Jugnu (1973)


I needed a respite from a spate of bad/mediocre Hindi movies, so I dragged out some favorites to watch again. Jugnu is one of them. Dharmendra and Hema Malini are dreamy together, and Pran takes a break from villainy. It contains 100% of the Recommended Daily Masala Allowance: it’s almost three hours long and jam-packed with excitement and entertainment. It’s also one of my sister’s favorite films, and there’s no higher recommendation than that!

We begin in 1942, during the Quit India movement. Shyam (Pran), the son of Rai Bahadur Jwala Prasad (Nasir Hussain) blows up a bridge and vows loyalty to the revolution. His father (who has been given a title by the British) disowns him as the police arrive to arrest him for his crime. Shyam’s pregnant wife Parvati gives him the opportunity to escape:


Escape he does; she gives birth to their son Ashok and brings him up on her own. She tells him about his father and how they never managed to find each other after Partition, and about Shyam’s father’s rejection of them. In a classic Hindi movie near-miss, he is given a school prize one day by Rai Bahadur Prasad; of course they have no idea of their relation, but Ashok does quote his father (something his mother does often)—reminding his grandfather of his lost son. On his way home, Rai Bahadur talks with his manager Munimji (Randhir) about his regret for his actions, and how he has no heirs to his fortune now.

Meanwhile, on his way home from school Ashok catches the zamindar of their town assaulting his mother. He beats the zamindar up badly with a rifle butt until Parvati intervenes and forces him to walk away.


The zamindar, thwarted, shoots Parvati and kills her. Ashok in a rage kills the zamindar in return and has to run away, now orphaned. As the townspeople chase after him, Munimji comes on the scene. He recognizes Parvati’s body and sees Ashok running, and realizes instantly who they are. He takes advantage of the situation in order to get his hands on Rai Bahadur’s money by presenting him with a fake grandson, Ramesh. This is done very effectively as a split screen also showing Rai Bahadur’s real grandson fleeing on horseback.


Cut to 15 or so years later, and Ashok (Dharmendra) has grown up and become a thief who calls himself Jugnu (firefly). There is a thrilling sequence where he steals both diamonds and money from a don’s agent aboard a moving train. The don (Ajit) and his agent communicate by a two-way speaker phone type thing. Her gadget doubles as a lighter with a spinning geisha inside it, while Ajit’s is a red ball (and I love that it requires his moll to hold it as it spins in front of him):


It’s superwow! But I digress.

Ashok escapes with the aid of his friend Mahesh (Mehmood) and on his way home comes across a beautiful sharpshooter named Seema (Hema Malini).


They spar verbally and then shoot each other’s hats off. As her friends congratulate him on his aim, she storms off in her car—which unfortunately has the stolen briefcase in it. Mahesh arrives just in time, and they follow her to the Inspector General of Police’s house.

They watch as the briefcase is taken into the house along with Seema’s luggage. They manage to steal it back from her after a funny sequence, and then we are introduced to Ashok’s “day job.” He runs an orphanage for boys (which incidentally greatly reminds me of Disney World), and uses his stolen goods to finance it—all in memory of his mother, whose statue adorns the garden where he talks to her.


Over at Rai Bahadur’s house, a drunken Ramesh (Prem Chopra) is talking to a portrait of his “father” Shyam about how he has celebrated Diwali by gambling and ogling courtesans. Rai Bahadur tells Munimji to take him to his room as Seema and her father arrive with holiday greetings. It’s clear that Rai Bahadur hopes that she will marry Ramesh and reform him.

Later, Ramesh is gambling at a club. Ashok and Mahesh see him cheating and expose him in front of his friends. Ashok challenges him to a game of cards. When Ramesh goes to the club owner to ask for a loan and is refused, a man in the owner’s office says that he will give Ramesh lots of money.


It’s Mike (Manmohan) whom we earlier saw with Ajit. He thinks that it will be easy since Ramesh is a pilot, and nobody will suspect him because he’s practically engaged to the Police Inspector General’s niece. Mahesh, eavesdropping practically right in front of them, hears everything and tells Ashok.

