Mostly, the films I review on this blog are either the ones I like so much I want more people to watch them; or films I hate so much I want to warn people off them. Or, sometimes, films which may not be otherwise exceptional but have, I think, something that sets them apart: they’re unusual, or they’re somehow of historic importance.
Now and then, along comes a film I decide I have to review because while I don’t find it dreadful, I wonder what it would have been like with a different cast. Even just one actor being replaced by another.
Jigri Dost begins in the palatial home of Chairman Neelkanth (KN Singh), who is a baddie of the first order. He summarily orders his henchmen to raze this bunch of poor people’s huts, extort money from that lot, and so on. He has no scruples, no mercy, no nothing… no inkling, either, that a maid (Aruna Irani) in his home eavesdrops on his every conversation.
Neelkanth has a daughter, the spoilt and hot-tempered Indu (Komal, aka Poonam Sinha, after she married Shatrughan Sinha), who stays spoilt and hot-tempered only till the point she falls in love, after which she reverts to rather boring stereotypical Hindi film heroine type… and Indu’s brother Kasturi (Jagdeep), who’s a bit of a madcap but has his heart in the right place and is always trying to correct all the many wrongs his father keeps committing. Neelkanth has realized that Kasturi’s outspokenness about Neelkanth’s misdeeds can get him (Neelkanth) into trouble, and so has adopted the policy of proclaiming it far and wide that Kasturi is insane. Who, after all, will listen to the ravings of a lunatic?
Indu goes with some friends (all as rude as her) on a trip to the countryside, and coming up against a herd of cows milling on the road, Indu sees red. She gets out of the car and starts hitting the cows, at which a passing gwala (cowherd) named Gopi (Jeetendra) flies into a rage and whacks Indu.
Indu is so furious, she goes racing off home to complain to Daddy, and Neelkanth immediately deputes a bunch of goons to cook Gopi’s goose for him. Fortunately for Gopi, the good Kasturi is eavesdropping, and he rushes off to save Gopi…
Under Kasturi’s aegis, Gopi is able to not just give Neelkanth’s goons the slip, he also gets a makeover, courtesy Kasturi, in a barber shop where they slip in to hide. Kasturi gives Gopi a brand new haircut, shaves off Gopi’s moustache, and dresses him up in trousers and a shirt. Even better, he sends Gopi off to the city, to a lawyer named Narayan Prasad. Narayan Prasad is a fine upstanding man who helps the poor and is Neelkanth’s arch enemy. He will certainly take on Gopi’s case. What’s more, Narayan Prasad’s wife is known to be a very generous and hospitable woman; nobody who ever comes to their home goes away without having eaten.
The scene now shifts to the home of Narayan Prasad (Agha), who is listening to the woes being recounted by a few poor potential litigants who have been ruined by Neelkanth. Narayan Prasad is suitably moved, and his wife Annapurna (Nirupa Roy), who is very hospitable, makes sure the litigants have had a meal.
Later, alone with his wife and their daughter Shobha (Mumtaz), Narayan Prasad gives them some news: a house guest is expected. Anand is the son of a long-ago friend of Narayan Prasad’s; the friend used to be a partner of Neelkanth’s and was ruined by Neelkanth, following which he committed suicide. Narayan Prasad has paid for Anand’s education and now Anand, a young lawyer, will be joining as Narayan Prasad’s junior. Also, Narayan Prasad has his eye on Anand as a potential son-in-law.
He hands over a photograph of the young man to Shobha, and a shyly smiling Shobha is immediately smitten. And you can sort of see what’s going to happen…
Because, sent to Narayan Prasad by Kasturi, Gopi, now cleaned up and looking smart (or as smart as Jeetendra can look in grey shoes), arrives when they’re expecting Anand. Gopi talks about his ‘case’, and Narayan Prasad & Co. naturally think he means the cases his senior lawyer will now assign to him. Annapurna and Shobha ply him with food, nobody lets him get a word in edgeways, and finally Gopi reconciles himself to staying on in this house until such time as he can let them know why he’s come here.
