Returning to Hindi films after a bit of a hiatus, I've rewatched a couple of movies that I saw about a year ago but didn't get around to writing up, and it's been interesting to note that some of them I liked better the second time around. Ashanti was one such. And another is Dilli ka thug ("Delhi rogue") - while not much more than a pleasant timepass, it is loaded with smiles, songs, and antics that just reminded me why I love Hindi movies.
Kishore (Kishore Kumar) is an unemployed newspaper reporter who makes his living conning rich folks at the gambling table. His mother scolds him, fearing that his roguish antics threaten his sister's engagement to a boy from a respectable family. But Kishore has no respect for the rich, whose unscrupulous greed, he says, ruined his father's name and caused his death. Meanwhile, Kishore's friend Suhanlal, who is mixed up with a counterfeit medicine racket, is murdered by the racket's mastermind Amarnath (Krishnakant). Kishore learns from Police Inspector Dilip Singh (Ifthekar) that this murderer is likely the man responsible for Kishore's father's downfall and death. Kishore vows to find him and bring him to justice - but he has no idea that the man is the uncle of the charming girl he's set his heart on, Asha (Nutan).
Dilli ka thug does not pack much in the way of substantial messages or delicate themes. But it does have its surprises. Asha is a champion swimmer, a doctor, and owner of a controlling interest in a pharmaceutical company - her intellectual superiority to Kishore is made quite plain, both in the lead-up to the charming song "C-A-T Cat" and in several clever tricks she plays on him. And she shows her guts in the film's climax (aboard a pilotless aircraft), where she steps up to take the film's decisive action.
The real star of Dilli ka thug, though, is Kishore Kumar's relentless and adorable energy. He dons costumes, leaps around the screen waving his rubbery limbs every which way, smiles and pouts with a charming childlike air. Even the fight scenes are played for laughs, and his comic interactions with the owner of a drugstore where he works are hysterical. In one delightfully manic scene, Kishore cons three investors (very broadly caricatured themselves - a rich nawab, a South Indian swami, and a Parsee businessman) by pretending to negotiate with a maharaja. He jumps - literally - from one side of the conversation to the other, first playing his own role, then the role of the maharaja, then back again. He even manages to squeeze in a few lines for the maharani.
And in his courtship of Asha, Kishore's manic energy takes a very sweet tone. I grinned like a dope all the way through "Hum to mohabbat karega," both at Kishore's adorable courtship and at Nutan's sweetly and willingly weakening resistance to it. There are other very fun songs too, including two excellent cabaret numbers and an impressive display of synchronized swimming that features Nutan emerging from the petals of a giant lotus blossom. But the sweet moments of Kishore's courtship of Asha - and her gradually warming to his goofball earnestness - are the best pleasures of Dilli ka thug. It's not in the same league as Chalti ka naam gaadi - but that is pure perfection, one of the most fun films ever made. Still, if you liked Kishore and the tone of the romance in that movie, you will find something to enjoy in Dilli ka thug.