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Prof. KADER KHAN in BENAAM (1974) and its insightful innovation hiding the thrilling suspense inspired from ALFRED HITCHCOCK - by Bobby Sing
04 Jan, 2019 | ALL ABOUT INSPIRED MOVIES / Articles on Cinema / Inspired Movies (Alphabetical) / B / Did You Know! / Just In

The era of late 60s and early 70s had suspense thrillers and murder mysteries as one of the most favourite genre of many producers-directors and they enjoyed decent success ratio too despite not having any repeat value.
 
One of the interesting projects trying a rare innovation of those times was writer-director Narinder Bedi’s BENAAM which also happened to be the first film crediting Kader Khan for his contribution as the solo dialogue writer. 
 
Beginning with JAWANI DIWANI (1972) sharing the credits of ‘writer’ with Inder Raj Anand, Kader Khan got duly noticed from both BENAAM and ROTI releasing on the same time in the last quarter of 1974. However, where BENAAM gave him the first solo credits as Dialogues by Prof. Kader Khan, ROTI acknowledged the new entrant with Additional Dialogues by Kadar Khan and also started with his powerful voice-over that later became a known feature of many major films.
 
Featuring Amitabh Bachchan, Maushumi Chatterjee, Madan Puri, Dhumal, Shubha Khote, Ifteqar, Helen and Prem Chopra in the key roles BENAAM entirely revolved around an attempted murder and a child’s kidnap, taking its major inspiration from Alfred Hitchcock’s THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1934). Interestingly Hitchcock himself made a remake of his film in 1956 (in colour) with the same title, but we will come to that later as an added exclusive feature of the article with some worth mentioning facts.
 
A more than decent, well-paced mystery thriller, the best feature of BENAAM is its skillful editing by Waman Bhosle-Gurudatt, a thrilling background score by R.D. Burman (besides a famous song in the unique voice of Narender Chanchal) and the dialogues by Kader Khan with intelligent use of phrases such as ‘Yaani Ki’. But since revealing the innovation of its suspense will disclose its mystery too so would strongly suggest to watch the film before reading further if you still haven’t seen it yet or don’t recall having seen it many years back.
 
With a story progression having numerous anonymous phone calls received by the parents Amitabh and Maushumi from the kidnapper of their child, the voice heard on the screen played a major role in the film that could easily give away the secret right from the first scene. So the makers very insightfully thought of playing a trick with the same incorporating it in the credits too.
 
That was the era without any instant connectivity through internet or mobile phones and even the reviews used to come in the next weekly/monthly issues of the film magazines or the next weekend newspaper supplements that could spill the beans. In fact a normal telephone also used to be a luxury in those days (installed in only wealthy or influential households) and word of mouth used to take its own time of weeks and not days – which also remained the reason why films had the privilege to grow in weeks and could complete 25-50 weeks (Silver/Golden Jubilees) in theaters with no other means to watch them except the big screen.
 

Benaam-2

Now BENAAM had the kidnapper as its villain, whose identity was not revealed till the climax and the viewers could only hear his voice threatening Amitabh on the phone in the entire film. And since Prem Chopra played the villain, his voice was a major issue as the actor was already quite popular and a known villain of Hindi films by 1974 featuring in mega hits, and BOBBY had recently converted him into a household name in 1973 with the dialogue “Prem Naam Hai Mera, Prem Chopra”.
 
So the makers decided to use Kader Khan’s voice-over for the villain (without him featuring in the film), who had an impressive, scary tone and was a highly respected theater artist too, but was still not known to the Hindi film viewers as an actor.
 
Working on the same, the other innovation they did, strengthening the suspense element of the film was not to reveal Prem Chopra’s name in the film’s titles too keeping it a complete secret. So you will not find Prem’s name in the film’s opening titles and will also not find it in the initial/original posters of BENAAM too mentioning only the lead pair. Even the EP (Record) design of the film had only the picture of Amitabh, Maushumi, the kid and their dog on the cover and nothing else. Plus they also had the last caption of the film saying "Please Don't Reveal The End".

However, later in the posters designed during the re-releases (in the 80s) they did mention the name of Prem Chopra along with his picture taken from another random film.
 
Hence, Kader Khan had his dialogues as well as voice-over in both BENAAM and ROTI releasing together in the late 74 making a grand entry in Hindi cinema with a bang.

Coming to BENAAM as a suspense thriller, it was an intelligently adapted script largely inspired from Hitchcock’s emotional thriller but had its issues in the mid and climax too. It begins well initiating the suspense from its very first scene itself with no usual introduction and keeps on building on the same as a taut mystery movie unlike the usual Hindi films. It majorly falters in the mid introducing a completely forced illogical track of Madan Puri and then also turns odd with a reputed personality of the city driving back alone post attending a big social function (as a chief guest), who suddenly also starts acting like a road side goon, hijacking an entire train. In short it is like an international suspense thriller becoming the typical Hindi film towards the end.
 
With its most famous feature being the track “Main Benaam Ho Gaya” till date (RDB/Majrooh Sultanpuri), picturised on the famous singer Narender Chanchal himself (post his cult BOBBY song), BENAAM also had another lesser discussed feature of an ‘In-film Brand Promotion’ unexpectedly.

Though the concept of Brand Promotion within the film has recently gained attention post the major reputed ventures started incorporating it in a silly at your face manner taking the viewers of granted, it actually was right there in the 60s-70s too as seen in BENAAM in a prominent sequence. (And the subject indeed deserves a complete article to be written mentioning many known films and stars).

Using his original name of Amit Shrivastava in the film (which is also a rare feature of the project), Amitabh is shown to be a leading official of GLAXO in the storyline and he repeatedly comments upon the use and advertising design of the product in a focused sequence clearly advertising for the product conversing with his two colleagues. But crossing the norms or limits, the film also has a scene in which the whole staff is watching the new advertisement selected for the product GLAXOSE-D and the viewers are shown the complete 15 seconds advertisement on the big screen as a loud ‘at your face’ promotional campaign incorporated within the film.
 
Anyway as a decent engaging thriller, BENAAM reportedly had an above average run at the box office and was later also remade in Kannada as THIRUGU BAANA. So you should surely watch it once if you haven’t seen it earlier, but since the write-up has already gone into over-length, will let you know about the interesting Hitchcock angle related with its making in the next dedicated article on the maestro and his original works soon.
 
And till then keep watching movies with
HIS BLESSINGS

© Bobby Sing/Hapreet – Bobbytalkscinema.com

(4th January 2018) 


Tags : Prof. KADER KHAN in BENAAM (1974) and ALFRED HITCHCOCK by Bobby Sing at bobbytalkscinema.com, Inspired Hindi Films, Hindi Mystery Movies Inspired From Hitchcock, Kader Khan and Prem Chopra
04 Jan 2019 / Comments ( 3 )
KBC

Superb. thanks for the interesting facts. Had watched the movie when i was a teenager.

sudarshan pandey

Wonderful write up on a film seen decades ago. This reading makes a desire to watch it again........Thanks

Purnima

Yes the end was a bit let down as chief guest kidnapping train as mentioned... yet it was a wonderful watch.. thank you for sharing so much info.

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