Bandhe Haath (1973)

I get why Bandhe Haath isn't as well know as it might be. This Amitabh isn't a full throttle star (it released a few months after Zanjeer) and the story lacks emotional focus. But still, there is much fun to be had with the right expectations. Those being, that this is something to heal the '80s or late '70s saturated brain ... when you are are pro-groove, but formula-weary.

Shyamu (Amitabh Bachchan) is a chor. He's been brought up in the house burgling profession, and he's pretty good at it.

But when his mentor in crime is injured, and Shyamu is mistaken for a respected playwright during a getaway attempt,  he gets a brief taste of the sharif-aadmi life.

And he likes it. He also really likes the stage dancer he is expected to work with, the luminous Mala (Mumtaz).

I don't think that was the idiom you were looking for

His mentor (Madan Puri) is worried and laid up with a broken leg, but still lays the guilt on Shyamu, threatening to rob the hospital where he's recuperating alone (!) if Shyamu doesn't help. Strangely, Shyamu doesn't actually give in. He wants out of the business. Guru-ji goes through with the risky job, and meets a bad end.

With the death of the elder thief, the police investigation spurs Shyamu to leave town. He discovers that the real playwright, Deepak (Amitabh Bachchan) is deathly ill AND a doppleganger.

After a crisis of conscience (how cool would it be to have this guy's life?), he dresses Deepak in his own shifty clothes and calls a doctor. But it's too late. Before he knows it, crafty Shyamu becomes the clever Deepak, sort of by default.

This means a cushy job at the theatre and a chance to "collaborate" with a very willing Mala.

Still, Shyamu has left more loose ends than he realizes ... and a dedicated and superfly police sleuth (Ajit) is on his trail.

I promised lots of style, and I don't think you'll be disappointed on that end. A release date of '73 means less manic action, but it doesn't mean LESS less.

Personally, I love soaking in the moment when the wedding cake mansions of the '60s cinema become the Bavarian gingerbread houses of the '70s...something I would date to films released in 1973. The juxtaposition of rosy lingerie and orange bedside lamps perhaps says it all. And speaking of lingerie ....

Note: What I want to know is why the heck older Hindi films are fine with bra appearances but my copy of Queen (2014) actually blurred out an unworn brassiere in one scene. Actually the n*pple hat and exposed cleavage were all left uncensored in in Queen, so now I have zero idea what goes through these censor's heads. Since when did underwear become more scandalous than the body parts it covers?

Ranjeet is also superfly in Bandhe Haath, but that was expected, I think
Besides the general attention to fun sets and costumes, Bandhe Haath is really in love with the blue lighting, right from the opening "chor" montage.

It's an appropriate atmosphere for a film about a cat burglar, I suppose, but it's also right pleasant on the eyes. (One of my least favorite aspects of the 70s is the films that seem to take place in a never ending noon, to the point where your eyes ache for a badly lit night sequence.)

 Mumtaz wears some fabulous stuff as usual (the early 70's Bombay styles were pretty good for a curvy figure), and she has several fun (if sort of WTF) tribal and rural-inspired stage dances.

In one of these dances, Amitabh appears in an Indian kilt. You heard that right. 

But "Nahiin!" Mumtaz is not my favorite Mumtaz. She's so fun in films with spytastic intrigue (like Sachha Jhutha & Roop Tera Mastana) where she has more information than the hero (and thus more power), that I hate to see her exist to be pushed around by her feller's lies and shady past.

In general, I don't exactly appreciate the way the female characters crap-out (agency-wise) in the second half, but for once, some of the guys get their shit together, so, I guess it's not all bad.

Also decent father alert

The most surprising aspect of this film wasn't the occasional divestment of formula, but rather, the action. Shyamu's two fights with Ranjeet's gang come out of nowhere and run long, but they're 100% worth the screen time. The stunts feel anchored in space, the camera moves dynamically, and the set is used sort of like you would see in a good fencing scene; with choreography born of of furniture and prop placement, not just fancy footwork. Honestly, I couldn't stop smiling throughout. I don't usually think of Amitabh at this age as an action star, but clearly, all he needed was the right team behind him.

Across the board, Amitabh turns in an interesting performance in Bandhe Haath. [Fortunate for us, since he's the only story here, barring comic subplots.] It's not trademark anything (angry, humorous, or pompous), which is why this is the perfect film for anyone feeling Bachchaned out.

