Seeta aur Geeta

Seeta Aur Geeta is a classic dual role movie so common in Bollywood, but for a change it’s the heroine who has the double part to play and Hema Malini excels as both characters in this tale of separated sisters. This is my favourite film with her as she flawlessly provides drama, action and comedy and looks totally stunning throughout. It’s a pleasant change to have a heroine-centric film and although Dharmendra keeps trying to sneak a piece of the action, Hema always gets the last word. You go girl!

The film opens by explaining how the twin sisters get separated at birth and brought up by different families. But there are no mystical songs, lockets or other identifying objects needed because the two just happen to be identical, which means of course that there will be confusion between the two when they grow up.

First of all we meet Seeta and her family. Her parents are dead and Seeta is living with her Aunt Kaushalya, Uncle Badrinath and their two children. Also living in the house is Kaushalya’s brother Ranjeet (Roopesh Kumar) and Seeta’s grandmother.

Kaushalya and her daughter Sheila treat Seeta as a slave and she is constantly abused and overworked. Seeta is the weak-as-water type of heroine I usually want to slap and tell to pull herself together, but since her rather pathetic and hopeless character is the whole point of this part of the film, I can live with it. Anyway, the focus at this point is much more on Kaushalya who is the best wicked aunt ever. Manorama is outstanding in her role as Kaushalya and has the best selection of grimaces I have seen outside of a gurning competition. Here is just a selection of some of her expressions which she uses to excellent effect.

Honey Irani appears in front of the camera in one of her first roles as an actress playing the mean and spoilt mommy’s girl Sheila. I love the way she stands and screams as an iron burns her sari rather than just lifting out a hand to move it away. She really does seem to believe she is the delicate flower her mother calls her and she wonderfully nasty towards her cousin. Ranjeet is appropriately sleazy and obviously the villain once he turns up in a selection of increasingly bad shirts and terrible scarves.

After Seeta’s trials and troubles have been established we are introduced to Geeta. What a difference! Seeta is introduced in a scene where she is scrubbing the floor and her evil aunt is yelling at her. Geeta is introduced by a song – upbeat, full of life and fun, it’s an apt description of Geeta and her outlook despite her humble status.

Geeta lives with her mother and works as a street performer with Raka (Dharmendra) and Jhumroo (Master Ravi). She’s loud, vivacious, a bit of a crook and nothing at all like her twin sister. There is much made of the differences between the two: Geeta’s fiery nature and her loving relationship with her mother for example, compared to Seeta’s meek obedience and her constant craving for her lost parents. It all sets the scene for the inevitable switch between the two sisters.

After further abuse and inappropriate attentions from the slimy Ranjeet, Seeta finally escapes from the house and Kaushalya reports her as missing to the police. However Geeta happens to be at the local police station where she is ‘recognised’ as the missing Seeta and picked up by her ‘aunt’ and ‘uncle’.

On the way home Geeta decides she doesn’t want anything to do with the crazy fat lady and escapes, ending up hiding in a car with Dr Ravi (Sanjeev Kumar) in a coincidence that is only ever possible in Bollywood. Dr Ravi has already met Seeta as a possible marriage candidate and at the time wasn’t impressed at the way Kaushalya presented her niece, but he finds the new ‘Seeta’ intriguing and the two end up falling in love.

Since she feels sorry for the grandmother, Geeta ends up back in the mansion living with Seeta’s family, but she doesn’t appreciate the idea of being their servant and certainly won’t put up with any abuse. It’s a shock for everyone in the family when their previously docile slave lashes out and forces everyone else to work instead. Geeta is hilarious as she pretends to be Seeta and turns the tables on Kaushalya and Ranjeet. There is so much to laugh at, but also plenty of drama and a good balance between the two. It all works so well because of the excellent performance by Hema Malini as the two different sisters. Geeta is a strong and determined character and Hema conveys this resolution with body language and expression just as much as by the dialogue. Seeta is quieter and more submissive, keeping her eyes downcast and her voice softer, but in her own way is just as determined to get what she wants once she breaks free of her restrictive family. It’s hard to believe that no-one seems to question the identity of the two sisters, especially since Hema makes them two very different people but no-one ever seems to consider the possibility and that allows the chaos to continue.

