Hindi cinema portrays a wide spectrum of stories and changing themes across decades that lends to the popularity of Bollywood around the globe. Not all movies stand the test of time but there are some that remain true classics – Do Bigha Zameen, Sujata, Milan, Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai, Sangam, Lagaan, and the more recent Dangal. The success of a good movie is largely dependent on its storyline, music, acting, and direction.
Jewel Thief, which was released in 1967 and produced by Dev Anand’s production house, Navaketan Films, is one of the finest movies made by Indian cinema. The genres of crime and comedy are not easy but this movie turned out to be an exciting thriller starring the evergreen Dev Anand, the beautiful Vyjayantimala and the attractive and tomboyish Tanuja in the lead roles, apart from Helen and Anju Mahendru. It was directed by Vijay Anand.
The plot was extraordinary with a flawless storyline, along with great presentation and acting. The music by S.D. Burman remains memorable with hits such as Yeh Dil Na Hota Bechara, Rula Ke Gaya Sapna Mera, Aasman Ke Neeche and Raat Akeli Hai.
As an audience, we begin suspecting Amar – the “jewel thief” and until the last scene, the actual thief’s identity remains up in the air. Vinay and his doppelganger Amar are very confusing to the audience till the very end.
The character of Amar as the jewel thief gets built gradually through incidents that include:
- Someone accosting Vinay in a shop.
- Vyjayantimala expressing her anguish in a party.
- Ashok Kumar asking Amar to remove his socks, assuming he has six toes but is disappointed at his findings.
- Mala being grief-stricken at separation from Amar with the beautiful song Rula Ke Gaya Sapna Mera.
- The jeweler’s disclosure that a lookalike of Vinay robbed him.
- Multiple sequences with Helen and Anju Mahendru where Amar is depicted as an easy going man, a don, and a jewel thief.
- The last dance to Hoton Mein Aisi Baat by Vyjayantimala, where she knows the thief but is unable to express it under the watchful eyes of the audience, is stunning.
When the audience finally realises the identity of the real thief, and goes back to reconstruct the story, we begin to appreciate the carefully crafted dialogues.
I have seen many crime thrillers after that, including the more recent ones, but none stand to the charisma of Jewel Thief – the perfect mix of music, dance, acting and screenplay.
Sudha Murthy has written novels, technical books, travelogues and books for children in English and Kannada.