Ashok manages to switch cameras with Ramesh and romance Seema, all at the same time. He also steals the payment from Mike, with the help of one of those gorgeous Rajasthani horses that I love so much.


He sends the camera to Seema’s uncle (the Inspector General) and goes to the station himself. Ramesh is there filing a complaint against Jugnu and he is horrified to see the camera there. Ashok intervenes as he’s about to steal it, and then Seema arrives with some friends. They are raising money for the National Defence Fund; debt-ridden Ramesh coughs up a few thousand rupees, but Ashok writes a generous cheque for 3 lakh rupees. Seema is finally impressed. When she discovers that he runs a home for boys, love blossoms. And when Seema drinks a spiked Coke that Ramesh intended for Ashok, love really REALLY blossoms (a wonderful SD Burman song “Jaane Kya Pilaya Tune”).


The chemistry between these two positively crackles! There is a very silly side plot having to do with Mahesh and his wife and father-in-law (Dhumal of course!) who is a circus ringmaster and wants Mahesh to join the family business. This requires a clown suit or two and a tiger wandering the streets, and culminates in Mahesh spotting Ajit and Mike’s hideout, but that’s all I’m going to say.

Ajit and Mike have discovered the useless photos and are not happy with Ramesh. Ramesh blames Jugnu, whom Ajit remembers from the train robbery.


Ajit has a steel hook which converts to knives, exactly like Mr. Han from Enter The Dragon! Ashok goes one better than Bruce Lee when he shows up though, and Ajit is the one left with scars.


Needless to say, he is out for blood. Ajit’s moll is not as dumb as she looks.


Well, okay maybe she is. But they decide that they must kill Ashok the next night at a dinner being held for the Defence Fund. He is the guest of honor and Seema is performing a dance.

Seema introduces Ashok to the organizer of the Fund when they arrive. He is Professor Chaudhury—and only we know that he is also Shyam, Ashok’s father! Only for about five minutes though. Ashok gives his card to the Professor and says he named his home for boys Parvati Mandir in honor of his mother. The Professor asks what his father’s name was and he quotes his father as his mother always had.


With this, the show begins. It’s a beautiful song with fabulous dancing by Hema Malini: “Meri Payaliya Geet Tere Gaye.” Professor Chaudhury is sitting next to Ashok and leans forward to pick up Ashok’s wallet (which he had dropped when he took out his card). At this moment, Mike fires his pistol and hits the Professor in the arm. On his way out, Mike kidnaps Seema. Since the Professor is not badly injured, Ashok-Jugnu goes in pursuit of them.

It’s a classic chase: now daylight, now night, while Ajit watches it from home on tv and gives instructions to Mike (via a regular microphone this time), like “spray petrol on the road and light it!”


It just keeps getting better. Ajit takes to his helicopter to join the chase. In a tunnel, Ashok manages to stop Mike and they battle it out, resulting in Mike and his henchman driving away in Ashok’s car, while Ashok and Seema are left with Mike’s car. Ajit sees Ashok’s car and deploys his giant magnet, picking up the car with Mike and his henchman inside and dropping it into the ocean as they yell “Boss! Boss!”


This simply could not be improved upon. “Jugnu” flirts with Seema but she tells him she loves Ashok. She teases Ashok when she gets home by repeating Jugnu’s outrageous sentiments:


Ashok pretends to be jealous until she reassures him that it is he she loves with another lovely song. But since we still have more than an hour to go, it can’t be that easy. She takes him home to meet her mother. A garlanded portrait of her deceased father hangs on the wall; he was the zamindar whom Ashok killed all those years ago. He leaves without an explanation or meeting her mother.

When he reaches home, he finds the Professor destroying the statue of his mother. The Professor, searching for them years ago, had heard the story of Parvati’s death and the zamindar’s murder. He is afraid that Parvati’s statue will lead the police to Ashok. Ashok thrashes him in anger until the IG arrives.

