Dhund (1973): A Gripping Thriller
28th July is the death anniversary of well-known character actor Jagdish Raj Khurana. Jagdish Raj played the role of a police inspector in numerous Bollywood films. Dhund is one such film where he had a slightly extended role as an inspector who supports police inspector Madan Puri who is investigating the murder. Dhund was adapted from Dame Agatha Christie’s novel The Unexpected Guest.
The most remarkable aspect of B R Chopra’s directorial abilities is that he could make a thriller with the same panache as he could a socially relevant film (like Sadhana, Gumraah, Nikaah). I think some of the credit has to go to his editor Pran Mehta who edited most of Chopra’s films. 
Dhund has memorable music by the redoubtable Ravi. It also has Chopra favorites Nana Palshikar and Ashok Kumar in pivotal roles. Zeenat Aman has been presented well too and Sanjay Khan looks handsome even though he was 32 when the film released.  Zeenat Aman’s sartorial sense deserves special mention – whether it is a saree or a night dress, she carries it off so well. Very few actresses have had such an excellent fashion sense in Bollywood. It is a mystery how the veteran actress managed to style herself so well in film after film. She deserves credit for her innovative styling.
Veteran actor Danny Denzongpa recalled how he had to persuade Dharam Chopra, the cinematographer, to allow him to throw a plate the way he wanted to.
That particular scene had a powerful impact when the movie released.
But the most tragic aspect of viewing Dhund is to recall the acrimonious association between Sanjay Khan and Zeenat Aman in real life. Sanjay Khan, who has also released his autobiography, was born as Abbas in Bangalore in 1941 and studied in St Germaine’s High School near Ulsoor lake. He grew up in Cox town before shifting to Bombay in the early 60s to try his luck in Bollywood. In Dhund, Khan plays the knight in armour who comes to the rescue of a young woman Rani Ranjit Singh (Zeenat Aman). Khan enacted reasonably well the role of Suresh, a lawyer who is contesting the elections in Mahabaleshwar. Rani is mentally and physically tortured by a boorish husband Ranjit Singh (Danny Denzongpa in the role of a lifetime).  In real life, Khan and Aman were married for a brief while before they separated. Khan was already married to a Parsi woman called Zarine Katrak in the mid 60’s.
During the shooting of BR Chopra’s Insaaf Ka Tarazu in Pune, Aman was shuffling between Pune and Mumbai. Sanjay Khan was holding a party in a well-known five star hotel in Bombay and he allegedly forced Zeenat to travel from Pune to Bombay to attend the party.
According to insiders in Bollywood, he had become suspicious of Zeenat Aman and wanted her to give more preference to his home production Abdullah. Reports say that he took out his shoes (with pointed heels) and hit Zeenat with such a force that it damaged one part of her eye. Perhaps they had had a nasty argument. But it appears that he kept hitting her even as his guests who had graced the party cheered him on. Aman and Khan separated soon after but Aman had to be hospitalized and till today the ravages of the violent attack can be seen on her beautiful face. I was pained to read about the violence that Aman had to undergo under the hands of her lover. I don’t think any woman deserves this kind of treatment!
On a misty night in Mahabaleshwar, a car meets with a freak accident and the man driving the car Chandrashekhar (Navin Nischol) enters the house of Ranjit Singh (Danny) to make a telephone call. Instead he finds Ranjit Singh dead and a woman (Zeenat) standing in front of the dead body and holding a gun. The woman says that she has killed her husband and says that her husband was violent and animal-like in his behaviour. They had had an argument. Ranjit had taken the revolver to shoot at her and in the physical tussle that ensured, the bullet had accidentally hit Ranjit Singh. Chandrashekhar stages a ploy to save Rani from the gallows.
The police are called and events are narrated in such a fashion as to create the impression that robbery was the motive behind the murder. Chandrashekar’s creativity comes handy but he lies to the police that he saw a man in a black or dark blue overcoat rushing out of the house. Rani is thankful to Chandrashekar for saving her.
But as the police team (Madan Puri and Jagdish Raj) start investigating the murder, skeletons start tumbling out of the cupboard one by one. Ranjit Singh was a maniac who lost both his limbs during a hunting expedition when a tiger had attacked him.
Ranjit Singh treats his family members (mother Urmila Bhatt, a younger brother and his wife Rani) so badly that they are all fed up of him. He keeps using his revolver to shoot at birds, dogs and cats. Even the servants in the households (Deven Varma and Ashoo) are petrified of their master.