While Geeta is busy reforming Seeta’s family, Seeta is found by Raka who naturally thinks she is Geeta and takes her back to Geeta’s foster mother Leela (Radhika Rani).  Seeta blossoms with the love of her new ‘mother’ while Leela is amazed to have a daughter who can cook, sew and volunteers to visit the temple.

Despite her abysmal attempts at street performing, Raka falls in love with Seeta while for no real apparent reason, Seeta falls in love with him. Although to be fair he is probably the first person she has met who is as self-absorbed about his orphan status as she is, and their shared misery does create a bond. Their wedding is set, as is Geeta’s to Dr Ravi but of course the path of true love never runs that smoothly and there is still the confusion between the two sisters to sort out. Although Raka tries to save the day, in the end it’s Geeta with a little help from her sister who proves that anything a Bollywood hero can do, a heroine can do even better. It’s all totally crazy, over the top and Hema seems to have an excellent time beating up all the bad guys in the fight scenes.

The cast here are all excellent and they are perfectly cast to fit well into their roles. Sanjeev Kumar is effortlessly charming and debonair as Dr Ravi. His assertion that he wants a good Hindustani girl as his ideal wife did make me groan, but despite his initial statement he doesn’t seem to mind when Geeta dresses in more Western style clothes and he positively encourages her to go roller-skating (which may actually be something that good Hindustani girls do considering the number of times it happens in films). I’m often quite ambivalent when it comes to Dharmendra, but since he is rather overshadowed by Hema Malini and his over acting goes almost totally unnoticed beside the caricature of Kaushalya, I really enjoyed his performance. Both Pratima Devi as the long-suffering grandmother and Satyendra Kapoor as Kaushalya’s hen-pecked husband provide excellent support, as do the various other members of the cast. But it’s  Hema and Manorama who are the two essential elements to the film and their scenes together still make me laugh every time.

The music is by R. D. Burman and his songs are lovely and well-integrated into the story.  Asha Bhosle and Lata Mangeshkar provide beautiful vocals for Hema while Kishore Kumar and Manna Dey provide the male voices for Sanjeev Kumar and Dharmendra. The songs are all pictured on Geeta rather than Seeta which is perhaps a shame, although there is one solo song with Dharmendra which works well. I love this famous song with Geeta pretending to be drunk to dissuade Dr Ravi from marrying her. It’s funny but very sad too and while Hema is excellent, Sanjeev Kumar provides excellent backing for her drama.

Javed Akhtar, Satish Bhatnagar and Salim Khan have done a great job adapting the ‘Prince and the Pauper’ storyline to suit a Bollywood audience and the dialogue is well written and very funny. Director Ramesh Sippy keeps everything moving along and despite knowing the switch is going to happen he still builds plenty of suspense into the story.  This is a total Bollywood classic for me – great performances, good songs and excellent comedy, all delivered with such style by Hema Malini. I absolutely love this film and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve watched it. A full 5 stars!

Temple says:

I like Seeta aur Geeta, but I don’t love it. I first saw it several years ago and I really liked it at the time. I’ve watched it a couple of times since, and each time I enjoyed it a little less and fast forwarded a little more. I can’t quite warm to Hema Malini, Sanjeev Kumar is not my idea of hero material and I lack the Dharmendra Swoon gene. So it all comes down to the story and the characters.