What happens over the next hour? Will Ashok discover that the Professor is his father? Will the police catch Jugnu? Can he ever tell Seema that he killed her father? Will Rai Bahadur ever find his son and real grandson? Will the giant magnet make another appearance? Will Seema need her sharpshooting skills? You will have to watch to find out. It is worth it, believe me.

And this, I freely admit, is just gratuitous:


You’re welcome.

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27 Comments to “Jugnu (1973)”

  1. Oh, I adore Jugnu. I haven’t bought it on DVD but it’s up there with Sholay, SaG and Dillagi as one of the best Hema-Dharmendra movies I’ve seen. Dharmendra has some fabulous comedy in this film (love the Punjabi repairman, so over-the-top!) and Hema does some wonderful dancing. Not to mention awesome masala stuff and Ajit. The chases! The thrills! The – SPOILER, kind of – fabulous catfight towards the end.

    Yeah, I definitely need to buy it one of these days.

  2. It’s chock full of goodness. The villains talk loudly in public about their nefarious plans and then wonder who betrayed them. The gadgets! just spectacular. It’s James Bond meets the Pink Panther meets Mission Impossible meets Get Smart (and, of course, Bruce Lee)…and Dharmendra and Hema are just so fabulous together. And you’re right—Dharmendra is hilarious. You do need to own it.

  3. The Bruce Lee reference was new to me. I was reminded of Pink Panther and James Bond, but also Sergio Leone. The hat shoot out is reminescent of Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef in (I think) For a Few Dollars More. I do love Jugnu, for the same reasons you and Sanni do. Especially love towards the end, sitting in plastic chairs, drinking cocktails, while the mechanics of evil are turning…

  4. Ooooh yes! How could I have forgotten Sergio Leone? And the end IS divine. This post could have been so much longer than it already is…with so many more screenshots…but I have to draw the line somewhere. Maybe I will have to do a Jugnu Part 2 with just screenshots.

  5. This sounds like a fun movie – I love movies with these two. Have you seen Tum Haseen main jawaan?

  6. Yes! I think that was their first film together. It’s on my “Favorites” shelf too :-)

  7. i like all hema film u know..

  8. memsaab,
    I will probably be the first person residing in chennai who has an insatiable obsession for the hindi movies and obviously for hindi language.of course after retirement of stars belonging to the golden era,after the passing away of rafi saheb and kishorekumar I stopped watching hindifilms.If I am correct, the last surviving link
    with the golden era is ravi{b r chopra “s pet}.only consolation is i have a huge collection of films of devanand,shammi,shashi,rajeshkhanna,manoj,DHARMENDRA
    etc upto navinnischal.coming to dream girl hemamalini,Ihave collected morethan95
    vcds/dvds of her films and the search is still on. ALL films of dharam-hema combination are invariably entertaining and jugnu is no exception.Do you think
    is there any filmy jodi as popular and as long-standing as this pair,in any other language-leave alone hindi?I am proud of the fact that I am an admirer of this pair.
    some persons say dharam lacks in acting and i get furious.CAN we forget the climax
    scene from “aya saawan jhum ke”?If this is not acting,can someone define acting.
    similarly whenever I watch “andaz”(dying moments of simi)shammi makes you cry.the same set of so called critics had the same comment abt the greatest invidual
    entertaining machine -shammikapoor.
    I wrote at length to express the fact that You are the only critic,I have come acrass
    without any bias.j natarajan

    • Ha! I have plenty of bias, but a lot of it is TOWARDS Shammi and Dharmendra! Someday I’ll write a post on my favorite jodis, and Dharmendra and Hema would definitely be on it, along with Shammi and Asha and Rajesh K. and Mumtaz.

      Dharmendra was/is a much better actor IMHO than people give him credit for (Shammi too, obviously). The thing is that during his heyday subtlety was not generally a requirement! But with a director who wanted that, and a good script Dharam is as good as any of them.

  9. What a nice movie, they just don’t make them like these anymore.
    Got a real masala film hunger from reading it.

    vintage memsaab review!