Ranjit, who leads an insular life in his bungalow near the jungle, never loses an opportunity to fire a volley of abuses at his hapless wife. He is frustrated to the core due to his physical handicap and that he has to be wheel chair bound forever.His hectoring has assumed gigantic proportions causing intense discomfort to his family members.
When Rani attempts suicide, Suresh (Sanjay Khan) saves her in the nick of the time. He escorts her back home and assures Rani that he would visit her daily.
Slowly a bond develops between Rani and Suresh (we can’t really blame Rani, can we?) which eventually blossoms as love. Suresh assures Rani that he can get her a divorce from the wily and vituperative Ranjit. Ranjit has no hold on his tongue as he abuses his wife in front of Suresh.
Things take a turn for the worse when there is a major argument between Rani and Ranjit and the latter threatens to either kill her lover or spill the beans about their affair in front of the media gathering at Savoy Hotel. Rani calls up Suresh at the hotel and informs him about Ranjith’s nefarious plans.
What happens next? Who murdered Ranjith Singh? Who is the real culprit? How are things resolved towards the end? Do Rani and Suresh get united? For answers to these questions, you have to watch the movie. The courtroom scenes are interesting to watch and Ashok Kumar as the public prosecutor Mr Mehta manages to charm you with his arguments laced with sarcasm and humour. Nana Palshikar as the judge has his moments too. Palshikar’s dialog delivery is amazing.
When Dhund was released in 1973, it was only an average grosser. May be the film was ahead of its time. Songs like Jubna Se Chunariya Kisak Gayi Re, Sansar Ki Har Kshay Ka , Uljhan Suljhe Na are eminently hummable and these compositions are proof of the wonderful synergy that composer Ravi had with the legendary lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi.
Performances are avant-garde, be it Danny, Sanjay Khan, Zeenat, Palshikar or Ashok Kumar. Deven Verma as the Nepali servant provides the comic relief in an otherwise intense plot. Nivedita (Libi Rana) has a brief role (guest appearance) and strangely her name is not featured on the credit rolls.  Rana had debuted with the Kamaljeet-Waheeda Rehman starrer “Shagun” but despite her beauty and charm, she couldn’t make it in Bollywood. You could easily call her the Katrina Kaif of the 60s. She is now settled in South Mumbai. It is a bit ludicrous to see the posse of policemen (Puri, Jagdish Raj etc) who are bulky and obese. However, they have played their parts with perfection.
Dhund is a fast-paced thriller that is a must-watch. It also has repeat value mainly because of the way the screenplay has been treated. Cinematography by Dharam Chopra is brilliant and so is the editing. Chopra has captured the beauty of the picturesque Mahabaleswar in the most aesthetic fashion.  The background music adds to the suspense quotient of the film.
Dhund is a must-watch….Don’t miss it and do not reveal the end to anyone! 
Dhund was remade years later in Tamil as Puriyadha Pudhir (1991) and the film starred Raghuvaran, Rehman, Rekha and Sithara. It was a moderate success at the box office.
(After working in the corporate world for close to two decades, Bhagyalakshmi Seshachalam started her second career innings as a head-hunter. She is passionate about Hindi movies and loves retro music. When her family shifted to Chennai in the 80s, Bhagya had a taste of Tamil cinema too. In the long term, she plans a book on two of her favourite directors – Guru Dutt and K Balachander. She travels across the country on work and is based in Mysore.)
3 years ago
Excellent review...kudos...not often does one come across such a nuanced and articulate review these days.
3 years ago
It is the theme from Shaft, composed by Sir Isaac Hayes...it has been used in numerous movies in the early/mid 70s
3 years ago
Is there any one out there who can tell me a western music played by as a suspence them when Chandrashekhar (Navin Nischol) enters the house of Ranjit Singh (Danny) to make a telephone call.
Ramesh Poapt
4 years ago
nivedita had arole in 'djarti kahe pukarke' with sanjeev kumar, a good
song picturised on her, 'diye jalaye aaj hum, chalo isi khushime'
she was heroine in one more black n white movie with again
sanjiv kumar as hero. story was about believing in God or not.
Replied to Ramesh Poapt comment 4 years ago
I recall having seen this movie. It was called "Jyoti". Sarika was a child artist then and had a screen name called as "Master Suraj". Sanjeev Kumar and Nivedita played the lead in this film that had a memorable number "Soch Ke Ye Gagan Jhoome" that was sung by Manna Dey and Lata Mangeshkar. This was a 1971 release.
Anil Kumar
4 years ago
Great review and background information. Thanks
R Balakrishnan
4 years ago
Nice review. Had seen this movie in its first week of release. And then seen it another time. Thanks
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