(Hindi - 1966, 158 min)
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Before we get started I want to state that I love TEESRI MANZIL. Why? Well, in three words or less I'd like to paraphrase Johny Lever: TEESRI MANZIL is both "fantastic AND elastic!" But while that sort of statement doesn't actually make any sense -- unlike most of the wisdom that comes out of Johny Lever's mouth -- I'll try to back it up and tell you why I love this movie so much, and why you might too (though I can't back up the "elastic" statement other than it rhymes and probably sounded good to Johny at the time).
Apparently Shammi Kapoor and Asha Parekh were first paired in a film called DIL DEKE DEKHO. They must have been a hit then because here they are in another big-budget blockbuster, and they're the perfect antagonistic Bollywood couple: they endlessly frustrate each other but are still unable to resist the other's considerable charms. What sort of charms am I talking about? Well, Shammi's got a great hairdo for starters -- an enormous mop of moddish rock'n roll follicle rebellion -- and it's particularly charming to see it get all mussed up during a dance sequence then professionally slicked down again when the camera angle changes. Shammi's hair is the kind of 'do you'd see on the nerd in your high school who is TRYING to look like Fonzi...but we can excuse many such oddities in this sort of movie, partly because there are so many other oddities to get really excited about.
Shammi -- as "Rocky" -- is also a very slick drummer, and NOBODY can resist a drummer. As the ill-fated Rupa says during a flashback, "I've never seen anybody play the drums like you," though she was probably referring to the way that Rocky's visual style contrasts markedly with what you hear on the soundtrack. It's my theory that Rocky's drumming is so fantastic (AND elastic) that it defies the laws of physics, allowing him to APPEAR to play in a totally different tempo -- and on a totally different drum kit -- than what the audience actually hears. This is my theory of Drum Relativity. And needless to say the wild disparity between what Shammi does with his drumsticks and the music you hear is a source of great hilarity throughout the film.
I also need to point out that Rocky can make syncopated tinkling noises when he pulls his ears, which is never explained. It might be an obtuse statement about the sort of tinnitus that people in bands tend to suffer from.
As for Asha -- playing Sunita, the spunky girl hell-bent on avenging her sister's death -- she's spirited, vivacious, and funny...she doesn't have a single bad scene in the film. She's the perfect counterpoint to Shammi's free-spirited character; although he usually manages to get the upper hand on her (he has crazier hair, after all) she's still a force to be reckoned with, especially when she's beating up fat people with her umbrella. What's more, she has am entire women's field-hockey team on her side...and woe be to the 1960's be-bop rock'n'roll hipster who tries to get in the way of her revenge!
How do these mismatched couples get together? Well, it seems that Sunita's sister Rupa fell in love with Rocky a year ago. She was staying at the hotel where he's a permanent entertainment fixture, and when he spurned her she threw herself to her death off the hotel's third floor balcony (hence the title, natch). Her dramatic death sequence is the first thing you see in the film, and it certainly gets your attention, especially when the camera zooms in on an important piece of evidence clutched in her hand: a button from a man's jacket.
Is Sunita just sitting around at home, waiting to be married to Rupa's ex-fiancÚ and mourning the "suicide" of her beloved sister? Nope...Sunita is planning a trip to the hotel where Rupa died. She wants to visit Rocky. More specifically, she wants to dine him, woo him and get her field hockey team to break his legs (as she says to her friend Meena, "Rocky and hockey. Doesn't it rhyme?") Perfectly! Watch out, Rocky!
The hitch in this revenge-fantasy is that Sunita has no idea what Rocky looks like, and she doesn't realize that he's really a nice enough guy (for a drummer). Rocky never wanted anything to do with Rupa (who was already engaged to Prem Chopra, one of the suspected killers when it's revealed that Rupa didn't jump off the balcony...she was pushed). In fact, Rocky politely refused her advances, and he was nowhere near her when she killed herself. The revelation that her elder sister was a bit of a loose woman -- the kind of girl who gets engaged but still finds time to scare drummers by eating crackers right off of their plates -- is just one of many shocks Ruby needs to deal with in this movie. Rupa was a brazen, randy little minx.
Curiously enough, despite his innocence Rocky seems relatively nonplussed about the suicide even today...if it weren't for a revealing flashback late in the film, you could almost believe that he'd forgotten it ever happened. If only everybody else would let him forget...and hence, the bulk of the movie: assassination attempts, sneaky betrayals, mystery women with defective cars, tense action sequences, and really wild dancing.
