Dost Dost Na Raha Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Raj Kapoor sings about betrayal in love and friendship at the piano in Sangam (1965)

Our next translation comes from Sangam (1965), a film starring Raj Kapoor as Sundar, Vijayntimala as Radha, and Rajendra Kumar as Gopal in a classic love triangle story gone wrong. The plot of Sangam is somewhat complex, but it can be boiled down to a few key points:

  • From a young age, Sundar has been attracted to his childhood friend Radha. However, Radha only has eyes for another friend Gopal and persistently rejects Sundar’s advances.  In secret, Gopal reciprocates Radha’s feelings for him.
  • To prove his worthiness as a man and impress Radha, Sundar enlists in the Indian Air Force. Before his departure, Sundar asks Gopal to make sure no man comes in between him and Radha while he is gone.
  • One day, Gopal and Radha receive the terrible news that Sundar is presumed dead after a plane crash. Although they are deeply saddened, this news means that Gopal and Radha can pursue their feelings for each other with a clear conscience. During their courtship, Gopal writes an unsigned love letter to Radha that will become important later in the story.
  • Much to Gopal and Radha’s surprise, Sundar returns happy and healthy from the Air Force–the rumors of his death were inaccurate. The self-sacrificing Gopal keeps his word and steps out of the picture so that Sundar can woo Radha.
  • Eventually, Radha and Sundar get married. It is difficult for Radha to reject Sundar now because his heroic accomplishments in the Air Force have elevated his status to that of a worthy suitor. The newly wedded couple have an extravagant European honeymoon.
  • After their return, the couple enjoy marital bliss. Yet, their happiness is short-lived: Sundar finds the unsigned love letter and assumes that Radha has been an unfaithful wife (although she has stopped all relations with Gopal post-marriage).
  • In the days that follow, Sundar becomes insane with jealousy and makes Radha’s life miserable with constant threats and aggression. Radha flees to Gopal’s house for refuge without knowing that Sundar will end up doing the same thing.
  • The three characters now have a dramatic confrontation where Gopal admits that he is the author of  the unsigned love letter. Tensions flare, and to avoid giving too much away, I’ll just say that the movie ends with a tragic death….

Placed into the context of this film,  Sundar pours his heart out by singing “dost dost na rahaa” after discovering the unsigned love letter that Radha has hidden from him.  With heart-wrenching lyrics penned by Shailendra and a touching melody based on Raga Bhairavi composed by Shankar-Jaikishan, this song is Bollywood’s quintessential anthem for those who have been betrayed in love or friendship. Mukesh’s pathos-laden voice is perfectly suited to express the pain that Sundar must feel after he comes to believe that his two closest companions in life have been unfaithful to him. The intensity of emotion is heightened by this song’s picturization: the camera captures close-up shots of facial expressions when Sundar sings the antara addressed to Gopal followed by the one addressed to Radha.  From watching this scene, it seems like you can cut the tension in the air with a knife! Although no one should ever have to endure being spurned like this in real life, we hope that the lyrics and English translation provided below will allow you to acquire a greater appreciation for one of Hindi cinema’s finest expressions of angst and betrayal that is still a fan-favorite today.

-Mr. 55

Vijayantimala quietly endures Raj Kapoor’s misguided accusations of infidelity in Sangam (1965)

Dost Dost Na Raha: Lyrics and Translation

dost dost na rahaa, pyaar na pyaar rahaa
My friend no longer remains a friend; my love no longer remains love.
zindagii, hame.n teraa aitbaar na rahaa 
Life, I have lost my faith in you.

amaanate.n mai.n pyaar kii gayaa thaa jisko sau.np kar
The one to whom I entrusted my belongings of love,
vah, mere dost, tum hii the, tum hii to the 
My friend, you were him. Only you.
jo zindagii kii raah me.n bane the mere hamsafar 
The one who had become my fellow traveler in the journey of life,
vah mere dost tum hii the, tum hii to the 
My friend, you were him. Only you.
saare bhed khul gaye, raazdaar na rahaa 
All my secrets are now exposed, the secret-bearer no longer remains.
zindagii, hame.n teraa aitbaar na rahaa
Life, I have lost my faith in you.

