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It is said that if someone is a bit abnormal since birth or childhood, his / her abnormality may manifest its ugly face during full moon nights because a full grown moon has something to do with the people's unconscious motivation. Today I am reviewing a long forgotten black and white Bollywood movie which is a suspense-thriller whose story has been written with the involvement of the effects of full moon on people's behaviour patterns. It's Poonam Ki Raat (1965) directed by Kishore Sahu who had directed many good movies from the early forties to the early seventies and also acted in a few movies (In Dev Anand's classic movie - Guide, Kishore Sahu had played the role of Marco, Waheeda Rehman's husband).
Poonam Ki Raat (full moon night) starts with the hostelled student life of the hero, Manoj Kumar and his college-mate (and hostel-mate), Shiv Kumar. Due to the news of the paralytic attack on Shiv Kumar's father (D.K. Sapru), he had to rush to his home with Manoj Kumar accompanying him. After entering the city, when they are yet to reach Shiv Kumar's home, Manoj Kumar happens to overhear some talks (on a roadside shop) related to the death of a woman named as Rani who was considered to be the keep of Shiv Kumar's father. She had died mysteriously on a full moon night. After reaching Shiv Kumar's home, Manoj Kumar gets introduced to all of his family members and effortlessly comes to know of the property related intrigues and conspiracies spread in that joint family. The very first, yet very romantic encounter with Shiv Kumar's sister, Kumud Chhugani leads to blossoming of love between herself and Manoj Kumar. However there's a lot more for him to see and feel in that house.
In the night, he happens to hear a mystery-filled song (Saathi Re, Tujh Bin Jiya Udaas Re) being sung by a female. However when he tries to locate that singer, he is able to find none. Moreover, this is not the only mysterious incident in the house. Many mysterious and not understandable things are taking place, mostly in the night hours. The gestures of certain members of the family are no less mysterious than the incidents. And then, the already paralytic and bed-ridden aged father sees something horrible in the night and falls from the cot. Resultantly, his paralytic condition gets worsened and he loses his power to speak too. Simultaneously, the nurse who has been hired to take care of him (being a resident nurse) goes missing. Her dead body is found from a well in the house after a couple of days. These events have also taken place on a full moon night only. Manoj Kumar's own behaviour is also getting abnormal day-by-day (due to living in such an environment). The family doctor (Kishore Sahu) who had deputed the nurse to take care of the old man, is approached by Shiv Kumar to understand something about abnormal people because he suspects that his friend Manoj Kumar is actually insane and he only has committed the murder of the nurse. The mystery is finally unfolded when another eventful full moon night arrives.
The mystery of this story starts with the beginning of the movie itself but it is spread quite gradually and the director has taken his time in enveloping the viewer in the mysterious web of the things lying scattered in the script. However, the way the storyline moves, albeit at a slow pace, it proves to be an engrossing suspense-filled experience for a mystery-fan. The spectator finds himself as lost in some fog or mist which clears only in the climax. Despite songs, romance and hilarious sequences being placed in the movie, finally it's the suspense only which prevails throughout. Thus Poonam Ki Raat can justifiably be called a pure mystery. The climax is not something like action-packed. It may appear to be dry for the typical Indian audience who have got habituated to see a high profile climax. However the climax is thoughtful and logically explains every particle of the mystery. I award full marks to the director for that.
Since it's mainly an in-house drama, the production value did not need to be high. However the cinematographer has ably maintained the mysterious environment throughout this black and white movie. If the camera work is efficient, the suspense can be exasperated better in a black and white movie than in a coloured movie. Poonam Ki Raat proves it. Otherwise also, the movie is technically good.
Salil Chowdhary has prepared good music for this suspense movie. Saathi Re, Tujh Bin Jiya Udaas Re is a famous suspense song of Lata Mangeshkar. Other songs - Bhole Piya, Tum Kahaan Le Chale Ho, Sapno Mein Mere, Ta Deem Tana Deem and Dil Tadpe Tadpaaye are also quite good. The music director has aptly used the voices of Mukesh, Rafi and the Mangeshkar sisters (Lata, Asha and Usha) for different songs.
Performances are not great but not bad either. It's the debut movie of the heroine, Kumud Chhugani and she looks charming and innocent. Among others, if someone really stands out, it's Leela Mishra who plays the role of the sister of the head of the house.
Priyadarshan's so-called horror movie - Bhool Bhulaiya (2007) is more or less on similar lines only. Since Poonam Ki Raat is a long forgotten movie and not known to today's generation, nobody has contrasted Bhool Bhulaiya with it to find out glaring similarities between these two movies (with the sole exception of yours truly). One more illustration of plagiarism ! Who cares ? However this black and white movie is far better than Bhool Bhulaiya because it explains everything happening in the movie in a perfectly logical way in the climax which is not the case with Priyadarshan's movie.
I wholeheartedly recommend Poonam Ki Raat to the audience of suspense-thrillers.
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