I really like the way the story plays with the masala tradition of twins separated at birth, and there are lots of fun moments as Geeta impersonates Seeta. But it does drag on a bit once the twin swapping starts, and Seeta is such a wet dishrag that I get restless whenever she is at centre stage. Geeta is more lively but as with so many filmi heroines, she can only get a husband when she pretends to be something else – in this case, a demure young lass like her sister. So that detracts from the ‘you go girl’ mood as it turns into ‘you go girl and put on a nice sari and a long-sleeved high-necked blouse’. I also found the roller skate scene stupid and not in a good way – Geeta was a tightrope walker and acrobat and all of a sudden she can’t work out how to balance or control her body? Yes she was on wheels, but it was just a lazy way of asserting the hero’s superiority when there was no real need. Kickarse girls can only kick so much before decorum demands they are put in their place. And then to have Sanjeev Kumar as the vision of young love…oh dear. The romances didn’t grab me in the slightest as neither couple seemed to be well suited or even mildly interesting. There wasn’t really enough of a threat or menace to keep the dramatic tension either, as most of the ‘bad’ characters were more slapstick than villainous.

Overall, I like this enough to say see it as a good timepass. It’s colourful, the music is pleasant although I don’t think it’s great, the mood is generally upbeat (apart from all the attempted rapes and beatings). But it’s not a film that rewards repeated views and there are many other masala favourites I would rather see again. 3 stars.

Pyar Kiye Jaa

Pyar Kiye Jaa is my favourite film starring Shashi Kapoor and I think he’s at his absolute Shashilicious best here. It’s a very funny comedy with a couple of romances thrown in for good measure and a fantastic star cast.  Sridhar takes the opportunity of a plot line involving making a movie to poke gentle fun at the film industry as well as relying on more conventional comedy scenes and the excellent comedic talents of his stars to make this a very entertaining film. Great songs, funny dialogue,  excellent performances and plenty of dramatic Shashi Kapoor – what more could you possibly want?

I didn’t realise until recently that Pyar Kiye Jaa is a remake of the 1964 Tamil film Kaadhalikka Neramillai which was also written and directed by C. V. Sridhar. Rajashree starred in this original version as well and reprised her role in the Telugu version Preminchi Choodu the following year, so I hope she enjoyed the role! One apology as well – I’m sorry the screen caps here are so blurry, but my DVD copy of this film is really poor quality.

The film opens with a song where Shyam (Kishore Kapoor) and Malti (Kalpana) dance along the beach in a last meeting before Shyam heads back to work for his rich father Devraj (Chaman Puri) and Malti leaves Mumbai to go home with her sister Nimala (Rajasree).  Malti and Nimala are the daughters of Ramlal (Om Prakash), the owner of Ramlal estates and the employer of Ashok (Shashi Kapoor) who just happens to be good friends with Shyam. All that in the first 20 minutes! But these first few scenes effectively set up most of the main characters, their relationships with each other and their social standing which leaves us free to concentrate on the mainly very funny comedy. It’s an excellent way to open the film and this first song is very catchy and upbeat with great moves by Kishore Kumar.

Ashok has a run in with Malti and Nimala when he crashes his wreck of a car into their vehicle. Despite his winsome smile, the sisters are not impressed and once they get home demand that their father sack Ashok immediately. To his credit Ramlal is reluctant to fire someone he thinks is a good employee, but he cannot stand up to his daughters’ persuasions and has no choice but to go ahead and dismiss Ashok.

Unfortunately for Ramlal, Ashok knows his rights and is not about to take his dismissal lying down. He sets up a rather magnificent striped tent opposite Ramlal’s house and armed with a set of expressive signs sets about protesting and demanding his job back.

His next step is to hire a band and some supporters which leads to this wonderful song.  This is the ‘best Shashi song ever!’ for me and nothing can beat Shashi’s gyrations as he demands his job back and berates Ramlal while Malti and Nimala fling buckets of water at him. His support crew groove away in the background and the band rather wisely keep well back to avoid the deluge. The Tamil version from the original film is almost as good and is filmed at exactly the same location, but I have to say that I think Shashi beats Ravichandran in terms of cuteness and the Hindi song is has a bit more pep as well.