gale lagii saham saham, bhare gale se boltii
The one who embraced me fearfully while speaking in a somber voice,
vah tum na thii.n to kaun thaa? tum hii to thii.n
If she wasn’t you, then who was she? It was only you. 
safar ke vaqt me.n palak pe motiyo.n ko toltii 
The one who shed tears of pearls at the parting hour,
vah tum na thii.n to kaun thaa? tum hii to thii.n 
If she wasn’t you, then who was she? It was only you. 
nashe kii raat Dhal gayii, ab khumaar na rahaa
The night of intoxication is over, the inebriation no longer remains.
zindagii, hame.n teraa aitbaar na rahaa
Life, I have lost my faith in you.

vafaa kaa leke naam jo dhaDak rahe the har ghaDii
The one who beat each moment in the name of faithfulness
vah, mere nek nek dil, tum hii to ho
My good heart, you are it.
jo muskuraake rah gaye zahar kii jab suii gaDii
The one who continued to smile when pierced with a needle of poison
vah, mere nek nek dil, tum hii to ho
My good heart, you are it.
ab kisii kaa, mere dil, intazaar na rahaa
Now, my heart, I am not waiting for anyone.
zindagii, hame.n teraa aitbaar na rahaa
Life, I have lost my faith in you.

dost dost na rahaa, pyaar na pyaar rahaa
My friend no longer remains a friend; my love no longer remains love.

Glossary

aitbaar: trust, faith; amaanat: property, belongings; sau.npnaa: to entrust, hand over; hamsafar: traveler, companion; bhed: secret; raazdaar: secret-bearer; gale lagnaa: to embrace; saham: fearfully; bharaa galaa: somber voice; palak: eyelid; motiyaa.n: pearls; tolnaa: to weigh; nashaa: intoxication; khumaar: inebriation; vafaa: faithfulness; dhaDaknaa: to beat; nek: good, worthy; zahar: poison, suii: needle; gaDnaa: to pierce, thrust in; intazaar: wait.

Rajendra Kumar, with a distressed and guilty expression, listens to Raj Kapoor’s allegations of disloyalty during this song from Sangam (1965).

The Glorification of Alcohol in Hindi Cinema

A study released in April of this year claimed that Indian adolescents aged 12-16 exposed to alcohol consumption in films were nearly three times more likely to drink than their peers who did not watch Bollywood movies. While this study most likely pertains to the movies released in the industry today, I would venture to say that the origins of this trend can be traced back to films from the Golden Era of Bollywood cinema. Indeed, the consumption of alcohol has been glorified on India’s silver screen for decades, especially through portrayal of sharaab (alcohol) songs in films. Here, I’ve compiled a list of my five favorite male and female sharaab numbers from the Golden Era–let’s take a closer look at these examples to examine how the consumption of alcohol has been portrayed cinematically and its implications on Indian culture.

“Girls Just Want To Have Fun”

In Bollywood’s earliest days, drinking alcohol in films was portrayed as a strictly masculine activity, à la Devdas and other Bollywood heroes who have famously drowned their sorrows in liquor. In contrast, the idealized image of the traditional Indian woman did not permit the depiction of female alcohol consumption in the media.  This trend began to change in the 60s when films depicted heroines and female actresses playing roles in which they partook in the consumption of the Devil’s nectar, just like their male counterparts. As you can see below, the contexts in which female characters drink vary from film to film: alcohol has been used by the women of Bollywood as a coping mechanism, a means of revenge, or just a way to have a good time.

na jaao saiyaa.n (Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam, 1962): In this film based on a Bengali novel by Bimal Mitra, Meena Kumari gives one of her career’s best performances as Chhoti Bahu. Chhoti Bahu is married to young zamii.ndar (played by Rehman), who neglects his wife at home in order to take part in debauchery at local brothels on a nightly basis. In desperate need of her unfaithful husband’s companionship, she decides to take up drinking in order to keep him away from those pesky courtesans at night. In this heartbreaking song sung by Geeta Dutt, Chhoti Bahu drunkenly entreats her husband to stay at home and spend the night with her. In a truly unfortunate example of art mimicing real life, both Geeta and Meena would succumb to alcoholism as a way to cope with their unhappy marriages in the coming years. For those of you who enjoy this song, be sure to check out Hemant Kumar’s Bengali version of the same tune: “olir katha shune.