Meanwhile, he discovers that the family owns a few cows and buffalos. You can take the gwala out of the cowshed, but you can’t take the cowshed out of the gwala; Gopi goes off to look up Narayan Prasad’s cows, to coo over them and make much of them. Annapurna is very touched and finds this endearing; Shobha too decides it’s all part of the charm of this man she has already lost her heart to.
It’s not long before Gopi and Shobha are billing and cooing in the cowshed, bonding over milking and cattle feed.
Where, though, is the real Anand?
He has said goodbye to his mother and travelled to Narayan Prasad’s house to start his new job. Alighting at the railway station, Anand looks around for a car he’s expecting Narayan Prasad to have sent for him; one of the drivers of several waiting cars in the tiny parking lot comes forward. This, though Anand doesn’t know him, is Neelkanth’s henchman Jagga, who had been sent to finish off Gopi. In broad daylight, the sun shining on Anand’s face, Jagga sees who he thinks is Gopi, spruced up and cleanshaven, but Gopi nevertheless. So he goes forward, saying he’s been sent by Narayan Prasad.
And Anand, all unsuspecting, gets into the car and is driven off to Neelkanth’s home. There, Jagga appraises Neelkanth about whom he’s brought home, and Neelkanth gives Jagga carte blanche to ‘attend to’ whom both of them have assumed is Gopi. Anand gets jumped on by Jagga and his goons, and escapes with several bruises and a bleeding gash on his arm.
In this state, he somehow gets to Narayan Prasad’s house, where (Gopi, conveniently enough, not being around at the time) he is naturally taken for Gopi (or rather, Anand, since that’s whom everybody has been thinking Gopi to be). Much is made of him, and Anand is puzzled when he’s hustled up to ‘his’ (Gopi’s) room.
Shortly after, Gopi arrives, and the two men discover each other.
As one can imagine, some interesting twists and turns lie ahead.
What I liked about this film:
The story, up to about the last half-hour. It has some interesting twists and turns, and is pretty entertaining. One especially laudable thing is the pace: Jigri Dost moves at a good clip, with everything—romance, crime, deception, snooping, etc—happening simultaneously. For once, Nirupa Roy has some funny scenes to her credit, is not horribly melodramatic, and doesn’t lose any children.
Mumtaz, though she doesn’t get to do very much except be pretty, does pretty very well.
And, the reason I watched this film in the first place: Mere des mein pawan chale purvaayi. The music of Jigri Dost was composed by Laxmikant Pyarelal, and this song, which appears both at the start of the film and somewhat later too, is fairly likeable; so is the Aruna Irani song-and-dance number, Chhedo na dekho na. Another popular song is Dil mein kya hai.
What I didn’t like:
The last half hour of the film, which becomes rather ridiculous and is full of plot holes, what with Kasturi, Gopi, Narayan Prasad et al pulling off some utterly ludicrous stunts. That last half hour becomes almost farcical, it’s so weird.
Plus, the simply awful choreography. Dance is not something I often pay much attention to, unless it happens to be exceptionally good; but here, especially in songs like Dil mein kya hai, Raat suhaani jaag rahi hai, and Phool hai bahaaron ka, the dancing is horrendous. Combine that with a plethora of obviously fake flowers and other ugly additions to the sets, the songs of this film end up being rather unpleasant to watch.
And, Jeetendra. I am not a Jeetendra fan, though I can tolerate him in some of his early roles (and I like him in the handful of films he made with Gulzar in the 1970s). But here, he wasn’t good at all, with Gopi and Anand not coming across as two appreciably different men. I kept thinking, as I watched Jigri Dost: what if someone else had played this role? What if Dharmendra, Shashi Kapoor (or Shammi, though he had pretty much gone to seed by this time), Sanjeev Kumar, etc, had been given this role? I could imagine pretty much any of these leading men (all of whom I’ve seen playing credible double roles in films) doing a better job than Jeetendra did.
But, all said and done, not a film I yawned through or wished I hadn’t seen.