Dir. Shankar Mukherjee
As Kishore Kumar movies go, Jhumroo follows a set of conventions that are relatively ordinary for filmi romantic comedy. The title character Jhumroo (Kumar) is a poor boy who falls in love with a rich girl, Anjana (Madhubala). Anjana's father Dwarkanath (Jayant) vehemently opposes the match, and machinates to drive a wedge between them. There is even some baby-switching backstory to lend an appropriate masala touch. But Jhumroo is a Kishore Kumar movie, and that sets it quite apart from the romantic genre it echoes in plot outline. The presence of Kishore Kumar is a sort of license to be wacky. Jhumroo is a filmi kind of gypsy-tribal fellow, but the village he lives in lies at the foot of a mountain, and he dreams of being a Sherpa. This profoundly silly premise provides a pretext for lots of delightful physical comedy as Jhumroo attempts to guide Dwarkanath on a climb, and the movie is crafter to offer many more opportunities for Kishore to do his manic thing, layered atop the conventions of romance.
Even more than that, though, Jhumroo bears the unmistakable mark of Kishore Kumar on its music; Jhumroo was the first film on which he was music director, and he pulls out all the insane, goofy stops to make it wonderful and silly and fun. The movie is a treasure trove of hilarious, fun, and wild songs. Kishore Kumar yodels his way through the title track like no one but he can. In “Babu aana, sunte jaana”, he competes hilariously with his fellow villager, Chamki (Chanchal) over who can make a sale to Madhubala in the market. It's hard to pick which is the most outrageous song of all, in a movie that offers you both tribal chieftan Kishore wheeled about on an expansive set festooned with a massive eagle totem, and this brilliantly catchy piece of goofiness:
There's also a delightful nonsense song in which Jhumroo and Anjali's putative husband-to-be (Anoop Kumar) try to one-up each other for Anjali's attention. It's enough to make you wish Kishore Kumar had been as prolific a music director as RD Burman or Laxmikant-Pyarelal. The songs keep coming fast and thick, and they are all well-crafted both musically and visually.
It's common in romances for the leads to span a vast social gulf, but in Jhumroo, Madhubala's character Anjana and Jhumroo himself are separated by a Himalayan peak, literally and figuratively, Anjana has earned an MA degree abroad, and lives in the pompous Dwarkanath's mansion atop the very same mountain at whose foot Jhumroo's village nesteles. Anjana falls for Jhumroo in a fun, self-conscious reversal of an ever-so-familiar filmi trope: before the two meet, Jhumroo's singing as it wafts up to the mansion in an evening breeze, and Anjana is drawn by the sound, like Dilip Kumar in Madhumati. But it isn't the haunting trill of Lata Mangeshkar that hooks Anjana here – it's Kishore Kumar's trademark yodeling! And when they finally meet, she laughs heartily at his every goofy move and the nonsense he rattles off at speed. I love this about Kishore Kumar movies, the way competent, educated women – doctors, performers, degree-holders – fall for him just because he's adorable, and laugh from their bellies when he does his thing. (Stay tuned for more from me on that very topic.) Also Madhubala is genius at a gentle physical comedy that both gets out of Kishore's way to let him own the screen, and yet underscores and amplifies the delight of what he is doing. Check out her reactions to his yodels in the first ten seconds of this song for a tiny sample of what I mean.
For all its familiarity, its commonality with other beloved Kute Kishore Komedies like Half-Ticket and Dilli ka Thug, there is something a little brooding and Dilip-Kumar-ish about Jhumroo the man. He years for his dream of the mountaintop and the woman who dwells there, and when he thinks these have been taken from him, he grows sullen and sharp. His mother (Lalita Pawar) wants to see him appointed head of the village; at first, proud and arrogant as any Dilip Kumar character, he spars confidently and successfully with his rival, but later, his spirit deflated by unrequited love, he falls to depression and loses interest in earthly power. And like a Dilip Kumar character he is absolutely horrid to his childhood friend Chamki, as in this song, a rather blatant borrowing from "Tequila," in which he slaps her around rather shockingly, one of the rare occasions in which the comedy in a Kishore movie fails the test of time. Nevertheless, though, Chamki loves Jhumroo as well as any second heroine ever loved an abusive Dilip Kumar (cf. that actor's relationship with Nimmi in Aan).
So Jhumroo has some layers to it; it's not all-out zaniness like Half-Ticket, but also both draws on and pokes a stick at the tropes of romantic films, and of heroes, that prevailed in its time. This makes it all the more satisfying, offering both something to laugh about and something to analyze. And I challenge you to walk away from this movie without the staccato silliness of “Ge-ge-ge-geli zara Timbuktuuuu” stuck in your head for a good long while.