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Many remakes of ‘Charade’: The Bollywood Way

Charade (1963), the cult romantic mystery film, directed by Stanley Donen and starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, was an instant critica...

Charade (1963), the cult romantic mystery film, directed by Stanley Donen and starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, was an instant critical and commercial success upon its release and was termed “The best Hitchcock movie Hitchcock never made”. Right from its foot-tapping score by Henry Mancini to its deft direction and able performances were appreciated and it won international accolades. It was certainly lapped up by the filmmakers of India resulting in various remakes in Hindi and Bengali. It was also remade in Hollywood in 2002 as “The Truth About Charlie”.

Storyline: Regina “Reggie” (Hepburn) is a free-spirited young woman who hates secrecy and lies in her marriage and hence decides to divorce her husband Charles. She also meets an “interesting” American Peter Joshua (Grant) on her trip to the French Alps. But, before she can divorce him, she comes to know that Charles has been murdered and he has sold all his valuables in an auction. Post Charles’ funeral, Reggie starts getting threatened by three of Charles’s partners in crime namely, Herman Scobie, Leopold W.Gideon and Tex Panthollow. The CIA administrator Mr Bartholomew informs her that the three aforementioned men and another person named Carson Doyle stole  250,000 USD in gold during World War II, Carson Doyle was injured and left behind and Charles double-crossed them and took all the gold.

While Peter helps her in finding a hotel and helps her in warding off the death threats and attacks by the trio, it becomes clear that he is also in cahoots with them and Peter is not his real name. Who is Peter? Whom should Reggie trust? Most importantly, Where has Charles kept all the money? The film reaches its denouement answering all these and more with numerous twists and turns.

Just like the original, the Indian adaptations also have some notable features which make them an interesting watch.

Indian Adaptations

Night in London (1967)

Director : Brij Sadanah

Starring: Biswajeet, Mala Sinha, Johnny Walker, Anwar Hussain, Helen and M.B.Shetty

Music : Laxmikant Pyarelal

Night in London is a romantic thriller film loosely based on Charade. Although the basic storyline is quite different. Here, Renu (Sinha) is the daughter of a jeweller who is blackmailed by a coterie of criminals to don the disguise of a princess and procure a diamond necklace from London. So, unlike Reggie, she agrees albeit reluctantly to tread the path of crime. The Charade “influence” is more pronounced when Renu meets Jeevan (Biswajeet) a mysterious man who has a shady and unclear past with multiple identities. It’s a decent crime caper with lovely music by Laxmikant Pyarelal, especially the song “O my Love” sung by the legendary Mohd Rafi is still a chartbuster.


Kokhono Megh (1968)

Director : Agradoot

Starring: Uttam Kumar, Anjana Bhowmick, Subrata Sen, Kali Banerjee, Kamu Mukherjee and Bankim Ghosh

Music: Sudhin Dasgupta

Released five years after Charade, Kokhono Megh is a more direct adaptation although the story and characters were suitably Indianized. Seema (Bhowmick) returns from Darjeeling to find her rented apartment in disarray although nothing was stolen. The cops inform her that her uncle has been murdered and CID officer Prithwish Neogi (Kali Banerjee) informs her that a gang of criminals are after her to get the diamonds which they doubt are with Seema now. Kokhono Megh starts exactly in the same fashion as Charade, only the French Alps turn into Darjeeling, and Seema is not married. But the romantic angle (keeping in mind matinee idol Uttam Kumar’s popularity as the romantic hero) has a longer screen time and the modus operandi of the crooks are slightly different. The film is noted for its excellent dialogues and foot-tapping music by Sudhin Dasgupta and is still a pleasant watch.


Chhaila Babu (1977)

Director : Joy Mukerji

Starring: Rajesh Khanna, Zeenat Aman, Asrani, Om Shivpuri, Ranjeet and Padma Khanna

Music: Laxmikant Pyarelal

Chhaila Babu is apparently the most interesting adaptation of Charade due to its innovative script having the basic premise of Charade successfully mixed with dollops of a lost and found saga. Also, unlike Charade where the focus was mainly on Reggie, here it’s primarily on a nameless crook (Khanna) who was affectionately called Chhaila Babu by his mother in childhood. Rita (Zeenat Aman, a ski champion, meets Chhaila, who saves her from falling from a cliff while skiing. Shortly after that, she is summoned by the police. She is shocked to hear from a senior police officer (Shivpuri) that her father has been killed in Mumbai (then Bombay) and a deadly gangster named Scorpion and his henchmen are after her as they doubt only she knows the meaning of a numeric code, the last words uttered by her father before dying. Meanwhile, Chhaila keeps on coming to her life with various identities, sometimes as a tonga driver, or as a taxi driver in Mumbai, or as a drummer in a nightclub.

Chhaila Babu is designed as a fast-paced actioner, slickly mounted by popular 60’s hero Joy Mukerji as a director. Both Rajesh Khanna and Zeenat Aman look stylish and perform well. It has some logical incoherence in its script but the goings on are so fast that the audience has no time to think about them. It was a box office success, and its music, especially the title song and Yaar dildaar tujhe kaisa chahiye were extremely popular.


Desh Drohee (1980)

Starring: Navin Nischol, Saira Banu, Pran, Rakesh Pandey, Rammohan and Ranjeet

Director: Prakash Mehra

Music: Kalyanji Anandji

Desh Drohee is a long-delayed film that was supposed to release in the mid-70s but due to censorship problems released in 1980. Sadly, the film was never released in digital format, and only two small clippings are available on YouTube at the moment. It was an interesting remake of Charade the backdrop of World War II was replaced by the INA battle and freedom movement. Unlike Charade, it was shown how the characters of Charles and Reggie (Robert and Sonal here) meet and get married. Considering the film was directed by the seasoned and popular Prakash Mehra, it does look shabby and has a dated feel. But, a few scenes, especially the comic ones have the vintage Mehra stamp. Music by Kalyanji Anandji was pretty good, a couple of songs are available on YouTube. Idhar gaya ya udhar gaya (lyrics by Gulshan Bawra and sung by Asha Bhosle) deserve a special mention.


Chura Liya Hai Tumne (2003)

Starring : Zayed Khan, Esha Deol, Vijay Raaz, Salil Ankola, Gulshan Grover and Rakhi Sawant

Director: Sangeeth Sivan

Music : Himesh Reshammiya

Released in 2003, Chura Liya Hai Tumne was generously inspired by Charade and its Hollywood remake The Truth About Charlie (2002). Lavishly shot and well edited, the film was the debut movie of Zayed Khan, son of veteran actor-director Sanjay Khan. The French Alps are replaced by the sylvan sea beaches of Goa here where pretty Tina Khanna (Deol) meets and falls in love with the charismatic Vijay (Khan). Tina and her friend Riya are invited to a wedding in Bangkok where she finds out her uncle has been killed in an accident. She is given his belongings and soon after that three notorious criminals (Raaz, Grover and Sawant) start threatening her for 100 million dollars. She turns to Vijay for help, only to find Vijay to be a part of this gang.

Chura Liya Hai Tumne is technically superior to its predecessors in the production design and cinematography department. However, the performances are inconsistent and so is the pacing. The climax more than makes up for it though. Zayed, Vijay Raaz, and especially Salil Ankola in the role of Bartholomew are pretty good in places. Music by Himesh was very popular. The songs Mohabbat hai Mirchi and Boys are Best were chartbusters, although the title song turned out to be the most melodious one.

-       Ayushmaan Mitra

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