How Vijay Anand’s ‘Teesri Manzil’ lost one of its most important sequence?

It was a bright sunny day at a private University and I was all excited, not because of the weather but for the reason that I was screening Vijay Anand’s musical thriller ‘Teesri Manzil’, that day, to the BJMC students. The atmosphere inside the class was electric as I had already pre-discussed about the film in class many-a-times. You can say I had slightly over-hyped about the film but as a teacher, I knew it is worth the experience and students are going to like the film for sure.

I entered the class and to my surprise, the projector was all set up and connected. The attendance was almost 90% which was always an exception in a final year class. I took out my pen drive from pocket and inserted it to my system. The screen read ‘UNITED PRODUCERS’ PICTURE followed by a disclaimer and a lightning sky animation introducing to NH FILMS (Nasir Husain Films). A POV shot of a car follows with RD Burman’s thrilling background score. The film marked the beginning of Nasir Husain’s collaboration with R D Burman which was followed by films like Carvaan, Pyar ka Mausam, Hum Kisise Kam Nahin, etc.

After having watched ‘Teesri Manzil’ more than 50 times, nothing was new for me but everytime the signature tune came, goosebumps got activated and an adrenaline rush skyrocketed. After all, the film was a whodunit thriller so I was pretty sure students would like every moment of it. Well, how many times has this happened to you when you know the ‘who’ in a ‘whodunit’ and still watch it all over again??? Vijay Anand skillfully combines elements of comedy, romance and mystery into a cohesive whole.

Helen as Ruby

Well, the film slowly builds up and the mystery gets intensified after each sequence. The film has its share of quite intelligently placed ‘red herrings’ starting from the waiter, to Helen, to estate manager, to Prem Chopra, to Iftekhar and even Rocky himself. The film’s background score (designed by R D Burman himself) brings one to the edge-of-the-seats. The film went smoothly until at 1:16:44, the film switches to a rural fair with Rocky (Shammi Kapoor) and Sunita (Asha Parekh) romancing around a giant wheel (The song is ‘dekhiye saahibon wo koi aur thi..). For a second I thought I am hallucinating or somebody fast forwarded it accidently. I stood up, went to my system and played back the sequence but it again switched to the same song. I tried a couple of times more but nothing happened. My students asked me ‘Sir, what happenend?’ But I had no answer to it. My shoulders dropped. I realized that I had downloaded a trimmed version of the film from YouTube.

Iftekhar as Police Inspector

I came back and started searching for an uncut version over the internet. Luckily, I found 8 different websites having Teesri Manzil film but unfortunately all the 8 of them had that 25-30 minutes of footage missing. I almost felt numb and speechless. As a kid, having watched the full VHS version more than 50 times, I felt as if somebody has robbed my most prized possession.

The fact is that no full version of this film was made on to a DVD or VCD. While transferring the contents, some idiotic guy chopped off the 25 minutes of this classic. It is like spoiling the Mona Lisa painting or ruining the beauty of Taj. It is more than a crime.

Between Ruby’s (Helen) envious stances and the song at the rural fair is about 25-30 minutes of footage which marks the entry of Kunwar’s (Premnath) character. Now those who have seen the full version can only relate to the importance of these 25-30 minutes to the plot, which not only makes the narrative smoother but more logical.

To all those, who have not seen these missed scenes, here is a quick description:

Sunita informs Rocky that her friends have planned an outing for everyone, but Sunita and Rocky want to spend the day alone together. Both of them pretend as if they are not well and the girls leave without them. They meet at their usual place on a hilltop and are interrupted by her friends, carrying hockey sticks. Since, the girls are hungry and thirsty, Sunita suggests that they stop by Rocky’s chachaji’s place (in an earlier scene Rocky had pointed out a big mansion on the same hill while trying to impress Sunita). Rocky tries to stop them to avoid any further embarrassment as he made out a story. He runs ahead and observes the mansion’s owner Kunwar Sahab (Premnath) driving away while giving instructions to his servant regarding arrival of some guests.

Rocky tries to play smart here and confidently enters the mansion along with girls. However Kunwar Sahab returns unexpectedly and upon hearing the chaos inside, goes in to confirm. He looks angrily towards Rocky, who is dumbstruck and after a few stares supports Rocky’s story that they are uncle and nephew. As they leave, Rocky stops to thank him. A man in black (Another Red Herring) dressed exactly like the mysterious figure drives into Kunwar’s compound. Kunwar Sahab tells Rocky that the man is his estate manager, who is a bit of a drunkard.

After this scene, another scene takes place where Rocky accidentally flirts some other woman in place of Sunita and is chased by a mob leading to the same song (Dekhiye.. Saahibon.. wo koi aur thi…).

It is an irony that a country, which produces as many as 1,600 films in various languages every year, is not able to properly preserve the classics that it once produced. I think the way DVD manufacturers edit films is way too lackadaisical; all they’re trying to do is ruthlessly trim it into their 750 MB or whatever, without giving much attention to what affects the plot. This is just felonious.

Now, for those who have seen ‘Teesri Manzil’ exactly know WHAT all has been MISSED. What appears to be just a sequence where 2-3 characters are introduced, turns out to be one of the important cog of the wheel called ‘Teesri Manzil’.

Thankfully, one Mr Atul Shah recently downloaded the full version, which was available on VHS, but not on CD or DVD. For all those who want to see the complete uncut film, please click here:

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