even I want to be Dev Anand: Jewel Thief

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
Jewel Thief

* 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.


Anonymous said…
Yay, I am so glad that you liked it. This movie might be my single most favorite Bollywood movie ever - it's eight kinds of awesome!
Anonymous said…
Sorry for the double comment - I should add, thanks for linking my review - I've been meaning to expand it for a while, and since you've linked it I've now done so.

Glad you finally saw this one - its a classic, with some amazing songs, and some pretty tight story lines too.

Never really thought about the whole exoticising the West - I guess you could call it the "Occidentalising" strain of Bollywood...

As far as sexually independent women went, Tanuja pretty much defined that space with her one song, "Raat Akeli Hai"..and its an interesting counterpoint to Vijayanthimala, who even though is depressed/suicidal/traumatised, is still quite a strong character. And of course, you had Helen dancing in the bar!

If you're a Dev Anand thriller movie fan, I recommend trying out Prem Pujari - you get the full on international man of mystery, with Zahida & Waheeda Rehman, and some amazing songs!
Keith said…
Jewel Thief was the second full Bollywood film I ever watched, right after Don. That sure was a good week.
Unknown said…
Since there were some comparisons to Cary Grant, I recall that rumor had it that Dev Anand used to shamelessly ape Gregory Peck because his beloved Suraiya had a massive crush on him (Peck, not Dev)
tbs - ooh, thanks for the recommendation! And the "occidentalizing" is not at all my own original thought (I read it in Filmi Geek)- I wish it were, because it's really interesting, and I'm going to tuck it away in the back of my head to trot out later for other movies as needed. Maybe one of my four unread books on Indian cinema will say something about that....

Aspi - if one must mimic, he's certainly another flawless choice of subject.
Naveen Sharma said…
Hi all!!!
I have the great fortune of being close to Dev Sahab for the past 2.5 years. He ia a real GEM of a person. Dev Anand, the man is much bigger than Dev Anand, the Super star. If anyone of You wants to meet him, or know the very latest about him, please contact me at naveensh@yahoo.com. Naveen Sharma
shikhar said…
the phildelphia story, bringing up baby... woww!!! i love these...glad u mentioned my favs. have u seen TROUBLE IN PARADISE or THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER... lubitsch...
Hi Shikhar - Mine too! I haven't seen Trouble in Paradise but enjoyed The Shop around the Corner. I have a lot of classic Hollywood to catch up on because I've mostly stuck to Cary Grant or Katherine Hepburn.

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