One of this week’s releases 'Trapped' is about one man trapped alone in an apartment. There have been other solo actor movies before, notably 'Secret Honour' and '127 Hours' to name just two. Back in 1964, Sunil Dutt directed and acted in the world’s first single actor film, 'Yaadein'.
Unlike 'Trapped', the actor wasn’t in any danger, the mood of the movie is wistful rather than suspenseful. Dutt directed just a handful of films, and was never counted as a great actor—more of a handsome star—but he had the confidence to pull off an experiment like that. There have been hundreds of monologues on the stage, but not many in cinema. 'Yaadein' was mentioned in the Guinness Book of World Records in the category ‘Fewest Actors in a narrative film.’
Dutt plays a man who comes home one evening to find his wife and kids not in. Worried that Priya might have left him, Anil starts imagining what might have happened. His infidelity has given her reason to leave, but he reminisces about life with her and realises his own faults. He did not give Priya the love and respect due to her and believes he has lost her forever. Anil then wanders around the house, thinking about her, and missing her intensely. He is about to take his own life in despair when she returns.
The screenplay by Omkar Sahib and Akhtar-Ul-Iman, engaged the audience—much of the credit going to Sunil Dutt’s marvellous performance, of a man in all his myriad moods. The film did not do too well at the box-office but is now considered a classic. It had won the Filmfare Award for cinematographer S. Ramachandra for his brilliant black and white camerawork, with its luminous light and shadow play; Essa M. Suratwala won the award for Best Sound Recordist. The art direction and music—two songs, 'Dekha Hai Sapna Koi' and 'Raadha Tu Hai Deewani', composed by Vasant Desai— enhanced the viewing experience.
'Yaadein' was an all-heart film, made by a star at the peak of his career, who wanted to do something unique. This was Dutt's debut as director, and subsequently he made films like 'Reshma Aur Shera', 'Rocky' (to launch his son Sanjay) and 'Dard Ka Rishta'; his career as an actor continued unabated, but 'Yaadein' is the film that got him into movie history and the record books.