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Mystery in Time of Love


Teesri Manzil 1966

Brilliantly mounted murder mystery thriller with excellent music – Teesri Manzil that is directed by the capable Vijay Anand and released on 21st October 1966. The sixties were a very productive and important years for the growth of Indian cinema which gave up many magnum-opuses. Stars like Dev Anand, Rajendra Kumar and the Junglee Shammi Kapoor ruled the roost.

Teesri Manzil was one such movie though a mystery thriller and though the secret of the murderer is now out it still draws crowds whenever it is released in theatres due to its superb numbers specially ‘O haseena zulfonwaali’ and ‘Aaaja aaja’ where the debutante music director R D Burman (yes this was RD’s breakthrough movie) experimented successfully with rock and roll style in Hindi lyrics. All male voice songs were sung by Rafi which became instant rage back then and are still considered foot tapping numbers till date.

Shammi Kapoor played a club singer Rocky. With important roles played by the beautiful Asha Parekh, Prem Nath, and Prem Chopra, Iftekhar, K.N. Singh and a guest appearance by Salim Khan of the Salim-Jaaved duo. Helen had an extended role much more than just a dance number which was common for her in the movies of the time, though she was very highly paid dancer. Initially planned with Dev Anand in the lead but was changed due to misunderstanding between the producer Nasir Hussain and him. As the adage goes everything happens for the best as the movie was an instant hit at the Box-office. A super blend of mystery and music the movie Teesri Manzil was.

It opens with a young girl Rupa in love with Rocky / Anil (Shammi Kapoor), who keeps avoiding her, falls to her death from the third floor of the hotel in Dehradun, the hill station of India, and is considered as suicide by one and all including Rocky, things settle down. But someone is restless and wouldn’t believe that it was a suicide and that is none other than the heroine Sunita (Asha Parekh) who is Rupa’s sister. As her sister had confessed that she was madly in love with the Hotel drummer Rocky and intended to marry him in a letter and written to her. Sunita was of the opinion that as her sister might have been pressurizing Rocky to marry her, it is quite possible, rather imperative that he might have killed her by pushing her off the third floor of the same hotel in which he stays and also plays the drums.

When she is enroute Dehradun to nab her sister’s killer she bumps into Anil (Shammi Kapoor) and he develops feelings for her and follows her to the hotel where she stays in Dehradun, unknown to her that this is the very Rocky she is looking for. But as luck would have it Anil comes to know of her intentions and so that his identity is not revealed and he does not lose her he props one of his friends to play Rocky. As for himself he tells Sunita that he is nephew of one of the rich men of the town Kunwarsahab (Prem Nath) who is happy to go along with the pretense. The things reconcile between them and they are a couple. But as Anil wants to make a clean breast of it he writes a letter to Sunita and confesses his identity of Rocky and that he had not had any affair with her sister and she might have committed the suicide on her own accord, Sunita reads the letter and breaks-up with him.

In the meantime the police are also suspicious that it could have been a murder as they have some important clues and talk to Rocky about that night, Rocky diverts the needle of suspicion towards Ramesh (Prem Chopra) Rupa’s fiancé who had threatened to kill Rupa as he had come to know of her liking for Rocky. Things take a lot of twists and turns from here on with many characters coming in and going out and the needle of suspicion shifting from one person to another without any conclusion in sight., till the nail-biting climax where the murder is proved and the murder is a very unlikely person who was obscure from the goings –on and watching things from afar. That’s the most that can be revealed at this point. It would be best to view this thoroughly entertaining fare.

The movie derived its unlikely title from the floor from which the murder was committed and the body thrown. It actually means ‘The third floor’. A well designed mystery thriller with great music which keeps the audience riveted throughout. With the super energetic Shammi Kapoor and the demure Asha Parekh their on screen chemistry was fabulous. The thriller genre has been a weak-spot for the Bollywood industry but this movie was an exception despite the musical relief it was a taut thriller to boot. There is a small mystery about the film itself as the version of the movie released on video is at least thirty minutes shorter at 145 minutes with a song missing compared to the original theatrical release’s 175 min. That mystery still remains unresolved.

– Revisited by PAWAN GUPTA

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