NostalgiDev Anand: the Kohinoor of Jewel

Article Tools

Email this Article

Printer-Friendly Format

Letter to the Editor

Jewel ThiefA visibly agitated Ashok Kumar booms at Dev Anand: 'Remove your socks and I can prove you are Amar, and not Vinay as you claim. You have a sixth finger on your right foot.'
Dev Anand smirks, 'I would have complied, but I am afraid my socks could be torn.'
Ashok Kumar is visibly unamused. A chorus of sceptical voices, including those of Vyjayanthimala and Tanuja, insists that Dev resolve the mystery.
Outnumbered, Dev reluctantly obliges. Tension mounts as the camera affords us a close-up of his feet. Dev slowly peels off his socks and teasingly, he places his left foot on the table supporting his outstretched legs before crossing it with his right foot. There is no extra digit. Playfully, he twiddles his toe to mock a gaping Ashok Kumar.
ProducerDirectorMusic DirectorStars
 Dev Anand Vijay Anand S D BurmanAshok Kumar, Dev Anand, Vyjayanthimala, Tanuja
Just one of the many gems from the necklace of adrenaline rushes and shocks that Vijay Anand's piece de resistance offers. 

Both James Bond and Agatha Christie would probably have approved of Jewel Thief.

This musical heist film -- it is another indication of its ingenious mix of genres -- is not only strewn with more red herrings than landmines in a battle zone; but also brags of a bevy of semi-clad Bond-like babes (Helen, Faryal, Anju Mahendru) flitting around a debonair Dev.

Director Vijay Anand is known for his stylish, perceptive camera framings and you are on a joy ride from the film's credits itself. An unidentified man passes a bejeweled mannequin. When he moves away, the mannequin's neck is bare and a short raucous laugh fills the background.
Indeed, who is the jewel thief? Is it Vinay (Dev Anand), an employee of a reputed jewellery shop and the police commissioner's son, or is it his look-alike, Amar?
We are initially shown Vinay flirting with a jeweler's daughter Anjali (Tanuja), to land a job with her father. His ploy works though the not-so-coy Anjali sticks to him like a leech.
At Anjali's birthday party, a gorgeous stranger Shalini (Vyjayanthimala) wraps herself around Vinay, calls him Amar and claims to be his fiancée. Vinay disproves her, but is shaken and stirred by her extravagant grief. Shalini says she lives with her brother (Ashok Kumar) and a chivalrous Vinay gets inveigled into finding Amar who, he is told, is a
famous jewel thief.
In quick succession, a cabaret cutie (Helen), a bejeweled and bewigged, dancer (Faryal), and a libertine (Anju Majendru), who likes to hide behind dark glasses and sunbathe on the lawns of a swimming pool, all mistake Vinay for the amorous Amar.

This raises the film's noir appeal to a degree where we are compelled to ask, 'Will somebody throw a torch on what's happening, please?'
Vinay reciprocates only Shalini's love though he does spend a night with the cabaret cutie. There is a veiled suggestion that they go to bed, a surprise for Hindi films of its time. But the dalliances with the dames are cursory. The emphasis is on Vinay's search for the elusive jewel thief.

The climax is set in gorgeous Gangtok and culminates in a plot to rob the king's jewels.
Famous songs from Jewel Thief
  Song Singers
  Yeh dil na hota  bechara Kishore Kumar
  Rulake gaya
 sapna mera
 Lata Mangeshkar
  Aasmaan ke neeche Lata Mangeshkar,
 Kishore Kumar
  Raat akeli hai Asha Bhosle
  Meri taraf dekho Asha Bhosle
  Bhanwra bada nadan Asha Bhosle
  Dil pukare aare aare Lata Mangeshkar,
 Mohammed Rafi
  Hothon pe aisi baat Lata Mangeshkar

The film has a shock ending of The Sixth Sense brand. Even 34 years later, I don't want to reveal the end and spoil the fun for first-time viewers.
Vijay Anand, an acknowledged auteur after Guide (1965), manages a sleight of hand with this taut thriller.
Don't expect any depth or ponderous insights. Look for slickness and imaginatively conceived shots, some
tension-packed, others purely visually appealing.

The camera peers through wooden slats, carpet holes and intricately carved wall dividers to achieve the desired effect of intrigue.
The song sequences are ambrosia. Choreographer Sohanlal outdoes himself in the titillating teaser, Raat akeli hai picturised with élan on the full-of-beans Tanuja. A latter-day attempt by Tanuja's daughter Kajol to wriggle her hips like her mother (Yeh Dillagi), seems like a scribble imitation of a calligrapher's writing.
The climactic number, Hothon pe aisi baat, showcases Vyjayanthimala's grace as (despite complex dance movements and camera placements), she famously glides through an entire stanza of the song in one single shot.
Ashok Kumar concedes to the demand of his character and is exaggeratedly dramatic. If one were to rank the curvaceous beauties on parade, Tanuja puts the others under her (eye) shadow. The pecking order that follows is Helen, Anju and Faryal.
But it is Dev Anand with his feckless schoolboy grin and boundless energy who is the Kohinoor of the show.
Under a jeweler's microscope you can spot a few blemishes (stretching our willingness to suspend disbelief), but in today's world of imitation jewelery, Jewel Thief is still studded in 24-carat gold.

* Thirty years later, Dev Anand starred in The Return Of Jewel Thief (1997) alongside Dharmendra and Jackie Shroff but it was an uninspired sequel.
* Vijay Anand had initially been all excited about working with Vyjayanthimala (she was all set to marry Dr Bali then), but, eventually, it proved to be not a very happy collaboration between two genuine talents. 

* In Navketan's Guide, all the male songs were sung by Mohammad Rafi save one (Gaata rahe mera dil), which went to Kishore Kumar. For Jewel Thief, Rafi had only one song in the score. This paved the way for Kishore's thumping triumph in S D Burman's Aradhana two years later. 

* R D Burman, though a successful composer by then with the Vijay Anand-directed Teesri Manzil (1966) to his credit, still assisted dad SD on the Jewel Thief score. 

Your Views


 Comments:(characters remaining)

 Your Views:
© 1996 - 2003 India Limited. All Rights Reserved.