-pleaser 'O Haseena Zulfonwali', Burman had the pulse of the film down pat, and with Vijay Anand’s vision on the song picturizations, the rest is history.

5. The film’s central mystery hooks you from start to finish.

Even while delving into a romance between Rocky and Sunita, and taking detours with the elaborate songs, Teesri Manzil never forgets the whodunnit introduced in the opening minutes: how did Rupa fall off the hotel’s third floor and was she murdered? Giving a purpose to her grieving sister, the audience goes along for the ride where we are introduced to several possible suspects. The killer’s eventual unmasking remains a shocker even now.