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Murder in the Swamp


Bees Saal Baad 1962

The first genuine murder mystery bordering horror made in Bollywood by a debutante director Biren Nag, Bees Saal Baad was basically of the suspense or psychological thriller genre. It was produced by the famous singer and music director Hemant Kumar, who has also sung some fantastic songs in the movie.

Bees Saal Baad had launched the career of actor Biswajeet in Hindi movies. The male cast is shown well dressed to the extent that the normally obese looking Asit Sen too looks dapper as the detective. It was adapted and reinterpreted in the Indian context from the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novel of Sherlock Holmes “Hounds of Baskervilles”. It tried and recreated similar settings as in the novel, a family palatial mansion, an eerie setting, a background story, a misty swamp and a story of revenge and of course love. All the characters are shown suspicious looking, right from the Doctor, to the caretaker to the man on crutches and the whole misty business. Only the needle of suspicion does not touch the actual suspect.

As Bees Saal Baad turned out to be the biggest hit of 1962. Remembering it being described as a horror film and very scary though it turned out far from it but in fact it was interesting to watch. Released on 1st January 1962. It was the biggest hit of the year so much so that the makers went on to make another mystery movie ‘Kohraa’ and repeated the main leads in it.

The movies opens on a dark misty night when the heir to the palatial mansion in Chandangad Kumar (Biswajeet) returns from London to take charge of his property after his uncle is mysteriously killed, the third in line of succession after his grandfather and father, it is said that the palace is haunted and there is a curse on the family due to the misdemeanors of the Thakur, his grandfather who played with the modesty of the village women and the last one having committed suicide and her father beaten and thrown into prison, thus the hauntings and the curse.

The palatial grounds lead to a swamp on one side where all the murders have taken place. He is greeted by the family Doctor who is the natural successor in case of Kumar’s death, then the mysterious caretaker who has the habit of starting all conversations with a mono sentence and then goes on to describe it. On the first night of his stay itself he hears the loud chiming of the anklets as if a woman is on the run scared. Determined to catch the culprit as he doesn’t believe it to be a supernatural job he roams the village and the swamp areas only to come across a village belle Radha (Waheeda Rehman) and falls in love with her mutually.

Ramlal (Manmohan Krishna) the village medic is her uncle with whom she stays. Then there is other character Mohan who roams around freely in the swamp and was also the last person to have had a tiff with Kumar’s uncle and he was the one to have reached the scene just before his death, though he later turns out to be a police detective. There is the Gopichand Jasoos (Asit Sen) too, it seems introduced for comic relief due to his bumbling character rather than any serious investigations, who has come to Chandangad seeking reward of Rs.10K which was announced by Kumar’s uncle to catch the culprit.

The needle of suspicion swings from the Doc to the police detective to the caretaker, and Radha too as she is the one singing ghostly songs in the swamp which turns out that she was just singing to take Kumar away from the swamp. In the meantime there is a murder in the swamp and a jail-break criminal is killed in lieu of Kumar as he was wearing his clothes. One instance leads to the other till the climax where the killer is apprehended and killed by the police detective. The identity of the killer is best left for the viewers to see the movie.

Bees Saal Baad should be categorized as a musical psychological thriller as some superb songs have been recorded for this film, the eponymous and haunting ‘Kahi deep jale kahin dil’ which got the best Lyrics and Best Playabck Female Awards for Shakil Badayuni and Lata respectively. Other songs like ‘Jara Nazaron se keh do ji’ and ‘Bekarar karke hame yu na jaiye’ sung by Hemant were chartbusters too. The title Bees Saal Baad alludes to the time from the first murder of the Thakur to present time when Kumar comes to stay in the mansion. The movie was in black and white which added to its deep mystic, a colored version may not have had that impact.

– Revisited by PAWAN GUPTA

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