Meena Kumari, as Chhoti Bahu, tragically turns to alcoholism in Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam (1962).

piike hum tum jo chale aaye hai.n (Gumnaam, 1965): This film (reviewed by us here) is a suspense thriller loosely based on the Agatha Christie novel And Then There Were None. The story revolves around seven vacationers who find themselves on a remote island in the middle of nowhere after a plane crash. One by one, they are murdered off and the big question is, of course: whodunnit? In the midst of all this tension, two of the vacationers, Miss Kitty (played by Helen) and Asha (played by Nanda), decide to loosen up and have some fun with a few drinks. In this comical duet sung by Asha Bhonsle and Usha Mangeshkar, the two actresses appear to be having the time of their lives in a drunken stupor on screen. I mean, who wouldn’t be having a good time if they were getting drunk with Helen?

Helen and Nanda get sloppy together in Gumnaam (1965). If you excuse the stumbling, Helen actually looks quite sophisticated in this scene because she’s not wearing one of her characteristically outrageous wigs/outfits.

aao huzuur tum ko (Kismat, 1968): This Asha-OP Nayyar collaboration is an all-time classic from the soundtrack of Kismat (along with “kajraa muhabbatvaalaa“). The film’s narrative is so outrageous that it’s not even worth summarizing here, but this song is picturized on the actress Babita, who is the mother of Karisma and Kareena Kapoor. Babita never managed to gain much success as a heroine, and that’s not surprising given that it’s unclear whether she is drunk or undergoing eplipetic fits in this particular scene. She certainly does make a statement though and manages to embarass the hero Biswajeet with her public intoxication at this party. Regardless of the picturization, Asha Bhonsle adds all the right expressions here to make this an unforgettable sharaab number on the basis of the song alone. Her vocal control in the extended introduction (“ham se raushan hai chaa.nd aur taare...”) before the song’s first stanza is especially commendable. 

Babita has probably had one too many in this scene from Kismat (1968)

kaise rahuu.n chup (Inteqaam, 1969): Inteqaam is an entertaining (but occaisionally illogical) thriller that stars Sadhana as a woman who seeks revenge against her former boss because he framed her for a theft that she did not commit. As part of her elaborate plan for revenge, she intends to marry her boss’s son (played by Sanjay Khan) and bring shame to his entire family by revealing that the new bahu is, in fact, a convicted criminal! In this song, Sadhana further embarasses her boss’s family by  acting extremely intoxicated under the influence of alcohol at a public gathering. (Technically, this might not be considered a genuine sharaab song because Sadhana is putting on a facade of being drunk without actually consuming, but I liked this song too much to pass up putting it on the list.) This soundtrack composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal is particularly memorable today because it casts a different light on Lata Mangeshkar, who was considered to be staunchly conservative and traditional in her playback output.  Lata surprises us all by agreeing to sing two sizzling cabaret numbers in addition to this drinking song for the film–listen to her nail those hiccups during the interludes!

Helen serves Sadhana another glass in Inteqaam (1969)

piyaa tuu ab to aajaa (Caravan, 1971): Asha Bhonsle and R.D. Burman come together to produce one of their biggest musical hits together with this classic item number from Caravan. Asha’s performance here solidified her status as the queen of cabaret singing in Hindi cinema. Furthermore, Helen’s portrayal of a nightclub dancer on screen during this song is considered the quintessential Bollywood cabaret performance. Helen’s dance moves are completely outrageous here but she makes it work somehow (see Mrs. 55’s step-by-step breakdown here). Given the ridiculousness of the situation here, you can’t really blame Helen for the heavy drinking…it certainly doesn’t stop her from completely owning the stage during her performance!

