This month on FC Flashback, we are celebrating the films of director Vijay Anand. He was the youngest of the Anand brothers. Vijay along with Dev and Chetan Anand created one of Hindi cinema’s most innovative and exciting banners –Navketan Films. Vijay directed his first film Nau do Gyarah when he was only 22. But he quickly established himself as a master of natural dialogue, pacy narrative and superlative songs.

The Vijay Anand song is a dazzling combination of choreography, camera movement, lyrics and music. I don’t know of many directors who match his skill though Sanjay Leela Bhansali is a worthy descendant! You could watch Vijay Anand’s movies only for the songs but thankfully, he was also a skilled storyteller. One of my favourites is the 1967 thriller Jewel Thief.

Jewel Thief is over 50 years old so some of the elements will seem comically dated. But the wonderfully, complicated plot still holds. Writer K. A. Narayan, who wrote the story and Vijay Anand who did the dialogue and screenplay created a The Sixth Sense style end twist that still has the power to make you gasp. This is the story of audacious robberies, mistaken identity, doppelgangers, a bevy of sensuous women and at the centre of it the dashing Dev Anand as Vinay, a seemingly good man who is constantly mistaken for Amar – the kingpin jewel thief.

Nothing here is what it seems – there is intrigue, deception and several sliding walls that lead to unexpected places. The film has a James Bond feel and it’s not just the glamorous women who invariably throw themselves at Vinay. One of the leading ladies Tanuja even does a scintillating seduction number – Raat Akeli Hai – but Vinay loses his heart to the more reticent Shalini, played by Vyjayanthimala. The film also helped to establish the climax song – Vyjayanthimala’s superlative dancing, S. D. Burman’s unforgettable music and the show-stopping choreography by Sohanlal made Hothon Mein Aisi Baat an instant classic. Watch out for the stanza done in one take. Jewel Thief is a joyous popcorn thriller. I wish someone would remake it. You can catch the film on YouTube.

All this month, Film Companion will celebrate the works of filmmaker Vijay Anand. You can follow our series FC Flashback which aims to reintroduce legendary actors, filmmakers and technicians to a young audience.

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