In this weekly column, we revisit gems from the golden years of Hindi cinema. This week, we revisit Raj Khosla’s 1956 film CID.
A newspaper editor is murdered, and there is enough evidence for CID’s inspector Shekhar to catch his man, but he is certain that there is more to the case than meets the eye. Shekhar digs deeper but finds himself accused of police brutality as the criminal who killed the editor dies. Running from the system to prove his innocence, the agile detective, who remains suave even in the worst of circumstances, is a man who can find a needle in a haystack.
The 1956 film CID tips its hat to the Hitchcock-style of noir cinema. At the time when it released, the genre wasn’t as popular in Hindi films as it came to be in later years. The morally ambiguous characters painted in all shades of grey, the femme fatale who uses her sexuality to get her way, and the detective who has been targeted by the system – they were all skilfully used by director Raj Khosla and writer Inder Raj Anand in Guru Dutt-produced CID.
The film opens with a suspicious phone call ordering the murder of a certain someone but we don’t know who is behind the phone. Soon after, the newspaper editor is murdered and Shekhar reaches the scene. Played by Dev Anand, Shekhar is the quintessential hero who takes over the screen with his charm and wit. In a scene where he has to follow a suspect instead of attending his beloved’s birthday party, he is told by his girlfriend, played by Shakila, “If you leave, we are done.” He just says “I am sorry” and skips out but is ready the next day serenading her with “Aankhon Hi Aakhon Mein Ishaara Ho Gaya.” Dev’s Shekhar is quick on his feet. He can put two and two together as he finds a “charas vali cigarette” at the crime scene and zeroes down the spot where he might find the criminal.
CID was Waheeda Rehman’s debut in Hindi films and it is evident that she was still honing her craft here. There is a certain musicality to her dialogue delivery but her screen presence is captivating. Her Kamini walks the fine line between being the femme fatale whose moral compass does not look down upon murder but still has enough morality to be swayed to the good side. Mehmood, who is often remembered for his comic outings, is menacing here as the hired assassin.
CID gets its breathing moments with Johnny Walker’s character – a pickpocket who is a petty criminal but can’t fathom selling his soul so a murderer could escape. One of the most remembered songs filmed on him “Yeh Hai Bombay Meri Jaan” has been romanticised to death in the six decades since its release, but it cleverly conveys the plot with lines like “Beghar Ko Aawaara Yahan Kehte Has Has, Khud Kaate Gale Sabke Kahein Isko Business.”
This effective use of songs is consistent as the film’s pre-climax astutely utilises the lyrics of “Kahin Pe Nigahen Kahin Pe Nishana” in taking the story forward ever so smartly. Not just the lyrics, CID uses its background music quite efficiently as well. When Shekhar’s character meets Kamini for the first time, the music that follows him into her mansion is enough to get you intrigued.
The film is a whodunnit for the most part, but by the time audience discovers who actually did it, which is almost halfway through the film, they are invested in Shekhar’s journey and want him to solve the puzzle as well so he can be the hero he is supposed to be.
CID’s is one of those musical classics by OP Nayyar that has achieved an evergreen status. Apart from the aforementioned songs, “Leke Pehla Pehla Pyaar” and “Boojh Mera Kya Naam Re” were also a part of this album. The now famous “Jaata Kahaan Hai Dewaane” was dropped from the film, despite its presence on the audio, because the censor board found some lyrics objectionable. Jan Nisar Akhtar and Majrooh Sultanpuri penned the lyrics for the film.
At its core, CID is a timeless story that would work with the correct embellishments even today, maybe even become a franchise.
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CID is streaming on Prime Video and YouTube.