In this weekly column, we will revisit the gems from the golden years of Hindi cinema. This week, we revisit the 1951 release bet.
If you know Hindi cinema well, you know about Dev Anand cult. The mythical charm of the star is that women are weak on their knees as they shine solemnly on the silver screen. But which film made Dev Anand a bona fide star?
In the words of Dev Anand, the film is a baji released in Gurudatta 195. Dev Anand with Baji “saw what stardom means – in terms of praise and fan following.” The 1951 film also starred Purana Guru Dutt’s first film and also from composer SD Burman and lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi. Balraj Sahni, later to become one of the most accomplished actors in Indian cinema, was brought in to write the film and presented the film introducing a new narrative and style. Over the years, they have become tropes, but that’s another day’s story.
Dev Anand and Guru Dutt shared a deep friendship and assured that Showbiz would be a backbone to each other in the world even before they made a name for themselves. Baji, in its literal sense, is meant to be a bet and it is Dev betting on Dutt. When Dev Chetan launched Navketan Films with Anand’s Afsar, the film did not deliver as expected. So, Dev took a chance and gave Dutt his next baji rule – the film that will decide the future of Navketan Films. Baazi hit the bull eye and changed the fortunes of everyone associated with the movie. The film launched a sub-genre called ‘Bombay Noir’, where the city is almost a character. This style was later developed into films such as CID and Taxi Driver.
Also starring Geeta Bali and Kalpana Karthik, Baji is also known as Pat Boiler. With a spice story of mystery and intrigue, love triangle, murder, investigation and an innocent hero who has no innocence – Baji Masala checks all the boxes for popular arrows in Hindi cinema. It was a film that started a trend that others immediately followed.
Baji plays the role of Dev Madan, a morally obscure man who doesn’t mind gambling to make some money but he only does it for himself “Bemar behen ka ilaz.” He loves the kind heart that treats the poor for free and keeps his distance from the fair Lena (played by Geeta Bali). “Anari” For being a little naive.
The storyline of the film is simple. Madan works for a man named ‘Malik’, who runs a gambling den, but the owner lives a dual life. When Madan found out the same, Malik wanted to remove him from the film. In fact, there is a storyline that Madan and Malik’s fair daughter are in love. And the seductive Lena, who is constantly dragging Madan into the lions’ den. While Madan was struggling with the dilemma of choosing a moral or immoral path, Leena’s ‘Tadbir Se Bigdi Hui Takdeer Bana Le’ pushed him to the next side, because in the world of Baji, no one is as lucky with cards as Madan. Raising himself with confidence, Madan bet on himself when he heard ‘Apne pay bharosa hai to ek dawn la’.
While the track was probably the most popular song in the movie, Baji’s music was game-changer in the 1950s. SD Burman and Zahir Ludhian won the gold partnership. ‘Sharmaye Kahe Ghabraye Kahe’, ‘Aaj Ki Raat Piya’ and other songs provided memorable music for Baji.
Baji Guru Dutt also started the era. The filmmaker, who explored different aspects of existentialism in his later works, remained in the mainstream as long as he was with Baji. Although his themes diminished in his later works, his cinematic style was very distinctive from Get-Go. Sharp shadows, precise conversations, naughtiness of love celebration and temptations, Baji has it all.
Watching Baji in 2021 will not take you long in the 1950s but you will know how Bollywood got a ‘formulaic’ structure with successes like Baji.
Bollywood Rewind | Bees Sal Bad | Dosti | Mughal-e-Azam | Mother India | Anari | Chaudhwin Ka Chand | Boot Polish | Make Bigha Zamin. Devdas | Baiju Bavra | Shree 420 | Pyasa | CID | Madhumati | Naya Daur | Awara | Sharada | Du Ankhen Bara Haat | Hostage | Sahib Bibi ur Ghulam
Baji is airing on YouTube, MXPlayer, ShemarooMe.