Helen gives one of the best cabaret performances of her career in Caravan (1971)

“Alcohol May Be Man’s Worst Enemy…”

Unlike their female counterparts, the men of Bollywood cinema have been imbibing alcohol since the industry’s earliest days. The most popular context for male drinking in Hindi films occurs when the hero resigns himself to heavy drinking in order to drown his sorrows, usually caused by woman-related heartbreak. While female characters are often stigmatized for their drinking and public intoxication, it is more acceptable for men of the silver screen to use alcohol consumption to deal with their grief.  Other contexts where actors are depicted consuming alcohol include scenes of male-male bonding (bromances, anyone?) and seduction of heroines and courtesans. Though Bollywood has glamorized the consumption of alcohol for both genders, the effect is far more pronounced for males, as evident in the examples I’ve selected below.

mujhe duniyaavaalo sharaabii na samjho (Leader, 1964): Even though its soundtrack is full of gems like “tere husn kii kyaa tariif karuu.n” and “ek shahanshah ne banvaa ke ek hasii.n taaj mahal,” Leader is one mess of a film starring Dilip Kumar and Vijayantimala. Dilip Kumar stars as a law graduate and aspiring political revolutionary who falls in love with a princess (played by Vijyantimala). The script has so many holes that it’s difficult to discern the overall message of this film, but there are some scenes of comic relief between Vijayantimala and Dilip Kumar that are worth remembering. By far, however, the main attraction here is the soundtrack composed by Naushad. In this particular number, an intoxicated Dilip Kumar claims that he has been forced to take up drinking to grapple with society’s evils.

Vijayntimala tries to stop a drunk Dilip Kumar from embarassing himself too much at this party in Leader (1964).

din Dhal jaaye (Guide, 1965): Where do I even begin with the praise for Vijay Anand’s Guide? Mrs. 55 and I both love everything about this film: the unique story written by R.K. Narayan, the stellar performances by Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman, and of course, the unforgettable soundtrack composed by S.D. Burman. Each and every song from this film is an absolute gem. In this particular Rafi solo picturized on Dev Anand, the hero drowns his sorrows about lost love in alcohol. The melancholic expression that pervades throughout this scene is enhanced by the beautifully crafted lyrics and tune.

Dev Anand turns to the bottle when love goes sour in Guide (1965).

chuu lene do naazuk ho.nTho.n ko (Kaajal, 1965): With this Rafi number penned by Sahir Ludhianvi and composed by Ravi, Raaj Kumar tries to get Meena Kumari, his on-screen shaadi-shudhaa (virtuous) wife, to come to the dark side by having a drink. Alcohol glorification occurs is at its finest in these lyrics: it is referred to as “mubarak cheez,” or a blessed thing.  Meena Kumari excels, as usual, at looking incredibly uncomfortable and disturbed by Raaj Kumar’s advances in this scene.

A drunk Raaj Kumar tries to get Meena Kumari on his team in Kaajal (1965).

jo unkii tamanna hai barbad ho jaa (Inteqaam, 1969): This film certainly features a lot of alcohol consumption on screen. In addition to the drunk Lata number discussed above, this Rafi solo from Inteqaam is picturized on Sanjay Khan as he laments being a mere object in Sadhana’s plans for revenge. Rajinder Krishan’s lyrics are exquisite in their ability to capture the essence of being deceived in love.

Handsome Sanjay Khan turns to alcohol to get over Sadhana’s deception in Inteqaam (1969)

yeh jo muhabbat hai (Kati Patang, 1970): Directed by Shakti Samanta, this film features an evergreen soundtrack composed by R.D. Burman. This particular number sung by Kishore Kumar is one of Bollywood’s most treasured drinking songs, and it features a handsome and bitter Rajesh Khanna drinking the night away because he was stood up at the altar by his wife-to-be.  Asha Parekh watches from a distance, not yet aware of the fact that she is the woman responsible for his heartache.