Meanwhile Ramlal’s son Atma (Mehmood) has set up a film production company named vah vah productions in the hope that this will be the audience reaction to his films (although my sub titles call it wah wah productions, which has a totally different meaning and may in fact be more accurate!). He’s relying on his father to bankroll his first production but Ramlal is rather slow at handing out any money. So vah vah productions at this stage consists of Atma as director, producer, screenwriter and everything else besides. Atma spots the beautiful Meena (Mumtaz) as she’s walking home and decides she would be perfect for his heroine despite her lack of acting talent.

After witnessing Ashok’s rhetoric as he protests outside the house, Atma engages Ashok as his scriptwriter and the scene is set for a number of possible storylines to be explored. These scenes may be where Farah Khan got her inspiration for Om Shanti Om as Sridhar does an excellent job of sending up the film industry including some wonderfully bad dialogue delivery and acting by Meena and many clichéd scenes described by Atma. These culminate in Atma’s final description of his film, which has been a tragedy and a romance in previous incarnations, but has morphed into a ghost story as he relates it to Ramlal. Atma adds in appropriate sound effects and the combination of Mehmood’s voice and Om Prakash’s facial expressions is both brilliant and hilarious.

Meanwhile, Ashok and Nimala have patched up their differences and fallen in love. After all who could resist Shashi when he starts to strip off to jump into a canal in a daring recue of a transistor radio? The couple know that there is no way Ramlal will consent to their marriage and Ashok has to come up with a cunning plan. For this he needs his friend Shyam, plenty of make-up and Devraj’s Chevrolet car, which Ashok hopes will make the right sort of impression. Relying on his friend’s good nature Ashok persuades him to act as his rich millionaire father to win Ramlal’s approval for the marriage. Atma also takes the opportunity to try and solicit more funding for his film from the visiting millionaire, which means another great song.

The plan is working well up until Devraj happens to come to the area to look at some property. He meets his old friend Ramlal and decides that Malti would be the perfect match for his son. So Shyam has to find a way to be both himself and Ashok’s father and explain why the eccentric millionaire Mr Raibahadur Ganga Prasad is driving his father’s car. It all works out in the end of course, but not before Shyam and Ashok have to concoct various other tall tales and even end up in jail.

I love this film, partly because Shashi is fantastic and totally irresistible, but also because everything comes together perfectly. It’s a well written film where the story flows consistently and the comedy is cleverly integrated into every scene. The plot devised by Ashok requires constant revision as events unfold, and Shashi’s character is funny as well as resourceful and inventive. Despite his con-artist ways, Ashok is so engaging and charming that it’s possible to forgive him for lying to his potential father in law. This is helped by the fact that he confesses all to Nimala early on and she’s equally happy to hoax her father to get what she wants. Kishore Kumar plays a great straight man to Shashi’s Ashok and his performance as the pompous and eccentric billionaire Raibahadur Ganga Prasad is superb. Shyam enters in to the deception with some reservations, but is unable to resist Ashok and then makes the most of his disguised . Both Rajashree and Kalpana are good in their roles although they intermittently seem to be wearing so much make up that it’s amazing they can move their faces at all. Neither character is reluctant to stand up for what they want and they both are strong and determined women. They both look beautiful in the songs and in the later romantic scenes and I like the way the two different romances develop.

Mumtaz only has a small role as Meena but she is funny as she tries to follow the instructions given to her by Atma and she is very good at being a bad actor! Mehmood is on top form as the wannabe director with plenty of wonderful expressions and Om Prakash is excellent as the rather hen-pecked Ramlal. Another major plus of the film is the fantastic music by Laxmikant and Pyarelal. All the songs are well placed and each is utilised to develop the story further. Everyone gets their chance to shine and there is a song here for every possible occasion. I love every single one and it’s been very difficult to decide which to add in here.

I just wish the quality of the film was better, since there are many places where black spots and lines appear, and that my copy had subtitled songs. Otherwise there is nothing I don’t like about this film – it’s perfect Shashi Kapoor fare and a real classic. 5 stars.

