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50 years of '36 Ghante': A timeless, gritty thriller

Starcast : Raaj Kumar, Sunil Dutt, Mala Sinha ,Parveen Babi, Danny Denzongpa, Vijay Arora, Sonia Sahni, Ramesh Deo and Ranjeet Director : ...


Starcast : Raaj Kumar, Sunil Dutt, Mala Sinha ,Parveen Babi, Danny Denzongpa, Vijay Arora, Sonia Sahni, Ramesh Deo and Ranjeet

Director : Raaj Tilak

Music : Sapan Chakravarty

A slick, engaging remake of the 1955 classic film noir ‘The Desperate Hours’ (1955) which was in turn adapted from Joseph Hayes’ bestselling novel), ‘36 Ghante’ is still noted among Bollywood buffs for its thrilling and engaging moments, notable performances, and excellence in cinematography and editing. Released on 1st July 1974, it was a moderate success, but since then has acquired a cult status among thriller fans, especially since the time it was aired on Doordarshan in the Saturday slot in the late 1980s.

StorylineThe film is primarily about three convicts - Himmat Singh (Sunil Dutt), his brother Ajit (Ranjeet), and Dilawar Khan (Danny) who escape from prison and take family members of Professor Ashok Rai (Raaj Kumar) as hostages. His family has his wife Deepa (Mala Sinha) , his daughter Naina (Parveen Babi) and his young son Rajoo. They are waiting for their other associate Kamini (Sonia Sahni) to contact them. The rest of the film is about how the Rai family counters these deadly criminals and the cat-and-mouse chase between them and Inspector Wadekar (Ramesh Deo).

Direction:  This was Raj Tilak’s debut film as a director, but not a single frame of the film looks amateurish. He deftly directs the emotional scenes, and he is almost equally at ease building up the tension in key sequences. It was almost a multi-starrer with many key characters and he managed to handle all of them effortlessly. Of course, he was helped by the regulars of the B R Chopra camp, cinematographer Dharam Chopra and editor Pran Mehra. Both these departments shine in the film.

Performances: 36 Ghante boasts of some credible performances. Raaj Kumar as the main protagonist arrests the audience with his screen presence and trademark dialogue delivery. Mala Sinha gets a limited scope but still shines especially in the emotional scenes. It was one of the first films that Parveen did in her career (the role was originally meant for Padmini Kapila) and she looks beautiful as well as vulnerable, Vijay Arora is quite good as Parveen’s fiancĂ©. Ranjeet in a grey-shaded role is excellent and so is Danny as the psychotic and quick-tempered Dilawar, some of his gestures are enough to freak out the faint-hearted. Sonia Sahni looks glamorous while Ramesh Deo is perfectly cast as the diligent cop. However, the most effective performance comes from Sunil Dutt who captivates the audience with his burly looks, the angry glint in his eyes and impeccable dialogue delivery. He especially impresses in the emotional scene towards the end of the film.

Music: There are four songs in the film album. However, an excellent Kishore Kumar-Asha Bhosle duet Jaane Aaj Kya Hua was edited out from the film. Chup Ho Aaj is a breezy Kishore Kumar solo filmed on Vijay Arora and Parveen Babi, Yahan Bandhu Aate Ko is a situational song sung ably by Mukesh, Teeno Lok Par Raaj Tihara is a devotional duet sung by Mahendra Kapoor and Asha Bhosle. The lyrics of all the songs were brilliant courtesy the legendary Sahir Ludhianvi.

36 Ghante was ahead of its time in terms of concept and execution. It has mostly aged well and is still a decent watch on television or OTT.

By Ayushmaan Mitra

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