Rajesh Khanna drinks another glass of liquid courage before singing about the pain of disloyal love in Kati Patang (1970).

What are some of your favorite sharaab/daaru songs from Bollywood films? Let us know in the comments! We’ll understand if your typing is a little bit off…
Mr. 55

The Bollywood Bromance: Songs of Manly Love

There are few things cuter than a wholesome die-hard Indian bromance. In the past decade, the term “bromance” has become popularized by the American media and by high-grossing summer flicks that explore its comedic aspects—but its roots can be traced back to Hollywood first academy award for best picture Wings (1927). This silent heart-wrenching World War I love-fest between two men inspired dozens of commercial hits down the road from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) to Top Gun (1986). Say what you want about those films, however, Bollywood was unarguably where this concept blossomed to its colorful fullest.

Perhaps it’s cultural—I can remember visiting Simla when I was younger and seeing teenage boys holding hands as they walked down the street. It was just considered a normal expression of friendship. Things have changed plenty since my childhood, but regardless, the marketability of the bromance genre may also likely stem from what had (and has) been for a long time a male-dominated industry–from directors to screenwriters all the way down to the lowly production assistants. In fact, in the early pre-talkie years of Indian cinema, women were not even allowed to act in films, much less attend viewings. Y-chromosome melodrama sells, and sells big. The bonds of manly love have been a glorified subject of Bollywood expression since time immemorial and has inspired some of the best movies you’ll ever watch.

In this post, we’ll explore our top 5 “bromantic” songs of yesteryear films long before the days of Dostana (2008) and even Qurbani (1980). From declaring eternal devotion to sobbing over betrayal, each one has a special place in our hearts and cinematic history.

Amitabh Bachhan and Dharmendra sing out their love in Sholay (1975)

Yeh Dosti (Sholay 1975):

This song is the crowning jewel of Bollywood bromance. Set at the beginning of an all-time megahit, this song showcases two men (Amitabh Bachhan and Dharmendra) riding a single motorcycle and singing their love for each other. Chest-hair is just blowing in the wind as their friendship is put to the test at the film’s climax. Overdone slightly, but a timeless tear-jerker!

Raj Kapoor pours his heart into his sad song of betrayed trust in Sangam (1964)

Dost Dost Na Raha (Sangam 1964):

Talk about tragedy. Raj Kapoor flies to war and saves his country, only to return and discover that his wife Vijayantimala is really in love with his own best friend Rajendra Kumar. This song of betrayal and lost friendship played morosely on the living room piano makes everyone in the room awkward. Please note that low-cut v-neck top. No, I’m not referring to Vijayantimala.

Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachhan being adorable in Namak Haraam (1978)

Diye Jalte Hai.N (Namak Haraam 1973):

A Rajesh Khanna classic. Although best friends, Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachhan come from two very different socio-economic statuses, ultimately leading to a huge public morally-charged battle of principles. Rajesh Khanna plays the good guy as usual, and his on-screen chemistry with Bachhan evokes the joy audiences loved in Anand! Did I mention the obligatory and visible fluffy chest hair?

Facing starvation and homelessness, two boys find friendship in Dosti (1964)

Chahoonga Mai.N Tujhe (Dosti 1964):

This film was unique in that it is entirely about two teenage boys (neither of whom were big stars then) and the sacrifices they make for each other. Did I mention the hero is blind and homeless? It makes it more endearing. This beautiful Mohammed Rafi song of tragedy is when the hero realizes his best friend is better off without him, and decides to get out of his way forever. These are kids, guys. It’s really, really cute.

Pran works to get a smile out of Amitabh Bachhan in Zanjeer (1973). This is a must-see–Pran is just such a beast in this movie.

Yaari Hai Imaan Mera (Zanjeer 1973):

Oh, Pran, you are a legend. This famous song celebrates the friendship between an Indian (Amitabh Bacchan) and an Afghani patthan (the inimitable Pran). He embodies this character so skillfully—look at how he twirls and gives that sly shake of the head, you’d think he had grown up in a mountainous outskirt of Kabul. See, Bollywood knows how to cross political boundaries too!

