Jaali Note is yet another urban crime thriller that Hindi cinema churned out regularly through the 1950s and early ’60s. However, the lazy writing, numerous logical loopholes, so called twists that you can see coming a mile away coupled with the odd thrill here or there makes for a pretty ordinary film that is salvaged somewhat by the star presence of Madhubala and Dev Anand besides OP Nayyar’s typical foot-tapping music. If not for them, the film would been one dull viewing experience.
This one, helmed by Shakti Samanta in his crime-film phase, looks at an investigating officer, Dinesh (Dev Anand), who is after a gang into the business of counterfeit money printing. His search leads him going undercover at Hotel Shangri La, Bombay, where he poses as a rich prince, to crack the case. Throw in a committed, fiery, righteous speech-giving journalist, Renu (Madhubala), also eager to expose the criminals besides becoming Dinesh’s love interest, the glamorous moll and dancer at the hotel (of course), Lily (Helen), Dinesh’s comic flunky, Pandu (Om Prakash), the mysterious boss and you can pretty much get the whole story of the film from here itself.
As mentioned above, it’s the writing that’s the film’s biggest hurdle and one it’s unable to overcome. The scripting is light-weight, superficial, much too convenient and woefully short of any innovations whatsoever. The problems are many. Logic of the investigation be damned and damned many a time, the behaviour of the characters too are played out more according to plot points the filmmaker wants to reach using the shortest path available, rather than reaching them organically through characterisations and logical character behavior. A big, big casualty in this is the romantic track between the leads. Seen, I think, more as a formulaic and necessary evil, it develops far too abruptly just so it has to happen without any credible interaction between Renu and Dinesh as they go through the inevitable clash-leading-to love routine with three admittedly catchy songs thrown in. The lost-and-found angle (with the tell-tale locket and all) regarding Dinesh’s father, who left his family when Dinesh was five, gives away exactly where the story is going rather than work as some big twist towards the end.
Though nowhere near their best work, Dev Anand and Madhubala strive hard to redeem the film somewhat. However, Anand in ‘disguise’ through most of the film hams it up as the undercover imposter prince but has ample star charisma too see him through, while Madhubala, even if defeated by a sketchy role, is still well… Madhubala! Helen, in the early days of her stardom as a dancing star, deliciously plays the moll to perfection, grabbing the opportunely not just to play a performing role but also to dance her way in three songs centred on her. Om Prakash, Madan Puri, Bipin Gupta and Krishnakant are reliably efficient and lend able support.
The technicalities are average at best with some dreadful rear projection. The one saving grace is OP Nayyar’s music. The songs, though not the best Nayyar has composed, nevertheless, are more than hummable with lyricists, Raja Mehdi Ali Khan and Anjaan, and singers, Mohammed Rafi and Asha Bhosle, in fine form. As with their earlier collaboration, Howrah Bridge (1958), it is nice to see Samanta again giving Om Prakash his own song – the light-hearted ditty, Chhuri Ban Kaanta Ban Oh My Son. Helen, of course dances sublimely to Gustakh Nazar, Oh Mr Dil and Nigahon Ne Phenka, while the three romantic duets on Dev Anand and Madhubala are effective enough, in particular Chand Zard Zard Hai and Dil Hai Aapka Huzoor. However, the song picturizations are merely adequate at best and do not enhance the songs. And there are times when one song follows another much too rapidly.
All in all, Jaali Note is a let down considering the talent involved but many a time, our audiences are happy enough with uncomplicated if simple storytelling, mixed with a good dose of star charisma and hummable music. The film was a big success in its day but has dated badly if seen today.
Hindi, Thriller, Black & White