  10. Everything about this movie is just fantastic. It is my absolute favorite Dharam-Hema movie (yes, more that Sholay which is a tad serious for me). I’m seeing it for the second time this week. But even after seeing it twice, you caught something I didn’t:
    ‘He is afraid that Parvati’s statue will lead the police to Ashok. Ashok thrashes him in anger until the IG arrives.

    My favorite scene–well you know I so love Dharam ji so it is whenever he shows up. But aside from that, it’s Hema so smartly attired for the cat fight. And that song “Mere Payaliya…” which i watch all the time on youtube just to see Hema smile.

    Oh and Memsaab, I’d love to read your post on jodis.

  11. ‘The chemistry between these two positively crackles! ‘

    You know memsaab, I am so so curious to know when they actually fell in love. This scene is a whole two years before Sholay! Maybe they don’t know themselves or else won’t admit it.

    • I think Dharam fell pretty hard for Hema immediately (they first met in 1970 working in Tum Haseen Main Jawan, I remember reading once although they did several films together that year)…but since he was married with two kids she resisted for a while, until they were making Sholay (which took forever to make—Anupama Chopra describes their romance on set in her wonderful book “The Making of Sholay”)…he finally won her over, and the rest as they say is history :)

      • Thanks, now this burning question that was keeping me up nights has been answered somewhat. ;) I had heard that they were quite cozy during the making of Pratigya (pre-Sholay) and that started me wondering.
        The other burning question—Dharam + Meena– is something maybe even you won’t know. Dharam like a gentleman (or coward) is mum on the subject. All I know is that at some point he must have been in love with her. He is reputed to have seen her movie 40 times.

        • According to some site, which I read few years back. Dharam and Meena broke sometime in the late 60s. It seems, when he was gone away from Bombay for a while she had a fling with another guy. And during the making of Apne Paraye, Dharam was in the meighbouring set and he visited her on friendly terms.
          It wasn’t such a big secret. It seems when Meena Kumari met the then President of India Dr. Radhakrishnan, he enquired about Dharam’s health. I think it was when she got the President’s Gold medal for Kaajal but I might be mistaken.

        • Yes, I think the Meena-Dharam affair was also pretty widely acknowledged. He took care of her as her star was waning (and she was getting “sicker”) and his was waxing :)

      • I remember reading that Dharmendra set his eyes on Hema for the first time during the premiere of Aasman Mahal (1968). He mentions that it was love at first sight for him.

        He actually had 4 kids by 1970 – 2 sons and 2 daughters. His sons are the now famous Sunny and Bobby Deol. His daughters are Vijetha and Ajeeta. Dharam’s home production is named ‘Vijetha productions’ after his eldest daughter.

        His daughters from Hema were born in the 80s – Esha in 1982 and Ahana in 1985.

  12. I’ve got Dream Girl and Dillagi and the comedy is good. By the way, this post was done on Leap Year day-if that is the term for it! I’ve seen some tohers which I can’t recollect.

  13. Jugnu is one of the movies from dharmendra glory days, having hit stardom with co-stars such as meena kumari and nutan who should having been popping Xanax or at least made their audience need it, he got his mojo.

    Jugnu, Raja jani, charas, Aankhen and others where he would beat up the bad guys unabashed, play the fooll, romance unbelievably hot women, make us laugh (thankfully stopped making us cry) and make the plot, however fantoosh, come to life. These movies had real jaandaar villian with fabulously imaginative gadgets.

    Memsaab thank you for another good review. You should review Aankhen next.

  14. Seriously, you need to look at the film indexes above. Ankhen has already been done :)

  15. Another great review.

    I found these two lovely pictures of Dharam and Hema.

    I would be very grateful if someone could tell me which films they are taken from. Do you know, memsaab?


  16. I strongly believe that the Dharam Hema pair is one of the greatest pair ever to don the silver screen. With the number of unbelievable hits they were the darling of the seventies which I believe was the best rollicking phase of Bollywood. They were really made for each other and no one to match their glamour and presence on the silver screen.

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