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 Of the Devious Mastermind


Jewel Thief 1967

Intrigue is the first word that comes to mind after watching the movie. This was the sixth straight hit of the Vijay Anand (Goldie)-Dev Anand duo under their home production Navketan and it came two years after the magnificent ‘Guide’.

The movie making techniques of the time had limitations unlike today. Still Jewel thief was picturised in a way that was ahead of its time. The screenplay was great, with the music fantastic, the dances super and Goldie wielding the baton it was a recipe for the sureshot success of the movie. Jewel Thief is a perfect crime thriller. There are many stories attached to this movie like Saira Banu was approached for the role of Shalu Dev’s love interest in the movie but it did not work out and the role went to Vyjaytimala. That there were cold vibes between Goldie and Vyjaytimala professionally and it was not lost on anyone, later he himself acknowledged that he was unable to build the kind of comfortable working relationship with Vyjaytimala that he had with other heroines like Waheeda, Hema etc.

There was also a sequel ‘The Return of Jewel Thief’ released in 1996 in which only two of the original movie stars namely Dev and Ashok Kumar reprising their roles alongwith a slew of contemporary actors. On the 60th anniversary of Navketan the movie was premiered at Regal Cinema in Mumbai on 1st August 2009 and was attended by Dev and an array of actors of current time. Jewel Thief was released on 27th October 1967.

The movie is about the story of a Prodigious Jewel Thief who perpetrates daring heists on famous jewellers all over the country, not only that but to deflect attention from himself he also circumstantially creates a false identity of the thief as the doppelganger of police commissioner’s son Vinay ably played by Dev Anand who himself is an ace jewellery connoisseur and works for many a jewellers that fits perfectly with the Thief’s scheme of things.

The Jewel Thief goes by the name of Amar and a lot of confusion is created between Vinay and Amar and due to the confusion at one point even Vinay is shown running from the law. Vinay wants to get to the root of this and plays along when he is recognised as Amar even by the gang though we come to know that it is merely a façade to create more mirth. The true identity of the real Jewel Thief is revealed at the very end when he is caught with his entire gang but the best part is that he is shown as a cool customer without any regret at being caught as if it was just another day and even asks his gang not to be so morose and perk up. In between the story is interspersed by a bevy of beautiful Bondish girls like Helen, Faryal, Anju Mahendru and Tanuja who play their part to create the doppelganger confusion.

The movie is smartly crafted and endorsed by many a celebrities even today. In the words of the ace film director Sriram Raghavan the film still gives him the goosebumps and he also says that he still finds the story relevant and not outdated like some of the older movies he goes on to sing paeans about it.

Even Sudha Murthy novelist and wife of Infosys founder Narayan Murthy sings praises for the movie, in her own words ‘… it is one of the finest movies made by Indian cinema. This movie turned out to be an exciting thriller.’ Film appraiser and critic Anupama Chopra also wonders why no one has tried to remake this movie. Due to the ultimate twist in the tale some have even compared it to the Sixth Sense.

Some cinephiles even feel that Jewel Thief matches upto those Hitchcockian thrillers (specially North by Northwest). A lot of modern devices like automatic doors, press of a button smokescreen etc. are also employed to create an effect. Coming to the music which is given by S D BURMAN and the songs and their picturisation are absolutely brilliant all the songs are superb starting from ‘Yeh dil… na hota bechara’ to the all time classic ‘Hoton pe aisi baat’ which had one of the best dances by Vyjayantimala.

  • Revisited by PAWAN GUPTA

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