Temple says:

I do love Pyar Kiye Jaa but I have to say it edges towards my maximum tolerance for slapstick and silly disguises. Heather has described the plot in some detail but it isn’t the story as much as the actors that I enjoy. There is something in the dynamic between the male stars, a balance of energies, that is very pleasing. Shashi seems to be having a ball, playing the filmi hero and making sure his performance is appreciated – mock fainting in distress and surreptitiously checking how his audience react before swooning a bit more. Of course he is also the perfect clean cut romantic lead which doesn’t hurt in a fluffy love story. There is an extra sparkle in Shashi’s eyes when he and Mehmood are sending up their own industry. Mehmood’s Atma is strangely reminiscent of Tony Curtis with his quiff, terry-towelling leisure wear and Capri pants. Mumtaz brings a squeaky exuberance to Meena and is the only memorable female cast member for my money. There is such a thing as too much Mehmood, and sometimes even too much Kishore Kumar, but good writing and well matched performances avoid that pitfall. Laxmikant-Pyarelal excel at the swinging big band style. This soundtrack stands up really well without the visuals, and is even more fun with them. Kehne Ki Nahin Baat is just the best unfair dismissal protest song ever (and has Beth’s vote for greatest song in the world). There are a few negatives – a bit too much slapping, stalking and shouting in some ‘comedy’ scenes and a very unsurprising plot. But see it for the charm and good humour of the cast, and some stylish retro rom-com fun. 4 ½ stars!

Naag Panchami (1972)

Snakes Galore!

Perhaps as an omen of the awesomeness which is to come, the film opens with some excellent snake animations which include a very snakey title. Love it!This film is a feast for costumes lovers – every outfit seems to have extra glitz, glamour and shine with some really amazing fabrics and accoutrements. Just look at these bodice designs – very apt for the snake goddess and her poisonous serpent sidekick:


And just for some variation, later on Goddess Mansa decides to try out a fish theme with a wonderful headdress.But there are also plenty of real snakes throughout – not just on the costumes – although the film seems to use a combination of some really quite bad model snakes interspersed with the real thing. These are some of the real ones.

Naag Panchami starts with the rather petulant Snake Goddess Mansa having a bad day. It’s her birthday but she is restless and irritated by her followers in Naglok. Fortuitously Nagraj turns up and she manages to cajole him into revealing the name of her father, who is none other than Lord Shiva. Mansa is thrilled by this news and immediately goes to see her father who takes her to meet her mother and siblings in Khailash. Once there she discovers the existence of ‘the rest of the world’, and decides she wants to be worshiped just like Shiva and the other Gods. To achieve her aim she decides to make Lord Shiva’s chief devotee Chandrakhar her worshiper too, and to that end she appears to him on board his ship and demands his instant worship. But the successful merchant is unimpressed by Mansa and reviles her for her arrogance and presumption.

Various ploys by Mansa to force his worship fail to work and finally she kills all six of Chandrakhar’s sons. Mansa seems to work on the theory that the more insane her actions, the more likely it is that Chandrakhar will devote himself to her, which of course is guaranteed to have the opposite effect entirely. Lord Shiva very wisely declines to get involved so the scene is set to allow Mansa to do her worst.

As part of her long term plan she then approaches Chandrakers wife Alta and gifts her with another son – not really a lot of consolation for the lost of the last six, but then that’s not her ultimate plan. Rivers flow, birds fly and suns set as he grows up incredibly fast to be the handsome and dashing Lakshmindra. Lakshminda crosses paths with the equally daring and beautiful Behula when she is out hunting. Naturally the two fall in love and in next to no time determine to marry.

Meanwhile, Mansa’s chief handmaiden Maithreyi has also married and as husband and wife are cavorting in the forest, Lakshmindra inadvertently runs over her husband in his chariot, killing him instantly.