An extremely honorable mention goes to “Anhoni Ko Honi” from Amar Akbar Anthony (1979). Does it really count as a bromance if they’re actually supposed to be brothers?

Amitabh Bacchan, Vinod Khanna, and Rishi Kapoor are three brothers on a mission in Amar Akbar Anthony (1979)

Share with us your thoughts and additions to our list!

-Mrs. 55

Defining Bollywood Film Noir

Sadhana enters a graveyard as the femme fatale of Woh Kaun Thi? (1964)

In the U.S. historians and film theorists have debated for decades about the meaning of the elusive term: “film noir.” Although many of us conjure an image of a hard-boiled detective and a mystery made more mysterious by the femme fatale, few “film noirs” actually contain these elements. This so-called genre had its roots in German Expressionism with films like Fritz Lang’s M (1931) and in depression-era crime novels. But what does the term “film noir” mean as it applies to Hindi cinema? What are the hallmarks of this genre as it played out in Bollywood and how did it begin?

I will present five films that I propose to be in the genre of Indian film noir. This is no easy task. Just as the term is vague in the American lexicon, so too does it only hazily engulf a variety of Hindi films with low-key lighting. And so I shall begin with an illustrative example. We can debate the precise definition of the genre until the end of time, but I think I can safely say that whatever Indian film noir is, Woh Kaun Thi? (1964) is Indian film noir.

Woh Kaun Thi? has 4 main basic elements. The first is in its distinct cinematographic style and setting—low-key lighting throughout a mysterious mansion and slow unhurried shots with a somber film score to match. The film gives a sense of the world being trapped in a fatalistic dream, whether alone by a graveyard or in a crowd of dancing people.

The second is the film’s overall tone and pacing—there is an uncomfortable sense of being pursued, of an impending doom unless a mystery is solved in time by the hero. Unlike in American film noir, the hero is no cynic and there is no quick sardonic dialogue to off-set the dreary mood. The hero is instead a righteous and innocent man of affairs, an heir to a fortune who becomes a victim. Though mingled with occasional musical highs, the film spirals from a slow and deliberate set-up to a climax closer and closer to complete ruin.

An interesting element of many American film noirs is the flash-back structure, which takes on an interesting form in their Indian counterparts. Woh Kaun Thi? centers around a mysterious background that occurred in the protagonist’s past life. Because the audience of Hindi films was largely composed of practicing Hindus, the world of reincarnation narrative is able to begin on a new and creatively extremely fertile ground. The hero must revisit through song, hearsay, and secrets events that took place in a past life, but whose consequences (whether karma or otherwise) now haunt him. This is the third element.

Fourthly, the film does indeed revolve around the appearance and (mis)guidance of the femme fatale, who is heard singing alluring, tragic songs. The hero is never able to wholly communicate with her, but her intentions are clearly marked with a deadly undertone. The femme fatale remains an elusive character–sometimes he chases after her, sometimes she chases after him—when her story is fully told, only then can the mystery be solved.

The films below can be placed into the category of Indian film noir along with Who Kaun Thi?:

Mahal (1949): Perhaps the grandfather of this genre, Mahal tells of a man tortured and madly in love with an apparition who haunts his mansion and claims a connection from an earlier life. The film also features the haunting vocals of Lata Mangeshkar’s all-time hit Aayegaa Aanewaalaa.

Madhubala mesmerizes Ashok Kumar in Mahal (1949)

Madhumati (1958): This classic Vijayantimala-Dilip Kumar blockbuster is told in flashback to a previous lifetime of the murder of the woman the hero still loves. The gently alluring Aajaa Re Pardesi encompasses the film’s themes of love and debts spanning several lifetimes.

Vijayantimala is reincarnated to find her lover once more in Madhumati (1958)

Bees Saal Baad (1961): A rich man comes to live in his new mansion and must solve a tragedy and murder that occurred 20 years earlier. The film contains a brilliant surprise ending, and Lata Mangeshkar scores once again with the beautiful Kahin Deep Jale, Kahin Dil.

