कब? क्यों? और कहाँ?
I like thrillers, and Hindi thrillers of the 60s and 70s can be especially delicious. The license to take filmi liberties that stretch the edges of plausibility, combined with the nifty mod style of that era, can, in the hands of someone like Vijay Anand, yield results that effervesce and sizzle. Unfortunately, Arjun Hingorani's Kab? Kyoon? Aur kahan? ("Who? Why? And where?") does not measure up to that sparkling standard. Dharmendra, a few cute songs (including one with Helen), and a fun incarnation of villainous Pran are just not enough to save this otherwise bland, forgettable, unsuspenseful movie.
Asha (Babita) is thrown together with C.I.D. inspector Anand (Dharmendra) when the two are improbably booked into the same cabin on a sea voyage. After Anand proves his worthiness by protecting Babita in a ballroom brawl, Anand and Asha fall in love. Returning home after the journey, Asha discovers that her father, a wealthy philanthropist, has died in an apparent car accident. But there is something fishy about the accident, and Anand is assigned to investigate it. Asha's creepy step-uncle Daljeet (Pran) has designs on both her fortune and her attractive friend Lata (Ashoo). Asha discovers Daljeet apparently forcing himself on Lata, and shoots him dead in the ensuing melee. Asha and Lata dispose of the body. But Asha's conscience pricks at her, tormenting her with terrifying ghostly apparitions of Daljeet. And, Asha conceals her terrible truth from Anand, driving a wedge between them.
The most charitable description of Kab? Kyoon? Aur kahan? is that it is a handful of somewhat entertaining moments, strung loosely together long stretches of weakly plotted and poorly paced filler that more or less passes for story and romance. In a movie like this, the difference between entertaining timepass and boring time-waste can be made by the strength or weakness of the stars. Dharmendra is always an asset; here, while he is not at his most delightful, it's likewise not his most phoned-in performance ever, and he's serviceably appealing. Babita, however, ought to have been named "Blahbita" - she brings absolutely nothing to the party - though she does give lots of good "nahin face:"
So desperate is the beleaguered audience to find anything of interest about Babita, that we resort to examining the vicissitudes of her hairstyle - Beth remarks on it in her comments on this film, and Memsaab, with whom I watched the movie, couldn't stop herself from analyzing in every scene whether we were seeing Babita's real hairline or a wig. Not to say that such questions aren't entertaining - but they don't particularly sustain.
The movie also suffers from a touch of expositionitis in its climax - it makes for a dreary thriller when a character explains the mystery verbally, as Anand does at the end of Kab? Kyoon? aur Kahan? Whatever surprises there may be in the raveling of the threads is undermined by presenting them this way, instead of letting the audience see how it all happened. It's not the worst sin a thriller can commit, if the other elements are engaging, but in a movie already teetering on the brink of utter forgettability, this device is the coup de grace.
There are, however, a few redeeming features. Top among these is the return of Daljeet in the film's climax, where he pivots from prone to standing in the horrific apparition of Zombie Pran and creepily peels bugged-out false eyeballs out of his orbital sockets. It's one of the strangest and best instances of Pran villainy I've ever had the pleasure to see.
(To see Zombie Pran in action, have a look at this video, starting around the 46-minute mark.) The delight that is Zombie Pran follows a series of "Telltale Heart"-esque scares to Asha that amount to this thriller's only suspenseful element. There is also a superb underwater fight sequence that must have been a real technical challenge to shoot - it lasts much longer than the actors (Pran and Babita) could possibly have stayed underwater, so it must have required many dives and many takes. Beth captured a screenshot of this (to highlight the stylish swimsuit) which I shamelessly steal here:
The movie also includes a Helen song, "Yeh aankhein jhuki jhuki si," which while not the best use of Helen in a thriller (see the aforementioned Vijay Anand flicks for much better) is still far superior to no Helen at all. It's quite a good song, featuring the terrifically large and elaborate stage set that one expects of Helen songs of this era.
And finally, Kab? Kyoon? aur Kahan? is not without its own sense of supermod visual style, starting from the very beginning, with the lushly-decorated midcentury modern stateroom that Asha and Anand share on the cruise ship. When I mentioned that I was finding the movie rather unremarkable, Beth replied, "OMG BUT THE STYLE!" At the moment I was not feeling particularly wowed by the style, but in hindsight it is, in fact, one of the few aspects that make Kab? Kyoon? aur Kahan? worth the time, especially when watched with a similarly-inclined friend. Beth's review has more on the visuals.