Jigri Dost (1969)

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.

 

34 thoughts on “Jigri Dost (1969)

  1. I agree. A fairly bearable movie ! It was Komal nee Poonam Chandiramani’s debut movie. After quitting movies and marrying Shatrughna Sinha, she made a sort of comeback with Jodha Akbar ( 2008 ) where she played Akbar’s mother.
    The gyrating crude style of dancing was a hallmark of director Ravee Nagaich with which he created box office history with FARZ and carried on with this one and some others.
    Very aptly reviewed !

    • “The gyrating crude style of dancing was a hallmark of director Ravee Nagaich with which he created box office history with FARZ

      I have seen some more Ravee Nagaich films before (including Farz) but while the dancing did strike me as crude, the overall effect wasn’t such an eye sore as it was here! This was hard to watch.

  2. For once, Nirupa Roy has some funny scenes to her credit, is not horribly melodramatic, and doesn’t lose any children.

    I snorted! This was right after wondering why you had chosen to review this, of all films. :) Jeetendra, the actor, is not much of a favourite (I generally tend to avoid his films), but as a person, I do have a soft spot for the man. But the combination of Jeetendra and Ravi Nagaich is one I try my best to avoid. Yet, your review makes me want to watch this! See what you’ve done, you bad woman… :)

    • “but as a person, I do have a soft spot for the man

      Now that sounds interesting – would you care to elaborate? I always like to find out ‘nice’ insights about celebrities.

      And actually, this isn’t an absolutely horrid film. It’s pretty entertaining for most of it.

      • According to my filmi dost, he was very polite and respectful towards everyone on set including the secondary cast and the crew. Didn’t throw his weight around, didn’t think he was God’s gift to women, came on time, quietly did his work and left. Friend’s general rule of thumb is ‘Find out which big star is adored by the light men and spot boys – you will generally find that they are genuinely nice people.” And Jeetendra fit that bill.

        • That sounds like a nice person! Makes me like him. :-)

          And that sounds true of pretty much every profession I’ve known where there’s scope to be a star – the ones who don’t let the stardom get to their heads and are loved by the ones at the bottom, are the real gems.

    • Oh, yes. I remember this review – I must put this movie on my bookmarks list. Thanks for reminding me, Anu. Coincidentally, I am right now watching a Nirupa Roy film too: The Clerk and the Coat, aka Garam Coat.

  3. I’ve seen this and remember nothing at all about it except Raat Suhani, which seems right.

    I do love the visualisation of that song, although it looks extremely hazardous and also, stagnant water really inhibits movement (as you can tell).

    I think the very stylised dancing was a response to the intentionally artificial (satirical) dancing you get in youthquake movies in the West. I really need to get to that dance book.

  4. This story was so popular, that apparently this 1969 Hindi remake was preceded by the Kannada original (1966), a Telugu remake (1968) and followed by a Tamil remake in 1970. I’ve watched the Tamil version with MGR in a dual rule and Jayalalitha and Lakshmi as the heroines. His one-time heroine S Varalakshmi acts as his mother-in-law. Still the movie is very watchable and has great songs (no fake flowers either!).

  5. Jigri Dost was a re-make of the very popular Kannada movie Emme Thammanna , which was a massive hit. It was then re-made in Telugu and Tamil with NTR & MGR as heroes in respective versions. All the three thespians -includes Rajakumar of Kannada industry-had been very well versed in the ways of life in village . Jeetendra , being a city bred , had no such exposure and performed poorly. But for the music the movie would have done much worse at the box office.

    • You have a point there. Yes, Jeetendra’s urban background (and, actually, overall not-great skills as a thespian) come in the way of his giving a convincing performance as Gopi.

  6. Your description of Nirupa Roy (“and doesn’t lose any children”) had me rolling in the aisles.
    As you mentioned at the beginning, one of your goals of such reviews is to warn people off watching the movie and I salute you for that. But after watching such a movie as Jigri Dost don’t you wish you could have spent your time more fruitfully? Especially when there are so many wonderful movies to watch.

    • Well, this one wasn’t really as awful as some others I’ve seen (Ghar ki Laaj, Chandan ka Palna, I’m thinking of you!) At least it was pretty entertaining most of the way. Also, the problem is, I’m now running out of the ‘so many wonderful movies to watch’ in Hindi! I am finding it increasingly difficult to find movies I haven’t already seen. Recommendations will be most welcome. :-)

      • Hijacking the conversation to recommend Sunil Dutt’s Beti Bete (1964). It’s about 3 separated siblings and pretty predictable. But Sunil’s arc is interesting especially his snobbish attitude to the poor since he came from that class originally. Also how his would-be-FIL is obsessed with his character in drama as Krishna. Also Joy Mukherjee and Saira Banu’s Door ki awaaz (1964). Joy Mukherjee gets the shock of his life when his amnesia stricken wife Saira Banu turns out to be…a tawaif.
        P.S. Saira’s dancing skills are abysmal. I don’t know how she established her career as a renowned tawaif..

        • Thank you for the recommendation! I haven’t seen Beti-Bete, so will bookmark it right now. I like Sunil Dutt a lot. I have seen Door ki Aawaaz, an d you’re right – that angle is interesting.

          On a side note, yes: Saira Banu as an accomplished and famous tawaif is about as believable as Nanda as the Nartakee. Her dancing is embarrassingly inept.

  7. At least Aruna got to play something other than the standard vamp for a change. A police officer/secret agent and person -in-charge. I watched it way back when I was a kid and I remember wondering why Kasturi was playing a peeping-tom to his sister’s sexy duet in the rain with Jeetendra.

  8. A comment is due on Jeetendra, the great survivor of the Sixties. A mediocre actor, he had the ability to adapt to the times. Starting with the role of an’ extra’ (in Sehra by Shantaram), he graduated to idealistic roles in films be the same maker (as a teacher and sculptor).He was always known to be punctual, polite and therefore prolific in the late sixties and early seventies, starting
    with Farz and Humjoli. So many Masala
    Movies he acted in, with his characteristic
    dancing and his white shoes! Then, in the
    mid seventies, he sensed the wind changing, and latched
    on to Gulzar. Then moved to the South, where
    he mainly danced with pots and pans (and
    of course a Heroine).
    He was not involved in any major scandal, was
    not insecure about his co stars and was never
    obsessed about being number one. Took.
    meticulous care of his health and physique,
    and had a relatively happy family life!
    All in all, an average hero but a likeable human
    being!
    Nitin

    • Very true. He was really that lambi race ka ghoda, as they say. Held his own right through from the late 60s into the 90s. I suppose not being obsessed with being #1 helped him stay grounded and that’s why more likeable.

  9. Madhu,
    I have something about Jeetendra, therefore, I would not have seen this film. But your review presents an interesting story, as far as it goes. So twin brothers-separated-in childhood stuff? And I noticed an interesting trivia. In ‘Awara’ KN Singh was a blue collar worker, Jagga Daku. He soon went up the social ladder in films, a sophisticated Don in suits. In this one he employs a blue collar worker, Jagga.
    AK

    • No, no separated in childhood stuff, actually. Like Hum Dono, this is just a case of inexplicably same faces, same voices.

      Thanks for that bit of trivia! Interesting. :-)

  10. Urgh I agree about the choreography! When Sonakshi Sinha made her debut, I was curious about her mother and so I watched a few of her songs and scenes. ‘Dil mein kya hai’ remains a painful memory. What on earth was that? It was so weird.

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