Biswajeet follows a mysterious voice in Bees Saal Baad (1961)

Kohra (1964): This twist on Hitchcock’s Rebecca is told through the eyes of a female protagonist, living in a large, unexplored mansion that is haunted by the apparition of her husband’s first wife. Waheeda Rehman must discover the true circumstances surrounding the first wife’s death before she is driven insane. The song of the femme fatale (Jhoom Jhoom Dhalti Raat) is an absolutely genius and rare example of symbolic imagery in montage to create a feeling of horror from the song.

Waheeda Rehman sees a ghostly vision atop her mansion roof in Kohra (1964)

There are some films that contain one or more of the above elements that I have not classified as Indian film noir. These include Mera Saaya, Gumnaam, and Karz, for different reasons–often overall tone or cinematographic style. Additionally, others might argue that these films should not be categorized at all as Indian film noir, but rather as Indian gothic horror films or other such genres. Watch some of these classics and let us know your take on this chapter in cinematic history!

– Mrs. 55

Losing Yourself in Jewel Thief

Dev Anand and Vijayantimala dance for their lives in Jewel Thief (1967)

I recently went on a Dev Anand binge after hearing the news of his passing last month. This man was an absolute auteur—his films were always ahead of his time. Among my favorite of his films is the 1967 kitsch classic Jewel Thief–an addictive crime thriller centered around the identity of a mysterious jewel thief who wreaks havoc across the nation. I kid you not, I watched this film 4 times in just as many weeks (not recommended).

The first time you watch the film, you might feel overwhelmed by the clash of colours and intentions in the costume and set design, by the flashy effects, and thrilling soundtrack. You ask yourself superficial questions that don’t have real answers–like why on earth is Helen dressed like a chicken? Who seriously keeps a fridge in their living room? And how did Vijayantimala fit into these outfits?

Helen shimmers proudly in a chicken suit at a bar.

The second time, you can appreciate the rich music direction—from Lata’s lilting swan song in Rulaake Gaye Sapna Mera, to let’s not forget one of Asha’s greatest moments as a seductress in Raat Akeli Hai. Perhaps the greatest strength of Jewel Thief is its evergreen soundtrack—and the exciting dance number Honton Pe Aisi Baat. As you watch this song, you’re almost tempted to believe that Vijayantimala really did dance for Pope Pius XII himself at the Vatican when she was discovered at five years old (true story).

By the third time you see the film, you start to wonder why you’re still doing this instead of studying for exams next week.

But on the fourth pass, it dawns on you that beneath the glitzy exterior, 60s kitsch and melodrama, Dev Anand actually made an extremely sophisticated emulation of the greatest Hitchcock thrillers. The theme of double identities runs rampant in many of Hitchcock’s films—and Jewel Thief take this idea of an average man unwittingly mistaken for a look-alike to a new level. Like Mr. Kaplan of North By Northwest, our hero Vinay is so doggedly mistaken for a mystery man he has never heard of, that he joins the hunt to track down his doppelganger himself. The idea of doubles is cleverly underscored in the film’s mis-en-scene–through mirrors, camera angles, and editing. Dev Anand invites the viewer into a flashy glamorous world of deceit and intrigue–and soon, the reader is forced in the best Hitchcockian style to doubt the credibility of the film’s own hero–after all, has Vinay in turn been tricking the audience all along?

Perhaps then it is not surprising that Jewel Thief carries a deeper message underneath all of Asha Bhonsle’s high notes and crazy strobe lighting. Tanuja, who plays the likeable “modern” girl (and makes some awkwardly forward passes for the 60s), coincidentally only dresses in traditional saris after deciding to stand up for what’s right. And like India herself toying with the colorful lures of a Western way of life, Vinay loses and rediscovers his own identity, fighting to uncover the truth behind a glittering facade.

Do we really look that similar…? Hideous clash of plaids aside, though?

Bottom line? You need to see Jewel Thief. Forget the political commentary, forget the sublime soundtrack–just go for watching Helen in a chicken costume.

-Mrs. 55