The swinging 60s. The James Bond phenomenon had taken over the world. Indian cinema too had begun creating its own super spies and secret agents, who were all set to protect India from its enemies wanting its destruction. A 1967 film, Farz, saw the introduction of Secret Agent 116 or Gopal Kishan Pandey, who has to investigate the murder of fellow secret agent 303 and uncover and prevent a sinister Chinese plot against India. Gopal, played by a relative newcomer then, Jeetendra, not only successfully saves the country but also sings, dances and prances about with such unbridled energy that with the films success, he came to be labelled Jumpick Jack! The name stuck thereafter. Today on his 73rd birthday (he was born Ravi Kapoor on April 7, 1942), we look at some of the iconic songs associated with Jeetendra.
What better start then than the film that gave birth to the Jumping Jack phenomenon – Farz. Here’s Jeetendra jumping… sorry dancing all around Aroona Irani in one of his earliest hits!
Like Shammi Kapoor, Jeetendra’s energetic moves came off best in songs where he pursued and teased the heroine when she was yet to fall in love with him. Here, we see a harassed Hema Malini being ‘wooed’ by him in Waris (1969), their first film together.
Humjoli (1970) saw Jeetendra and Leena Chandavarkar ensuring that badminton would never be the same in Hindi cinema. Though it has to be added here that the film, a re-make of the MGR-B Saroja Devi Tamil film, Panakkara Kudumbam (1964), did take this very situation from the original.
Caravan (1971) was one of Jeetendra’s biggest hits and certainly boasted of one of the most memorable soundtrack among his films with the RD Burman-Nasir Hussain team delivering solidly as always.
Jeetendra showed that there was a serious actor lurking within him as he joined hands with Gulzar for Parichay (1972), a take off from The Sound of Music (1965). He gives a suitably underplayed performance as the tutor to a group of children being brought up by their stern grandfather (Pran), following the death of their parents. The Gulzar-RD Burman combo came up with some great songs in the film including this one.
Jeetendra formed an extremely successful partnership with filmmaker LV Prasad beginning with Jeene ki Raah (1969) and continuing with films like Shaadi ke Baad (1972), Udhaar ka Sindoor (1976) and this huge hit of 1974, Bidaai. A blonde Jeetendra playing the King of Hearts to Leena Chandavarkar’s Queen in this set designed like a deck of cards takes Indian cinema surrealism to a new level!
Fortunately, films like Gulzar’s Khushboo (1975) kept the balancing act going for Jeetendra. Yet again, he proved that he had it in him to come up with a nuanced performance if the director was willing to take it out of him.
The 1980s saw mainstream Hindi cinema reach its nadir with the influx of Telugu film remakes and their so-loud-that-it-hurts aesthetics. Sadly, Jeetendra was an important part of this garish movement as his films with mostly Sridevi and Jayapradha as his co-stars, proved to be some of the biggest hits of their times. Here’s one song from the film that is believed to have started it all, Himmatwala (1983). The picturization says it all!
Unfortunately, films like the Himmatwala are the ones that come to mind first whenever Jeetendra’s name crops up in film discussions. It’s a pity because as this song from another Gulzar-Jeetendra combo (Kinara (1977)) illustrates, Jumping Jack was actually capable of so much more.