But first, the comedy: Sunita meets Rocky -- who she doesn't recognize -- on a train. One can only guess at his motivation for what follows, but we can assume the following:
* He thinks Sunita is very pretty.
* Annoyed by his attention, she treats him poorly.
* Wanting her affection but unable to get it by being nice, he decides to annoy her.
* Since she seems like a daunting girl and Rocky is sort of a coward, he gets somebody else to annoy her instead. Through a combination of wild facial expressions, insults, and intimidation he goads a marvelously obese man into laughing at Sunita for hours on end. I have no idea who this obese man is, but he gives the best Indian comedians a real run for their money. His specialty is "non-stop hysterical laughter," and when he laughs he slaps himself repeatedly on the face, buttocks, and stomach. Annoyed by this weird behaviour going on in her train car, Sunita beats the man to death with her umbrella, which is our first real indication that she's not the kind of Indian girl who just lays down and acts all submissive in front a giggling fat man.
(I should point out right now, in case you were worried that TEESRI MANZIL is really about a girl who kills a man during the first 5 minutes of the movie, and then spends the remaining 153 minutes in prison fending off the advances of a warden played by Bob Christo: the fat man isn't really dead, he's only joking. And Bob Christo was still wearing diapers and punching wallabies in Australia when TEESRI MANZIL was made).
Seeing something charming about her murderous tendencies (and not yet realizing that she came to town to murder him) Rocky falls in love with Sunita, which is complicated because Sunita hates Rocky, which is more complicated because Rocky is masquerading as somebody named "Sona" and Sunita doesn't know that Rocky is really the guy she came to cripple, and that Rocky has somehow traded identities with one of his very close friends who we suspect is agoraphobic because he's always wearing his pajamas. Rocky has managed to rope in a number of accomplices to fool Sunita into thinking he's not really Rocky. This leads to a lot of trouble for everybody, though it's good to see agoraphobics get out of the house once in a while.
Meanwhile Rocky needs to deal with a girl named Miss Ruby -- played by Helen -- who dances at all his shows and has been hopelessly infatuated with him for years. Miss Ruby's not a bad girl, but she's sort of a fast and loose typically Helen-ish nightclub chick who thinks very little of playing with the fragile emotions of budding lovers like Rocky and Sunita. She also thinks very little of doing strange bird impersonations (jumping up and down and flapping her arms). She's even perfected a style of limpy-wristed gyrating which simply cannot be described. Equally indescribable is the first dance number, which features an enormous foam Henry Moore sculpture, a bunch of oversized table-lamps, and the scariest 60-foot eyeball that you've ever seen.
All of these dance numbers are incredibly (one might say 'ridiculously') stylish and bizarre in their technical details, far outside of what you usually see in Bollywood during any time period. At one point during the "Aaja" number the audience is made to think they're looking out through the hole of a guitar as a man wildly strums the strings. At other times the camera seems to be inside of a pistol, peers through tiny gaps in train station architecture, and views the world through the middle of a tapping drum cymbal. All this comes across as weirdly Italian...but wherever they got these ideas from, they did a great job applying them to the film.
Meanwhile, somebody seems to be trying to kill Rocky, though I admit it's hard to pay attention to the plot during all the fantastic dance numbers. I cannot emphasize this enough: the R.D. Burman-penned Mohammed Rafi & Asha Bhonsle duets are first rate and lots of fun. "Aaja Aaja Mai Hun Pyar Tera," which takes place in a "rock'n'roll club" (where rock'n'roll is never played) is enhanced by a large group of long-suffering skinny-legged men trying desperately to lift women wearing pink polyester stretch-pants who easily outweigh them by thirty pounds or more. And they're all doing a style of dance that seems unique to mid-60's Indian films, where everybody shakes their heads back and forth as fast as they can. This -- for lack of a better description -- is something we call "The Head-Shakin' Dance."