Chi, chi, chi. When you're tired of Bachchan, you're tired of life. Don't let it happen to you.


  1. This eerily reminds me (scene by scene!) of "Mujrim" (The one with Shammi Kapoor and Ragini which came out in 1958 and NOT the Mithun one). Is it by any chance an official remake or are my brains just addled ? Mujrim was mostly good too and with a brilliant OP Nayyar soundtrack.

    1. I just looked up a plot summary of Mujrim. And, OMG, you're right. Down to the dropped [stolen] ring. Not sure if the end is the same or not. It would be interesting to compare the two, except that I'm a long way in fandom miles from watching second tier Shammi films. (I like his sketchy look in it, tho.)

    2. Haha ! I'm totally checking out Bandhe Haath. Thanks for the brilliant review. I hazily recall Shammi escaping the policeman by some lingerie technique (is it the same scene where you got the screenshot from :P)

      Erm.... B&W Shammi is mostly fun (and sometimes nice and less stalkerish!) You should watch some of 'em.

    3. I'm forgetting how it went down exactly, but it included a wig and lingerie, and I can imagine Shammi doing the scene rather cheekily.

      Clarification: I didn't mean it was second tier because it was B&W, just because I had gotten the idea that it wasn't well known. I know you love him, which I respect, I just haven't got the bug yet. I feel like maybe I'll watch Chinatown tho or something with him and Geeta Bali when I do. D'ya have a favorite Shammi film, just in terms of rewatch-factor?

    4. Haha, I thought Mujrim was second tier initially because it had no wiki entry (I mean, which respectable film does not have a wiki-entry right :P) But it was much much better than the well known and apparently much loved Kashmir ki kali/ Evening in Paris (which did not agree all that well with me)

      Favourite rewatchable movies :

      * Tumsa Nahin Dekha (The character he plays is rather cocky and slightly obnoxious at first, but turns into a lovable one very soon. AND the heroine has plenty of spunk, so she holds her own nicely. And the plot is so Bollywood-iously convoluted)

      *[Half of] Basant (the first half, which is a great remake of It happened one night and some crackling camaraderie with Nutan. The second half thinks it is "An affair to remember" but then gets very confused)

      *Dil tera diwana - Shammi, Mehmood are FUNNY and not irritating. Mala Sinha is great too.

      * Andaz - A subdued (and pudgy) Shammi, a young Hema and a brief appearance by Rajesh Khanna. Actually this was the first Shammi kapoor movie I watched, and I really really liked him in this and was initially quite confused about why he was the "rebel" star etc :)

      I liked him in Jawan Mohabbat too (another 70s film with Asha Parekh, but I'm weird that way)

    5. I did NOT like Shammi in An Evening in Paris, so it's nice to hear even a Shammi fan maybe seeing that. With the exception--he has this one conversational scene with Sharmila that I thought showcased how whip smart he actually was. I am filing away your whole list, esp. the earlier stuff and Dil tera diwana (I love me some funny Mehmood).

  2. D'you know? I haven't watched Bandhe Haath at all, since I like Mumtaz only in specific films. Othewise she is too simpering and not much of an actress for me to like. I should check this one out - it sounds interesting. Amitabh as the bad guy, Ajit as a cop - has the world turned topsy-turvy on me suddenly? :)

    *Shammi pics to watch - Professor, Dil Deke Dekho, Teesri Manzil (to add to the others that the poster above me has recommended)

    1. Totally flipped on it's head, agreed. Naughty Amitabh agrees with me pretty well, and the Ajit stuff was pretty hilariously parody noir.

      I've tried to watch Professor a few times, but to no avail. Eventually I'll probably grow fond enough of him to see his films en masse, but I think I'm in the same boat with him as Rishi. In the right role--with restraint--they can be truly brilliant to watch. Those roles seem to be rare, but I'm willing to be proved wrong.

  3. I've stayed away from this because of all I've heard of it but AB looks so good in these screencaps of yours that I might just be pulled into watching. I LOVE the ' Dekho yeh mere bandhe haath' song. So, so great!

    1. He's really gorg in this film. Worth seeing just for him, and I don't always say that about Amitabh films.


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