Unaware of this fresh disaster Lakshmindra is now under threat of death from both Mansa and the vengeful Maithreyi – a situation with plenty of snakey potential. It all becomes very Sleeping Beauty-ish as Mansa turns up to the engagement and threatens Lakshmindra with death on his wedding night. Queue evil laugh Mwah ha ha ha! Even Maithreyi is starting to look a bit worried! To protect his son, Chandraker orders a house to be built of iron to ensure that nothing will be able to enter and kill his son. Now I would have thought that an iron house would be quite impractical , hot in summer and hard to keep warm in winter, and not necessarily the only way to keep snakes at bay. Nevertheless, the newlyweds end up in a supposedly impregnable house on their wedding night. Except of course it isn’t. Maithreyi turns up to seek her revenge, but Behula is resolved to save her husband and manages to convince Maithreyi not to kill Lakshminda.

Sadly though, after Maithreyi leaves, neither Behula nor Lakshmindra think to bung up the hole in the wall and Mansa sends another snake which does manage to complete the job. Not one to be easily defeated, Behula resolves to carry her husband’s corpse on a pilgrimage around various temples in order to revive him. While on her quest, Mansa assails Behula with many really bad special effects including a huge crocodile and lightning induced blindness just to name a few.

We also get to see that not all snakes are bad, or at least not all the time, as Maithreyi turns up to help Behula in her snake form, towing the body to safety and waking Behula up with a nicely placed spray of water. I really do think all of this would have been much easier to accomplish as a human, but probably nowhere near as much fun to watch.

I really enjoyed this film. The costumes are wonderfully sumptious and there is just oh so much evil that Mansa manages to accomplish. The songs are fantastic and with playback singers Asha Bhosle, Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar and music by Ravi it all sounds beautiful. There is even a great snake dance by Maithreyi as Mansa looks on in her fab fish ensemble – already mentioned by jenni, but I think it deserves to be seen again.

The snakes here do conform pretty much to the standard in the Filmi Snake Spotters Field Guide. There is the less is more approach to clothing, plenty of embellishments and headdresses, great eyes and plenty of snake inspired architecture to pose with. Mansa also has the ability to conjure snakes whenever she is feeling annoyed with someone and flings them around with gay abandon. She becomes more and more maniacal and Shashikala is wonderfully crazy, changing from self-indulgent and immature one minute to totally malevolent and insane in the next.  Her eyes get wider and wider and she is definitely a master of ’the look’. She even talks to herself.

Maithreyi (Jayshree T.) is much less vengeful despite losing her husband, and a much nicer person snake all round. Hers becomes the voice of reason which Mansa of course totally ignores.

Jayshree Gadkar is lovely as Behula. She invests her with grace and determination and plays the devoted wife perfectly. Out of her lavish costumes as the princess she looks beautiful in her plain sari when she is making the pilgrimages around the various temples. The other actors are all fine but are mainly just there as targets for Mansa. Prithviraj Kapoor is suitably imposing as the rich merchant, and Ashish Kumar does a good job as Lakshmendra. Satyendra Kapoor has a small role as Lakshmendra’s friend Vishwavardhan and makes the most of it.

The end involves various Gods and Shiva dancing to shake the world – yet more excellent costumes and ‘bad enough to be really good’ special effects. This is so much more than just another snake movie and I’m rather surprised that it doesn’t seem to have the recognition I think it deserves – if only from aficionados of shiny fabric and bejewelled headdresses. A great film for Nag Panchami Film Fessstival  I love it! 4 stars.

Jewel Thief

I always enjoy Vijay Anand’s Jewel Thief, mostly for the glorious presence of Tanuja, Vyjayanthimala, Helen and Faryal. The style is groovy Sixties cool, the music is fab and funky and the story is packed with incidents and coincidences.

SD Burman’s soundtrack is brilliant, and the dream playback ensemble of Lata, Asha, Mohd Rafi and Kishore Kumar does the material justice. The title sequence sets the tone; a swinging big band with Krupa-esque drums over an old school cut and paste montage of newspaper headlines that are stuck over real news stories.

Is it just me, or do these display mannequins look just a little like Nargis?