Why this was so popular in India during the 60's is a bit of a mystery. My friend Vanilla -- after seeing examples of this dance and expressing bafflement and amusement -- suggested that the popular western HIP-shakin' dances were considered too lewd in India, so they transferred the hip-shake to the heads instead (which people in India have no hang-ups about shaking). BollyMike, however, believes this to have roots in some sort of Indian classical dance, though I think anybody who shook their heads this way in Ayodhya at the turn of the century would have been burned as a witch. My theory is that somebody with a nervous disorder started shaking their head in a Bombay rock'n'roll club (circa 1961) and a movie producer saw it and decided it was fantastic (AND elastic)...because it really is.
As a warning to young kids thinking about doing this dance, I suspect that Asha Parekh and the rest of the head-shakers ended up with some form of "Dementia Pugilistica," the syndrome experienced by boxers and others who get their heads knocked around too much. To support this suspicion, one of the symptoms of this disorder is "delusions, violent rage, and morbid jealousy including repeated accusations of infidelity," which -- if you think about it -- is pretty normal for Bollywood characters...Asha experienced "violent rage" during the first few minutes of the movie...she tried to kill a fat man because he was laughing at her, which was how I got on this subject in the first place. Yet another sad head-shakin' tragedy, both for the fat man and for the reader of this review.
Interestingly enough -- and don't worry, this is all related -- Sunita's best friend Meena is played by a mystery woman who earlier appeared in GUMNAAM with "Ted Lyons and His Cubs," doing what must be the most incredible head-shakin' dance of all time...so incredible that it was highlighted in the recent film GHOST WORLD. Sadly, in TEESRI MANZIL Meena gets almost no screen time at all, but as far as I'm concerned she steals the show. She has a terrifying overbite that results in a toothy smile that looks like it really hurts. She's silly and cute and funny. She even allows herself to be stuffed into a trunk during a sinister road trip that features wild, feral, living-dead Indians who carry axes and machetes. We are lead to believe that these sorts of people are a constant danger in the jungle, which could be true because they always show up in Bollywood films when the heroine is alone. In my experience these jungle goondas are one of the most important plot elements in any film: they prove to the reluctant heroine that the hero can be trusted. This could be why the police never hunt them down and kill them.
What follows the spectacular fight scene in the jungle are some happy dance numbers which show Sunita and "Rocky-pretending-to-be-Sona" falling in love, much to the chagrin of Miss Ruby, the good-hearted-but-slightly-immoral limpy-wristed dancer played by Helen, who -- like Meena -- also doesn't get half as much screen time as she should have. She spends most of the movie engaging in odd interpretive movement or lurking around making sinister comments about Rocky and Sunita. In fact, she is one of the suspects in Rupa's murder...but at this point I'm getting so close to disclosing some interesting plot developments that I'd better stop right now. Let me just say that the film becomes a somewhat gripping murder mystery (TEESRI MANZIL as a murder mystery suffers from the same fate as other "whodunnit" movies such as GUMNAAM: these masala movies are by their very nature scattered and unfocused, so building up suspense and suspicion in one is sort of like trying to pay attention to just a single violin in an entire orchestra). To further distract you from any clues as to who killed Rupa (and who now wants to kill Rocky), here's a picture of Helen doing her "limpy-wrist" dance, which should convince you to get up now and watch the film for yourself:
Now is as as good a time as any to mention that this DVD version of TEESRI MANZIL (thanks, EROS!) is missing quite a bit of material. The resulting gaps in the plotline, combined with the aforementioned phenomenon of Drum Relativity, leads to a certain surreal ness: "Sunita and Rocky are in a car. Now, suddenly, Sunita is on a Ferris wheel watching Rocky get beaten up at a carnival by a bunch of Sikhs we've never seen before and will never see again. How?" Though, considering this film was made by the same director who made JEWEL THIEF, it's possible that some of the nonsensical edits and subplots are due to the writer standing on the set during the day of shooting wearing only a bath towel and slippers and screaming "ALRIGHT! I CAN'T RESOLVE THIS! LET'S JUST INTRODUCE ANOTHER CHARACTER, AND IF SHE'S PRETTY ENOUGH NOBODY WILL NOTICE THAT HER EXTENDED PLOT EXPOSITION MAKES LITTLE OR NO SENSE!" And this sort of thing happens in TEESRI MANZIL, let me tell you.
Like I said, I loved it. There aren't enough rhyming adjectives beyond "fantastic" and "elastic" that could be used to describe the wondrousness of TEESRI MANZIL, Shammi, Asha, Helen, R.D. Burman, and the movie's cinematographer...not to mention the stage hands who built that great 20-foot high "ROCKY" sculpture. I've watched it twice and hope to see it many more times, not just because it's a well-made film, but it also because it makes me very very happy. Almost as happy as the thermos I spotted in the train car near the beginning...it's been far too long since I've seen a thermos in an Indian movie!
