Kala Bazar meaning 'black market' essentially dealt with black marketing of movie tickets which Dev Anand does in the film. The story follows the template of a protagonist who takes the wrong path to make money and then realizes his mistake for which he has to pay back.
Raghuvir (Dev Anand) loses his job and is in dire straits when he sees a man (Rashid Khan) selling tickets in black outside a cinema-hall. Seeing that as a good source of quick money, he too decides to black movie tickets. But for that he needs capital to start with. So he robs Advocate Desai (Chetan Anand) of Rs 5000 and soon sets his own network of black marketers outside all prominent cinema-halls of Bombay.
One day, outside a theatre, he stumbles upon Alka (Waheeda Rehman) who hates black marketing. Raghuvir is attracted towards Alka but Alka is in love with Nand Kumar (Vijay Anand) who goes abroad to study. Meanwhile Raghuvir attempts to woo Alka on their trip to Ooty but in vain. Though he is unable to win Alka, his feelings towards her makes him a changed man and he gives up the path of black marketing.
Kala Bazar was Vijay Anand's second directorial venture post the success of his debut venture Nau Do Gyarah. His writing was multi-layered where he enmeshed a charming love story inside the central plot of going the wrong (illegal) way in life. There were some very unconvincing conflicts like how the 8th pass Raghuvir showed a sudden keen interest towards gaining knowledge because of Alka. Coincidentally he also accidentally stumbles upon a BA scholar (Krishan Dhawan) who takes his tuitions. But the pacing was very fast and kept the viewer engaged.
Like in Nau Do Gyarah, where he stationed a major portion of the film in the hill station of Mahabaleshwar, here Vijay Anand explores the beauty of the South Indian hill station Ooty. Dev Anand kept strolling through gardens of Ooty in the song 'Khoya Khoya Chand' in his trademark swaying motion where he kept swinging his arms all through. It might appear kind off funny today but back then it was Dev Anand's patented dancing style which he continued for years to come. The scene immediately after the song was considerably bold by the 60s standards where Waheeda Rehman removes her sari to use it as a cord to pull Dev Anand up, when he slips down from the cliff.
The love story in the film was refreshingly restrained and despite a love triangle, Vijay Anand never loaded the proceedings with melodrama. The screenplay never makes a huge hue and cry of the scene when Waheeda Rehman rejects Dev Anand and yet remains his friend or subsequently when she gets back to Dev Anand and disowns Vijay Anand. The director had a very matured and progressive outlook towards relationships.
The film also deals with its title conflict of black marketing very smartly. Dev Anand's repentance for his misdeeds and the way he convinces his gang to give up the wrong path is very interestingly portrayed. The courtroom drama in the climax (where Chetan Anand fights for Dev Anand) is thoughtfully conceptualized and very well-worded with a balanced and impartial point of view. It neither glorifies or glamourizes Raghuvir's black-marketing nor does it ignores his remorse.
Through black marketing outside cinema-halls of Mumbai, the film captures the glory of good old movie theatres of the city, some of which (like Liberty and Metro) exist even today. Vijay Anand also very intelligently incorporated the real-life premiere footage of the film 'Mother India' in the initial reels of Kala Bazar thereby adding immense (cameo) star value to the film showing the likes of Dilip Kumar, Nargis, Guru Dutt, Rajendra Kumar, Sohrab Modi, Kishore Kumar, Mohammad Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar and many more names. Years later Manmohan Desai and Farah Khan replicated the same formula in their films Naseeb (1981) and Om Shanti Om (2007) respectively and to good effect.
Like any Navketan production, even this film was blessed with melodious tunes by S D Burman. The soundtrack had everything from love songs to a bhajan to a Helen cabaret number. 'Khoya Khoya Chand' and 'Rimjhim Ke Tarane Leke Aayi Barsaat' are timeless tunes. The picturization of the song 'Teri Dhoom Har Kahi' starring Dev Anand and his sidekick Rashid Khan was borrowed by Rakesh Roshan in a similar theme song 'Yeh Paisa Bolta Hain' starring Kader Khan and his sidekick Johnny Lever in his 1989 film by the same title Kala Bazar.
Dev Anand was charming as always and gave a splendid performance in a character that had an interesting graph. Waheeda Rehman looked beautiful and was natural as ever in her performance. Vijay Anand and Chetan Anand were good in their special appearances. Nanda played a supporting part as Dev Anand's sister and was decent.