Vinay (Dev Anand) arrives at a jewellers looking for work. His skills dazzle Mr Visambhar Das and his flirting impresses daughter Anju (Tanuja) so he gets the job.  Soon after, he is mistaken for a man called Amar by a number of strangers. At Anju’s birthday party he is confronted by Shalu (Vyjayanthimala) who claims the mysterious Amar is her fiancée and that Vinay is indeed Amar.

This leads to the least suspenseful proof of identity scene ever as Vinay takes over one full minute to remove a shoe and prove he doesn’t have six toes. Did I mention the subtitles on this original DVD are quite peculiar?

Shalu’s brother Arjun Singh is played by the wonderful Ashok Kumar. Arjun seems to want to throw Vinay and Shalu together despite her apparent engagement to another man. He has hidden motives, and gradually more is revealed about his character. It’s a fun performance, and I do have a soft spot for all of the Kumar boys.

Anju and Shalu vie for Vinay’s affections, which results in some awesome outfits and extreme eyeliner. Tanuja is fun and bubbly, and plays her headstrong character with great gusto. Anju seems to have very few restrictions on her activities but isn’t spoiled by being indulged.

Shalu is the weeping wronged woman, and wants to recreate Vinay in Amar’s image which he initially rejects.  However Shalu is flirtatious and yet reserved, a combination Vinay cannot seem to resist.

Vinay plays both women and seems to have no qualms about his situation. He takes for granted that the girls find him irresistible and will tolerate his peccadilloes. Dev Anand has so many idiosyncrasies that I can never forget it is Dev Anand I am watching. However I do like his seemingly genuine enjoyment of Tanuja’s antics in Raat Akeli Hai, Bujh Gaye Diye. And hurrah for the interior design excellence at Anju’s house which we get to tour in that song. I love the fridge, but the bar steals the show.

Things become more tangled as it appears Amar and Vinay are impersonating each other, sometimes inadvertently. Amar aka the Prince is the Jewel Thief. He is a ladies’ man and a ruthless criminal by all accounts, although one with appalling fashion sense. No one seems sure of which side anyone is one. The plot becomes more and more convoluted, even as nothing really happens.

Amar has better taste in women than expected given his shocking taste in clothes. What’s not to love about Helen (playing a character called Helen) making her entrance in a sparkly zebra chicken ensemble complete with crystal beaded tights?

This was one of my first Helen films and whenever I describe vintage Bollywood, I draw on that image. Helen also loves her fridge, to the point of not locating it behind the nifty concealed revolving bar. It reminded me of my grandmother’s kitchen which was built before whitegoods were common so our fridge was plonked against a wall. It took me back to the exciting day when Nan got her first ever washing machine. Sadly I grew up without the groovy bar, but we did have a fair collection of 70s kitsch.

Julie (Faryal) doesn’t seem to have a fridge, but she did have a drinks trolley in one scene.  She is part of the gang and draws Vinay further into their murky designs. With Faryal wearing the entire budget for a key jewel heist scene, I can totally understand why the art team recycled the Nargis busts in the background.

It is a treat to have multiple vamps and heroines of this calibre in a film that lets them all shine. The ladies drive much of the action, providing the clues, motivation and manipulation that ensure Vinay continues to swagger limply in pursuit of Amar. Anju Mahendru also has a small but crucial role as Neena, yet another babe who runs rings around our hero. They are strong, individual women and I love seeing Helen and Faryal do more than an item number. For a fun and informative discussion of vamps, please listen to this excellent podcast by netvixens Beth, Amrita and Memsaab at Masala Zindabad.

The action moves to Gangtok as Vinay pursues Amar. Dev Anand is slick and superficial; Vinay looks the smooth man of the world but is never really convincing as a man of action. Luckily his dad (Hussain) is a police commissioner so he has resources to call on. Even more complexity in the plot is revealed as Vinay is taken hostage. (It was very thoughtful to provide the lads and ladies of the gang with table tennis. Such a wholesome recreation for evil doers!) The gang is working on one big heist that doesn’t seem to be worth it given that they are making ample money from the smaller crimes that attract less attention. The targeted crown is a bit more Miss Universe than I expected for a prince in Sikkim.

