Bandini is arguably Bimal Roy’s greatest and most complete film, Do Bigha Zameen nothwithstanding. The story is based on a book by Jarasandha, a former jail superintendent who wrote fictional versions of his experiences (Louha-Kapat (1953), Tamasha (1958), Nyaydanda (1961)). Set at a time when women had no choices, the film’s protagonist Kalyani had the courage to not only make choices in her life but choices which at times might appear to be even wrong ones as she gives up everything for love.
Starring: Ashok Kumar, Nutan, Dharmendra, Raja Paranjpe, Tarun Bose, Asit Sen, Iftikhar
Kalyani (Nutan), an inmate of a women’s ward of a prison in pre-independent India, appears determined to serve out her full term, resisting the kind overtures of the prison doctor, Deven (Dharmendra), who wishes to marry her, fearing her past will catch up with her. Her past is told in flashback.
In Bengal in the 1930s, the daughter of the postmaster (Raja Paranjpe) of the village, she had become involved with the anarchist Bikash Ghosh (Ashok Kumar). Bikash and Kalyani become close to one another and fall in love and in a difficult situation she is passed off as Bikash’s wife in order to save his life. Bikash proposes to her and her father agrees to the marriage. Bikash leaves the village promising to come back. He never does and Kalyani learns he has married someone else. The family becomes the butt of ridicule in the village causing Kalyani to leave the village to avoid her father’s dishonour. She starts working in a hospital taking care of a particular shrewish and obnoxious woman patient. Her father comes to the city in search of her but is killed in an accident. The same day she discovers the woman she is taking care of is Bikash’s wife. Believing the woman to be the cause of all her troubles, Kalyani poisons her. Deven is still willing to marry her and after reading her story, his mother too accepts her. As she leaves for Deven’s house where happiness awaits her, she runs into Bikash again. He is now terminally ill. She learns the real circumstances of Bikash’s unhappy marriage, done for the freedom cause, and decides to go with him.
Bandini is arguably Bimal Roy’s greatest and most complete film, Do Bigha Zameen nothwithstanding. The story is based on a book by Jarasandha, a former jail superintendent. Set at a time when women had no choices, the film’s protagonist Kalyani had the courage to not only make choices in her life but choices which at times might appear to be even wrong ones as she gives up everything for love.
What is exteremly interesting in the film, which suggests a straight link between terrorism and patricide, is the form used by Bimalda. The story, told in flashback from the woman’s point of view, is unraveled in a manner such that by and large she is always there or from where she can overhear the goings on rather than the general practice of opening up the story to a neutral point of view and then relating the whole story. Thus the viewer gets to understand Kalyani and her actions much more clearly and are tied up to her character right from the beginning, thereby respecting her for her actions. Interestingly when Bikash tells Kalyani his story, Bimalda uses the flashback within flashback device in the film, surely one of the earliest use of such a technique in Indian Cinema. The title, Bandini, is explained in the climax of the film in the song Mere Saajan Hai Us Paar – Main Bandini Hoon Piya ki, Main Sangini Hoon Saajan ki…The character of Kalyani gets lifted from that of a woman who is a prisoner of destiny to one who defines her own freedom. It may be another form of servitude but it is one of her own making, not something imposed on her.
If one person is the life and soul of Bandini, it is Nutan. Bandini sees her give an extra-ordinary performance – certainly one of the greatest by an actress in Indian Cinema ranking right there with Nargis in Mother India (1957) and Meena Kumari in Sahib, Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962). Totally devoid of highly charged emotion and theatrics, Nutan appears as a quiet woman with her passions raging from within her and plays her role with great delicacy and dignity. One just has to see the entire gamut of emotions fleeting across her face in the film’s key sequence as she murders her lover’s wife. It is a masterful performance by an artiste supreme at the peak of her histrionic powers. Ironically Nutan had in fact almost given up films after marriage and the birth of her son Mohnish. But Bimalda insisted she take on the film. Nutan responded to the role of a lifetime and how! The success of the film saw her resume her career as an actress as she went from strength to strength right through the 1960s and 1970s with strong performances in films like Milan (1967), Saraswatichandra (1968), Saudagar (1973), Sajan Bina Suhagan (1978), Kasturi (1978) and Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki (1978) before being saddled with mundane mother roles in the 1980s.
Bandini is brilliantly photographed by Kamal Bose with its rich tonal quality and evocative framing. The film also sees the debut of Gulzar as a lyricist with Mora Gora Ang Laile, perhaps one of the most romantic songs in Indian Cinema as it expresses the heroine’s first flush of love. The other songs, written by Shailendra, further add to the poetic quality of the film be it the haunting O Jaanewale Ho Sake to Laut ke Aanaa, or the soulful Ab ke Baras conveying Kalyani’s solitude in prison at one level and the lament of the female prisoner singing it with no hopes of release at another.
The music by S.D. Burman represents perhaps some of the finest work he has done in his entire career. Mora Gora Ang Laile, Ab ke Baras and O Jaanewaale always feature in the best ever songs of Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle and Mukesh respectively.
Sadly Bandini was the last film of Bimal Roy as a director though he did complete another film under Bimal Roy Productions, albeit as a producer – Benazir (1964).
Story: Jarasandha (Charuchandra Chakraborty)
Screenplay: M. Ghosh
Dialogues: Pandit Satyadev Dubey
Cinematography: Kamal Bose
Lyrics: Shailendra, Gulzar
Music: S.D. Burman
Produced and Directed: Bimal Roy