Such comedies can only be pulled off by Kishore Kumar, the genius. What strikes you about him in the early movies, and particularly in Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi, is his busy energy. Not only do his songs which he sang for other actors haunt us to this day but the movies he directed, produced, wrote and acted in were not all comedies but some socials too with a message.
When we mention Kishore Kumar what comes to mind is the maverick comedian, doing as he pleases but still able to raise the laughs, it wasn’t only what he did but his persona was such that even a silly thing would evoke laughter. Same is the case with this movie which seems to have been made with a mind that it may flop but the reverse happened and it went on to be a hit and he nominated the rights of the movie to his secretary to avoid Income Tax issues.
Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi is one of the few movies to star all the three Ganguly bothers, Ashok, Anoop and Kishore the only other being the rhyming ‘Bhadti ka Naam Dadhi’ (also produced by Kumar, just shows the child within the man). It was a laugh riot with good music and cast. It was during the making of this movie that he fell in love with Madhubala and went on to star with her in some other movies later and also married her in 1960. Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi was released on 1st January 1958. It is said the idea of the movie came from the combination of two things, firstly the rides he used to have with his father when driving down from their home town in Khandwa to visit his elder brother Ashok Kumar a star in Bollywood in the same vintage car also used in the movie as it was close to Kumar’s heart and secondly from the English movies which featured of Marx brothers.
The movie is about three brothers Brijmohan (Ashok Kumar), Jagmohan aka Jaggu (Anoop Kumar) and Manmohan aka Mannu (Kishore Kumar) Brij has a day-night car garage which he runs with the help of his brothers. Brij is a bachelor and morose about marriage as he faced deceit in love and decided not to marry and decreed the same for his brothers as to not even look at girls as they only bring bad omen, but all this changes when a rain drenched Renu (Madhubala) visits the garage late in the night one day and has a run in with Mannu who is on duty and the iconic song ‘Ek ladki bheegi bhagi si’ is rendered by the mischievous Mannu seeing her condition, while also repairing the car. A few meetings and skirmishes later the two fall in love. There Jaggu also finds a soul-mate for himself but in his nervous anxiety drinks dollops of water in his first meeting with Sheela. How will they tell their brother about it is the question. Enter the villain in the form Raja Hardayal (KN Singh) who wants to have his brother married to Renu throwing spanner in the works for Mannu and Renu now kidnapped by the rogues to pressurize Renu’s rich father for marriage. In captivity they meet Kamini (Veena) none other than the woman due to whom Brij had become scornful one finds out that she was married off to Hardayal against her wishes. Kamini gets Brij to rescue the couple and this adds to the rollicking climax shot on location in the lovable car on the wide roads of Matine Drive and Pedder Road. In the end the three brothers get their three brides.
Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi is one of the earliest out and out comedy to be declared a booming hit in Bollywood. The songs and their picturisation was unique and funny in parts particularly that ‘Paanch Rupiyaa bara anna’ which has a tale of its own as it is said that it was the same amount owed by Ashok Kumar to his college when he used to study in it. ‘Hal kaisa hai Janaab ka’ was another song which started the romance in real life between the lead pair and the unforgettable ‘Hum the who thi’ where a laid back Mannu is narrating his first meeting with his love to an impatient Jaggu. It is a cult classic of comedies made in India and recommended viewing for fun, superlight and refreshing entertainment.
– Revisited by PAWAN GUPTA