Amar continues to elude Vinay and his dad, but there is plenty else of interest going on. Vyjayanthimala wears a sari covered in furry bobbles for a start, but she has the consolation of a lovely song to emote to.

Helen and Julie create confusion as Vinay does a lot of overacting, sometimes intentionally. In a fantastic filmi architectural coincidence the old palace tunnel system was handily located under the captives’ quarters. All it took was Shalu, a rope made from a sari, her handy chisel and mallet plus the good scissors and they were off and running for freedom. The film is full of great secret rooms, sliding panels and amazing design features. But it wouldn’t be truly masala  if the hero escaped right away, and the director had invested in some hi-tech memory modification equipment, so the action returns for more mind altering shenanigans.

And then the deservedly famous Hoton Me Aisi Baat in which Dev Anand has the very good sense to restrict his dancing to posing and scuttling out of Vyjayanthimala’s way.

I don’t want to give the ending away completely but the Jewel Thief’s complex plan comes unstuck remarkably easily. Anju takes her turn at helping Vinay fight the good fight, and all loose ends are tied up in a delightful final scene.

Vijay Anand has created one of my favourite retro masala films. There is so much to enjoy visually, so many fun performances, and great music and dance numbers. What more could I ask for? 4 and ½ stars! (extra points for Helen, small deduction for Dev Anand’s hats).

Heather says:  Jewel Thief was one of my early ‘oldies’ film purchases and I’m pretty sure I bought it because of Helen. Of course not only does Jewel Thief have the incomparable Helen but also the amazing Vyjayanthimala, Tanuja and Ashok Kumar along with Dev Anand. I’m not usually a great Dev Anand fan as I find him much too affected, but he seems to suit the James Bond-esque role he plays here fairly well. He does look to be too old to be a wayward son of the police commissioner though and his mannerisms make it hard to forget that he is Dev Anand rather than the character, but I still think this is still one of his best films.

The best part of this film for me is the music – the soundtrack is fantastic and as Temple has mentioned it has the dream team of playback singers. This is a film where I’d heard and loved the songs before I saw the movie, and they only got better with watching. The sets are fantastic too with plenty of hidden rooms and tunnels as well as some very inspired décor in Helen and Anjali’s apartments – so much to appreciate.

I also love the totally fab costumes. The red dupatta with white fluffy spots all over it that Vyjayanthimala is wearing in the song above is a particular fave, and Tanuja has a great selection of outfits.  Naturally Helen shines (and sparkles!) in that department as well, and one of the gang has a rather eye catching black jacket with large white pockets. Where do they find this stuff – actually I do know the answer to that as I went shopping in Chennai earlier this year! Dev Anand is a little too ‘corduroy’ in some scenes for me (clothes and attitude), but his collection of hats helps to make up for that. I particularly like that the jewellery was by Parikh Novelty house, which sounds exactly where I need to go shopping, and that there was just so much of it!

The story aims to be a mystery/thriller and I think in general it works fine for the mystery but not quite so well in the thriller part. There just isn’t very much suspense – at least not once we get past the sock removal. (Just as an aside, I seem to have a different copy toTempleas I have rather more boring subtitles which sadly refer only to toes.) But perhaps I’m just too distracted by the costumes, the jewellery, the interiors and the dancing! The story moves along well though and there are plenty of twists which generally make sense, even if the final scheme does turn out to be more complicated than it really needed to be. Adding in electro-shock treatment was particularly inspired, and I did enjoy Dev Anand’s grimacing throughout the procedure. Brilliant!

All the actors are excellent throughout and it is a real treat to see so many great performers together in a better than usual story. The end is just a little disappointing, but there is still plenty to enjoy in this very stylish film . 4 stars from me.