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Howrah Bridge (1958)

 -  Musical | Thriller
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 90 users  
Reviews: 5 user | 2 critic

Rakesh lives with his brother, Madan, and his dad in Rangoon. Madan has fallen into bad company and steals the family heirloom, in the shape of a dragon, some cash and runs away to India. ... See full summary »



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Title: Howrah Bridge (1958)

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Complete credited cast:
Ashok Kumar ...
Prem Kumar / Rakesh
K.N. Singh ...
Om Prakash ...
Shyamu, Tangewala
Madan Puri ...
John Chang
Dhumal ...
Uncle Joe
Kammo ...
Sunder ...
Bhiku / Bhikarilal
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Brahm Bhardwaj ...
Madan & Rakesh's dad
Helen ...
Dancer / Singer
Mehmood ...
Wedding Dancer
Minoo Mumtaz ...
Wedding Dancer
Chaman Puri ...


Rakesh lives with his brother, Madan, and his dad in Rangoon. Madan has fallen into bad company and steals the family heirloom, in the shape of a dragon, some cash and runs away to India. Shortly thereafter, his dead body is found under Calcutta's Howrah Bridge. Rakesh travels to Calcutta in order to find out the mystery behind Madan's death, and also try to recover the family heirloom. His investigations take him to a shady hotel run by Uncle Joe, where an attractive dancer named Edna performs a dance every night. Rakesh finds himself attracted to Edna, and he confides in her why he is here and she decides to assist him. Rakesh comes to know that a man named Bhiku had witnessed his brother's murder, and sets off to find him. Before he could meet him, Bhiku goes missing and no one knows about his whereabouts. Watch what Rakesh does next in order to solve this mystery, recover the heirloom, continue to woo Edna, and catch his brother's killers. Written by rAjOo (

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Musical | Thriller


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Featured in Desperately Seeking Helen (1999) See more »


Inth Ki Dukki Paan Ka Ikka
Sung by Mohammad Rafi
Music by O.P. Nayyar
Lyrics by Qamar Jalalabadi & Hasrat Jaipuri
See more »

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User Reviews

Bollywood LA Noir
8 March 2007 | by (New York, NY) – See all my reviews

This isn't the first movie of Helen, but her entrance here, at about age 19, feels like a triumphant introduction - slim as a reed, with a young girl's face made up lightly, just to emphasize the tilt of her eyes, she glides down a staircase in a Chinese costume to perform Meera Naam Chin Chin Chu, an all-time great Hindi cinema song. I think the movie is worth owning for this and for Madhubala in an Ava Gardner-like incarnation, singing and dancing in full-skirted lush western dresses.

An unusual film to me -- it seems to be a Bollywood effort at a noir-style mystery story. I'd say the "noir" element is present in the milieu and the cinematography more than in the story itself. The world of the story is a world of seedy small hotels and nightclubs in Calcutta. Most of the main dramatic scenes are interiors of these places at night, and people are always moving in and out of light that casts various shadows on their faces.

A dramatic chase scene makes great use of the Howrah Bridge, an imposing Erector-Set structure that is a Calcutta landmark.

There's also a style of Indian Orientalism here, as well I think as a use of some motifs from LA noir of this time period - there is a Chinese villain, played well by an Indian actor (i.e. not the random bowing slant-eyed stereotype we run into here and there in other movies) and the first part of the story takes place in Rangoon, its characters' home - so there are many references to "oriental exotic" outside of India.

Not unusually and not surprisingly, the story lacks the things that make noir noir - we've got our stereotypes moving around, doing things and reacting to things, and we don't have any of the moral ambiguity of the American film noir, where a hero without conventional social moorings has his own ethics, and a woman probably will not turn out to be who she seems to be. We do, though, have wonderful 50s western costumes on the primary characters, as well as Indian-style masala characters who sing, dance, and have a wedding which Madhubala stops to watch when she is pursuing someone.

The story also sticks mostly to the characters involved in the mystery

  • Ashok Kumar, Madhubala, a Tonga-wallah who is Ashok's guide into the

more mysterious parts of Calcutta; the Chinese art dealer, and the man named Joe who owns a hotel and makes claims on owning Madhubala too. There is also the opium-smoker who witnessed the murder, and his lovely fiancé. But there are no extra relatives bringing in "emotion," which, for India, does stick to the noir mystery format and to the single plot line to an exceptional degree.

The basic story: Ashok Kumar, in Rangoon, learns that his brother has apparently stolen the precious family heirloom dragon statuette, and soon thereafter learns the brother has been killed in the course of his effort to sell it, so he travels to Calcutta to try to reclaim the thing and solve the mystery.

Along the way he meets Madhubala, who sings and dances in a hotel. At an early point I think we were meant to wonder whose side she was on, beyond that, the plot lost me somewhat, and I also don't think it was totally coherent but may be wrong. If someone else watches the whole thing, I'd like to know if you think the existence of the duplicate Family Heirloom really had anything to do with anything that happened.

Anyhow enjoy it for its eight songs, Helen (in just the one), and Madhubala.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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