The Salim (part of TEESRI MANZIL's cast) is Salman Khan's father. He has since married Helen. Premnath and his brother Rajendranath are the brothers-in law of Raj Kapoor. He married their sister Krishna. Hence, they're related to Shammi Kapoor by marriage. The director of TM was Vijay Anand who is Dev Anand's brother.The story of TM was written by Nasir Hussain. Nasir Hussain also directed QSQT and is now famous as the uncle of Aamir Khan :-) [he is not to be confused with old man Nasir Hussain who had a long stint in the industry in fatherly type roles. He was the padre in Amar Akbar Anthony]
David Chute: "No wait. Wasn't QSQT directed by Mansoor Khan, who is Nasir's son and therefore Aamir's cousin?"
You mentioned the film 'Dil Dekhe Dekho'. It was produced by Filmalaya productions, which was owned by the Mukherjees. Rani Mukherjee and Kajol are closely related to the Filmalaya folks. (methinks direct descendants - either daughters or granddaughters). The hero of "Love in Tokyo" Joy Mukherjee is their paternal uncle. Asha Parekh made her debut in DIL DEKHE DEKHO. The music director of TM was R.D. Burman who was the son of S. D. Burman, a lengendary music director. His wife is Asha Bhosle who sang "Aaja Aaja, mein hoon pyaar tera"
So know you know it all makes sense when Rishi Kapoor says (during the Filmfare awards) that Aamir Khan was chatting with him till 3.00 a.m & then Rani Mukherjee picks up his award. Their families go back a long way. Incidentally, Aamir made his debut in a Nasir Hussain film, "Hum Kissi Se Kam Nahin" which had Rishi Kapoor and Aamir's cousin Tariq in lead roles.
George: "Aamir Khan made his debut in YAADON KI BARAAT as the kid who needs to go to the bathroom as the father leads thef amily through the title song."
Obviously, a very closely knit industry. Call it crony capitalism if you will :-)
David Chute: "Someone should draw up a Bollywood family tree. You'd need a roll of paper six feet long."
I thought I'd add some trivia about the movie.
- This movie along with Guide were the two releases Vijay Anand had in 1966. As one can see it was a director at the peak of his creativity. He managed to successfully handle two genres that were poles apart.
- This film originally had Dev Anand as hero and Vijay Anand as the director. Dev Anand walked out of the film though Vijay Anand continued. And I must add that was a blessing in disguise. I can't imagine Dev Anand as a drummer. Imagine what he would have done to the drums! Incidentally no one in Bollywood seems to bother with details like playing a musical instrument right. Most actors play the piano as if they are tossing salad. And invariably they are tossing salad on the wrong end of the keyboard!
- Shammi Kapoor like his brother Raj Kapoor was keen on Shankar Jaikishen for the music of this film whereas Vijay Anand with a strong Burman history wanted the young RD Burman. Shammi was persuaded to hear out Pancham and he played the tune for 'Deewana mujhsa nahin' and Shammi Kapoor was hooked. The rest is history.
- The story for this film (If I'm not mistaken) is by Nasir Hussain himself. Wonder why he did not direct it as well. Vijay Anand has also edited the film, a first with him. That accounts for the slick pace of the film... though unfortunately for you Muffy, someone at EROS decided to give Vijay Anand competition. Hence the glitches in the film. While we are at it. 'Teesri Manzil' is not made by the same team as 'Jewel Thief'. The only thing common is the director. Jewel Thief was scripted by VA also. The MD was SD Burman and the production was by Navketan.
While on Nasir Hussain his films really never rose above the formula genre. This one I think is the best of the lot. They just had a lot of trendy music (by RDB), fun and confusions that were all resolved in the last reel.
- Shammi Kapoor lost his wife Geeta Bali to small pox during the making of this film. The lore goes when he came back he was unrecognisable. The song shot at that time is 'Deewana mujhsa nahin' (though I had also read somewhere it was 'Tumne mujhe dekha')
This film though with a trite storyline has the Vijay Anand stamp all over in execution. He further experimented with this genre is Jewel Thief which was a far superior product.