23 August 2009 | DrEbert
Hilarious! Standard thriller plot that is made into comedic GOLD by Ashok Kumar and Pran
Well-respected rich guy is also a crime lord. He gets his goons to orchestrate a diamond heist, in which he gets double-crossed. As a result, bodies stack up, the diamonds are missing (and hidden in the titular Mumbai horse carriage Victoria No. 203), an innocent man is in jail for a crime he didn't commit, and now his daughter has to fend for herself. Oh, yeah, and there's tension between the rich guy and his son, and then his son meets the daughter of the innocent man...
All sounds very typical, right? All sounds cliché and predictable, right? So why am I rating this move 8/10? Quite simply, this movie belongs to Ashok Kumar and Pran. If there's one thing that none of the characters in this film predict, it's that they would have to deal with the fast-talking fresh-out-of-jail bumbling old crooks Raja and Rana. Pran's Rana, who is funny in his own right, plays the straight man to Ashok Kumar's Raja, a perpetually drunk skirt-chasing buffoon, and these two make up perhaps my favorite comedic duo in all of Bollywood history. (I have actually come to refer to any hilarious comedic duo as "Raja and Rana".) When these two get thrown into the mix, this standard thriller plot suddenly takes a dramatic turn and sheer hilarity ensues.
This movie simply could not have worked without Raja and Rana and I don't think Raja and Rana could have worked if they hadn't been cast properly. This is especially true for Raja, as he is played by Ashok Kumar, an actor known for playing wise grandfatherly figures or strong authority figures (think Judge Badri Prasad in "Kanoon"). For him to play Raja, who goes chasing after women half his age and looks utterly ridiculous doing so, is a complete inversion of expectations, and that is exactly what is needed in solid comedy. And, here he is paired up with Rana, known in Bollywood for playing cheesy villains (not to mention the wise and elderly Malan-chaha from Manoj Kumar's classic "Upkar"). The duo's antics and especially their fast-paced dialogue (not to mention their classic musical number "Do Bichare Bina Sahare") bring a smile to my face just remembering them.
Raja and Rana are still supporting characters in this story, with the plot being driven by Navin Nischol as Kumar, the rich villain's good-guy son, Saira Banu as Rekha, the daughter-turned-carriage-driver, and Anwar Hussain as Durgadas, the rich villain. These performances would be considered weak for a thriller, but they are perfect for a comic thriller (or, perhaps, a comedy-masquerading-as-a-thriller) like this movie.
You don't watch this movie for the plot or for a thrill. You watch it because you get to see two of Bollywood's most serious actors do a complete inversion and become geniuses of comedy.