I have had the opportunity to watch Baazi with subtitles, because it briefly appeared on YouTube (before another account got suspended). Right from the first shot, this Guru Dutt-directed movie is visually compelling, just a pleasure to watch. It’s also great to listen to, with music by S.D. Burman and irresistible vocals from Geeta Dutt. The song above is “Sharmaye Kahe Ghabharaye Kahe.”
I think the last movie with Dev Anand that I wrote up was Tere Mere Sapne, in which he played an affluent doctor. In Baazi, made 20 years earlier, the character is not an affluent doctor, but he does fall for one (and she for him). That character is played by Kalpana Kartik. (Unfortunately, there is the matter of a disapproving father, who turns out to be a very bad man…) There is also a vamp who courts him from within the gambling underworld - played most intriguingly, as you can see above, by Geeta Bali.
Dev Anand’s character in Baazi lives in poverty…at first. In the first of probably many roles like this, Dev plays a poor man who can’t find a job, who finally manages to acquire some money (which helps him to get treatment for his ailing sister) in a questionable manner…through gambling.
So there is a lot of that good old social relevance in this picture, with plenty of discussion about rich versus poor, and no holding back in the moral incrimination of at least some among the rich - a tendency that I will always welcome. (In this movie, there are some real crooked gamblers among the the rich. Imagine that…) Of course, we get treated to some murder and suspense along the way, as well an attempted frameup of the (anti) hero… But keep in mind that this film was made before all those other films you might be thinking of now, and there are a few things that are different, including some nice surprises regarding some of the characters.
Baazi was also made before a couple of other old films that I’ve seen with Dev Anand, which, like this one, were produced by him too – i.e., Kalapani (1958) and Kala Bazar (1960). And these three films have some striking things in common - not just in terms of the main character and those now-familiar plot devices, but even in certain littler elements, such as: the dramatic scenes in court, when the (anti) here must be proven (mostly) innocent; the time in jail spent for any real crimes committed; the renewal of a once troubled love affair, which always grows stronger and more stable when one of the partners is in jail… These are similarities that I could really take or leave; I guess I wouldn’t have noticed the elements of formula so much if I’d seen the three movies over the course of a decade, rather than a few weeks apart…
On the other hand, there are a couple of bigger, thematic things that these films have in common which I do appreciate: As I mentioned earlier with regard to Kala Bazar, they all convey a very strong sense of ethics, and - dark though the world might seem from scene to scene - some kind of justice usually prevails.
These films could qualify as ultimate examples of what we’ve all come to know and love as “Indian film noir.” But that name might be a little misleading, because they aren’t really that dark, especially by the end – they actually lift your spirits, at least a little.