[Directed: Biren Naug/ Produced & Music: Hemanta Mukherjee/ Screenplay: Dhruva Chatterjee/ Cinematography:Marshal Braganza/ Lyrics:Shakeel Badayuni & Kaifi Azmi/ Editing: Keshav Nanda/Audiography: S. Y. Pathak/Art Direction: G. L. Jadhav/ Playback: Lata Mangeshkar & Hemanta Mukherjee/Starring: Waheeda Rehman, Biswajeet, Manmohan Krishna, Madan Puri, Sajjan & Asit Sen ]
Three outstanding Hindi films in the annals of Bollywood where the ‘ghost’ that provided chills and spills on the screen was not in reality a ghost were- Kamal Amrohi’s reincarnation thriller Mahal (1949), Hemanta Mukherjee’s Bees Saal Baad (1962) and Woh Kaun Thi (1964) directed by Raj Khosla. These films were shot in stunning black-and-white and icing on the cake was that all three films had the most sublime musical scores we have ever heard.
Bees saal baad (1962) was based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s third novel The Hound of the Baskervilles and to an extent on Hemendra Kumar Roy‘s novel Nishithini Bivishika. Bees Saal Baad remains the all time benchmark in the horror or thriller genre in Indian cinema. Mahal had pioneered the first experiment in this territory and had been the 10th biggest film of the 40s, earning what would be nearly 43 crores at present rate of inflation but that kind of numbers were only bettered by Bees Saal Baad nearly a decade later, the 33rd biggest hit of the 60s, making 63 crores at the present inflation rate. The film was a joint labour of love of an unusual combo, art director tuned director Biren Naug decided to experiment with what was a neglected genre on his debut encouraged by Hemant Kumar the music composer turned producer.
Bees Saal Baad became the highest box office grosser in 1962, and till this day fifty six years later its unique record as the only film of horror or thriller genre topping the yearly box-office chart remains unbroken! The movie was remade in 1988 with Mithun Chakraborty, Dimple Kapadia and Meenakshi Sheshadri but it was dud compared to the original thriller.
The film had the song Kahin deep jale kahin dil as the leitmotif ghost song just like the song, Aayega aane wala in the film Mahal and was the highlight of this film. This song accentuated the tension in the screenplay and amplified the suspense in a film that is beautifully shot with great light work, silhouettes and shadow play.
Kahin deep jale kahin dil also remains a milestone in Lata’s career, both historically and reminiscently because she fell ill in 1962 to the extent that it was thought she would never be able to croon again. According to Lata Mangeshkar the servant in their house who cooked the food was responsible for administering a slow poison, diagnosed by her family doctor when the singer started spewing greenish vomit. Lata Mangeshkar was bed-ridden for three months and during this period Majrooh Sultanpuri was one of her nurses who would come at six in the evening and sit by her side every day for three long months, reciting poetry and reading stories. The first song Lata Mangeshkar recorded post recuperation was
Kahin deep jale kahin dil, at a spooky set in Filmistan Studio.
Biren Naug (1922-64) was an acclaimed art director who had worked with the Anands in films like Nau Do Gyarah, Kala Pani, and Kala Bazaar and with Guru Dutt in films like C.I.D, Pyaasa and Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam. It was for his work in Chaudhvin Ka Chand, that Naug received the Filmfare award for the Best Art Director. The editing by Keshav Nanda and sound effects by S.Y. Pathak went on to win Filmfare awards.
Lata and lyricist Shakeel Badayuni won the Filmfare award for the song Kahin Deep Jale Kahin Dil, which also raced to number six spot on the 1962 annual list of Binaca Geetmala. The zesty BeqararKarke hamein yunh na jaiye (picturised near Sholapur) and the impish Zara nazron se kehdo ji sung by Hemant da made it to number twenty seven on the 1962 annual list of Binaca Geetmala.
The film garnered further three more Filmfare Nominations for Best Film, Best Director (Biren Nag) and Best Music Director – (Hemant Kumar), thus winning four filmfare trophies out of the seven nominations, compared to Guru Dutt’s Sahib Biwi Aur Gulam which bagged four trophies out of eight nominations that year at 10th Filmfare awards.
Biswajeet, who made his debut with the film, has always maintained that he was grateful to co-star Waheeda Rahman (who along with Meena Kumari was a part of Guru Dutt’s Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, the most talked about film of its time) for having agreed to work with a newcomer like him from Bengal. Biswajeet had to contend on many occasions with snakes brought on the set by art director G. L. Jadhav in a bid to make the surroundings look authentic!
Uttam Kumar was original choice as the male lead for Bees Saal Baad but his hectic schedule had the producer Hemanta Mukherjee opting for Biswajeet as the hero of the Hindi version of the Bengali super hit suspense thriller, Jighangsha (1951). Biren Naug according to Biswajeet took great pains about his Bangla tinged Hindi and underwent rehearsals with his Hindi dialogue delivery. Though he was the male lead but Waheeda Rehman was a bigger star than him and to his mortification during the shooting of the song sequence, Beqarar kar ke humein, Biren Naug instructed him not only to touch Waheeda Rehman but exude romance with his looks and smile!
Hemanta Mukherjee, Biren Naug and Biswajeet came back for the second time for their next collaboration Kohra, a remake of Rebecca (1940) which despite grandiloquent sets and mesmerizing music flopped. Biren Naug succumbed to a massive cardiac attack shortly after.
Bees Saal Baad established Biswajeet as the ‘suspense hero from Bengal and in itself triggered off the trend for suspense thrillers in the’60s with classics like Gumnaam, Mera Saya, Anita, Woh Kaun Thi, Teesri Manzil and Jaal following in line. It was for his Bollywood debut in this film that Biswajeet refused to be Bhootnath in Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam!