First things first: a jiving, shimmying, bejewelled-pantyhose thank-you to Filmi Geek for telling me about this movie.
I knew it had to be only a matter of time before I encountered a Hindi film that reminded me of some of my favorite aspects of 1940s and 50s Hollywood (not that I am well-versed, but I have my loves*), and here it is, even though the fashions are of a later date (and very fun, from the British Invasion-style pegged pants to the giant hairdos). Jewel Thief is a dizzyingly-styled romp of crime and criss-crosses - but mainly Dev Anand gadding about being a Movie Star. That's "Movie Star" with a capital M and S. This is my first of his movies, and he's fantastic. As my title suggests, to me he brings to mind Cary Grant in all the right ways. Wait, what am I saying? As if there's a wrong way to be reminded of Cary Grant. He's suave and hip and whip-smart and a bit detached, as though he views everything with one eyebrow raised, but still has a several-layers-down heart of gold.
Jewel Thief has a lot of plot twists, as information is discovered or revealed, and to be honest I didn't follow all of them - something would happen, and I would think, "hang on, wasn't he just..." but then decide that I wasn't too bothered by not knowing, since I was still able to be completely on board for the fun. I have no doubt that I would have enjoyed this even more if I had all the deatils, but it's been a bumpy week here at BLB, and I've needed more sleep than I've been able to get, so I didn't have as much energy to devote to this as I would've liked and just had to let some things go.**
I agree completely with everything Filmi Geek said in her review, so I think you should just head that way and read hers (but if you haven't seen the movie, watch out for plot spoilers in the comments). My favorite of her bang-on points are 1) that the movie clearly has a love for western styles and combines them in an unrealistic and exoticized but never distractingly gaudy or silly way*** and 2) that there are sexually independent and forward women here, I think the first I've seen in Hindi films. Almost everything I can think of to point out about Jewel Thief is fabulous. I enjoyed it heaps, and, with the risk of getting too personal for a second, it even managed to make me feel better, more hopeful, about something in my non-Bollywood life that is going badly. So if you possibly can, join Dev as he Roger O. Thornhills his way around India, and try not to feel too bad about the suddenly emabarassingly drab and decidedly not mod state of your own wardrobe, but then dance along with Helen and S. D. Burman's groovy songs, and all will be right with the world.
You can watch Jewel Thief on Jaman.com
* Speaking of which, has Bollywood done its own version of Pillow Talk yet? Oooh, that would be really, really good. Dibs on working on that project! We need a very sassy independent woman (clearly Rani), a lady-killer with a mushy inside (Saif? Abhishek?), an alcoholic meddling housemaid (Kirron Kher? Lillete Dubey?), and a cynical male sidekick who has his own edge and isn't lame comic relief, because the comedy is going to come equally from all the players (maybe Akshaye?). Also Bringing up Baby seems ripe for the picking, doesn't it? And most certainly Philadelphia Story, although I have the feeling I've read that that's already been done.
** Before you point out how angry I was when I couldn't understand the finer points of what was going on in Guru, remember that in Guru I was not able to, whereas with Jewel Thief I was simply too tired to try.
*** Screen captures were another casualty of being under-resourced this week. I just ran out of time and had to take the DVD back to the store. Quite sad, actually, as any discussion of Jewel Thief will be made even better by visuals. You can get a great view of the movie here.