Films that are 50

Films that are 50: ‘Jewel Thief’ is a beautifully crafted gem

Vijay Anand’s 1967 movie, starring Dev Anand and Vyjayanthimala, is one of the finest thrillers in mainstream Hindi cinema.

Vijay Anand was at the peak of his filmmaking craft when he helmed Jewel Thief (1967) for star brother Dev Anand’s banner, Navketan. Loosely taking off from one of Alfred Hitchcock’s best man-on the-run pictures, North by Northwest (1959), Jewel Thief is undoubtedly one of the finest thrillers in mainstream Hindi cinema, one that gets better as time goes by.

Jewel Thief was a big commercial success for the Anand brothers. It is also the second of a trilogy of exceptional thrillers directed by Vijay Anand, the others being Teesri Manzil (1966) and Johny Mera Naam (1970).

The film is centered on a series of daring jewel robberies that totally baffle the police. We are led to believe that the Police Commissioner’s son Vinay (Dev Anand), might have a hand in the thefts. What is even more puzzling is that he is constantly being mistaken for another man, Amar.

Among those who are misled is Shalini (Vyjayanthimala), who claims to be the doppelganger’s fiancé. The suspense builds up and the plot thickens. Who is this lookalike? What is Vinay’s actual role in the overall scheme of things? And of course, who is the notorious jewel thief?

Dev Anand and Vyjayanthimala in Jewel Thief.
Dev Anand and Vyjayanthimala in Jewel Thief.

The first Hindi movie to be shot in picturesque Sikkim, Jewel Thief is aided by smart and witty writing. The film’s complex tale is meticulously plotted, as are the various twists and turns that appear credible despite obvious contrivances. Jewel Thief is also extremely well crafted and nicely paced, and keeps the suspense going for a good part of its running length of around three hours. While undoubtedly a technically slick production in the mould of Hollywood, it manages to not seamlessly incorporate and even elevate the necessary elements of Indian mainstream cinema into its narrative flow.

Tanuja and Dev Anand in Jewel Thief.
Tanuja and Dev Anand in Jewel Thief.

The casting of Ashok Kumar is the film’s masterstroke even if it is not one of the veteran’s more memorable acts. Dev Anand is his usual charming and stylish self, while Vyjayanthimala is fine enough as the damsel-in-distress who has her own baggage to deal with. Helen, Faryal and Anju Mahendru effectively do their bits as molls, adding significantly to the eye candy value. The heist thriller’s undisputed scene-stealer, even in a disappointingly underdeveloped role, is a lively and spunky Tanuja, who also nurtures a soft spot for Vinay.

In one of the film’s best moments, Tanuja playfully attempts to seduce him with the song, Raat Akeli Hai. Sung in her trademark sensuous manner by Asha Bhosle, Raat Akeli Hai sees composer SD Burman showcasing not just the singer’s vocal quality but also her fantastic breath control.

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Raat Akeli Hai.

For a man in his early sixties at the time, SD Burman’s score is hip, lively and contemporary for its time. The songs are extremely well composed, be it the haunting Rula Ke Gaya Sapna Mera, the two romantic duets Aasman Ke Neeche and Dil Pukare or the deftly choreographed club song Baithe Hain Kya Uske Paas.

Interestingly, Burman had adapted the robust Colonel Bogey March originally for Guru Dutt’s Baharen Phir Bhi Aayengi (1966) before OP Nayyar took over the film’s music. Once Nayyar stepped in, Burman’s song was dropped, so he reused the tune in Jewel Thief as the ever-popular Yeh Dil Na Hota Bechara.

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Yeh Dil Na Hota Bechara.

Vijay Anand was known for his song shooting skills, and Jewel Thief sees the director in sublime form. Each of the songs is wonderfully filmed and bears Anand’s individual stamp. Amongst them, the highlight is Hothon Pe Aisi Baat, the show-stopping performance by Vyjayanathimala and other dancers for the crown prince of Sikkim. The sequence is an excuse for a distraction as the jewel thief’s main aim is to steal the prince’s bejewelled crown. Oh yes, by now we also know who the titular character is.

Hothon Pe Aisi Baat is a remarkable achievement for the time, with its long takes involving complex character and camera movements, dynamic tracking and panning shots, and a fine use of the foreground and background space within the frame, all without compromising on the emotional aspect of the narrative.

The editing too picks up the pace of the story most effectively as the shots get shorter and shorter towards the end, thus building up the suspense as we wonder what Vinay will do at the end of it all. Vyjayanthimala comes to life in the song, showing off her formidable dancing skills as she effortlessly glides her way through lengthy and elaborately choreographed dance steps even as she hits each of her marks with razor-sharp accuracy. A special nod must go to director of photography V Ratra for the remarkably fluid camerawork in a challenging situation.

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Hothon Pe Aisi Baat.
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Advice from an ex-robber on how to keep your home safe

Tips on a more hands-on approach of keeping your house secure.

Home, a space that is entirely ours, holds together our entire world. Where our children grow-up, parents grow old and we collect a lifetime of memories, home is a feeling as much as it’s a place. So, what do you do when your home is eyed by miscreants who prowl the neighbourhood night and day, plotting to break in? Here are a few pre-emptive measures you can take to make your home safe from burglars:

1. Get inside the mind of a burglar

Before I break the lock of a home, first I bolt the doors of the neighbouring homes. So that, even if someone hears some noise, they can’t come to help.

— Som Pashar, committed nearly 100 robberies.

Burglars study the neighbourhood to keep a check on the ins and outs of residents and target homes that can be easily accessed. Understanding how the mind of a burglar works might give insights that can be used to ward off such danger. For instance, burglars judge a house by its front doors. A house with a sturdy door, secured by an alarm system or an intimidating lock, doesn’t end up on the burglar’s target list. Upgrade the locks on your doors to the latest technology to leave a strong impression.

Here are the videos of 3 reformed robbers talking about their modus operandi and what discouraged them from robbing a house, to give you some ideas on reinforcing your home.

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2. Survey your house from inside out to scout out weaknesses

Whether it’s a dodgy back door, a misaligned window in your parent’s room or the easily accessible balcony of your kid’s room, identify signs of weakness in your home and fix them. Any sign of neglect can give burglars the idea that the house can be easily robbed because of lax internal security.

3. Think like Kevin McCallister from Home Alone

You don’t need to plant intricate booby traps like the ones in the Home Alone movies, but try to stay one step ahead of thieves. Keep your car keys on your bed-stand in the night so that you can activate the car alarm in case of unwanted visitors. When out on a vacation, convince the burglars that the house is not empty by using smart light bulbs that can be remotely controlled and switched on at night. Make sure that your newspapers don’t pile up in front of the main-door (a clear indication that the house is empty).

4. Protect your home from the outside

Collaborate with your neighbours to increase the lighting around your house and on the street – a well-lit neighbourhood makes it difficult for burglars to get-away, deterring them from targeting the area. Make sure that the police verification of your hired help is done and that he/she is trustworthy.

While many of us take home security for granted, it’s important to be proactive to eliminate even the slight chance of a robbery. As the above videos show, robbers come up with ingenious ways to break in to homes. So, take their advice and invest in a good set of locks to protect your doors. Godrej Locks offer a range of innovative locks that are un-pickable and un-duplicable. To secure your house, see here.

The article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Godrej Locks and not by the Scroll editorial team.