In this weekly column, we revisit the gems of the golden years of Hindi cinema. This week, we revisit the film Bandini by Bimal Roy in 1963.
Set in the 1930s, Bandini is the story of Kalyani (Nutan), a woman who is in prison and who believes that no matter what form of punishment she receives, nothing can ever absolve her of the crime she is taking. she committed that fateful night when she killed her. the wife of the ex-lover. Her guilt for this poisoning has been at the center of her life ever since and Kalyani accepted it as her fate. As she lived her life being the embodiment of her name, the one who cares for others and continues to do so, she swallowed that living by her name is now the only way for her to show remorse for her actions. ungodly.
It is Kalyani’s lack of self-esteem at this point in her life that she cannot see past her sins. So when a kind and progressive doctor (Dharmendra) falls in love with her, she finds it weird. She even begs the jailer not to release her due to her good behavior, as no amount of good deeds can erase her “paap”. As the flashback begins, we are drawn into the Kalyani universe as we meet the woman who fell in love with a freedom fighter named Bikash (Ashok Kumar) and happily sang “Mora Gora Ang Lai Le” in waiting for him. When Bikash promises to return to the village to marry him, Kalyani impatiently waits but Bikash moves on. The company mocks her elderly father for being duped by a revolutionary and threatens them with a social boycott. She packs her bags and leaves, never to look back as Mukesh’s voice sings “O Janewale Ho Sake To Laut Ke Aana”.
Bandini is owned by Kalyani, wonderfully played by Nutan. Director Bimal Roy tells her story from her perspective and doesn’t make her a damsel in distress in need of rescuing, thus staying true to her integrity. Emphasizing the ‘damsel in distress’ aspect is necessary as we see different interpretations of feminism in the film. In what can be considered an important conversation today, Kalyani asks Bikash what he thinks about the role of women in society. He is projected as an open-minded man who claims that if he previously believed that men and women deserve to be equal in society, he has changed his mind and believes that women should stay home because they can do just as much for society outside of the confines of One Household. He talks about his personal experience after being saved by a noble housewife trying to do her part in the struggle for freedom. In another scene, Kalyani’s father echoes the same thought as he calls her “ Annapurna ” and compares women to the goddesses of the house. Looking at these statements today, we can see the problematic nature here and it is probably this kind of pseudo-feminism practiced by men in this era that further widened the great divide in our traditionally patriarchal society.
That said, while we don’t see the protagonist object to these thoughts, the film’s subtext is anything but sexist. Bimal Roy gives way to these divergent opinions but does not enforce them by his main character. Kalyani is a horse rider as she independently finds a job and begins to earn a respectful living while working in a nursing home.
So far, Kalyani is an ambitious woman in this flashback, so the fact that she killed a woman feels like a misunderstanding. That’s when Roy pulls the rug from under your feet and introduces you to the irrational side of a human being that is almost inexplicable. The scene where Kalyani poisons one of the patients is a master class in itself.
Kalyani is probably having the worst day of her life seeing her deceased father in hospital. Adding to the misery, she also discovers that the woman she has cared for for all these days is Bikash’s wife, the woman he left her for. His broken heart is even more crushed. All hope seems lost as Kalyani pumps the stove to make tea for his wife and the fire begins to ignite. Her walk down the hall has the light turning on and off as we hear metal noises. Sparks from nearby metallurgists fly as Kalyani walks in a daze and stops near the bottle labeled poison. For her, it’s almost like an out-of-body experience at that point and it’s evident when you hear her scream upon finding out about the woman’s death. The fact that Kalyani admits his calamitous mistake insists that it was probably a case of temporary insanity. But the damage is done, and Kalyani has to live with the most horrible kind of guilt all of her life.
The end of Bandini has also been a subject of debate for many years. Her prison term is over, she leaves to live a new life with the kind doctor until she reaches the train station and finds a sick man, who happens to be Bikash. Kalyani has a chance to repent of her sins, and finally to be with her lover, even though he has a fatal illness that will take him away in a few days. His dilemma in this scene is evident as Roy divides them both in each frame and pits them against opposite sides. When she learns that Bikash was forced to marry to help in the struggle for freedom, her heart skips a beat. He didn’t even cheat on her, but she punished him for it. She breaks free and runs to the steamboat carrying Bikash with lyrics in the background that say “Mere Saajan Hain Uss Paar” and continues with “Main Bandini Piya Ki, Main Sangini Hun Sajan Ki.”
From the excellent visuals that tell the mental state of the characters of cinematographer Kamal Bose to the words of Shailendra and Gulzar, Bandini’s melancholy charm is in its details. SD Burman’s music, which first encouraged Gulzar to write lyrics in this film, also holds its own, but in the context of the film, each song adds to the narration. Bandini is called Bimal Roy’s swan song because after hits like Madhumati, Parineeta and Devdas, it was the film that left moviegoers in awe and continues to draw moviegoers to this date. Tiny details like prison guards shouting “ Sab theek hai ” (All is well) right after a freedom fighter is hanged make you uncomfortable, as the filmmaker intended.
Bollywood Rewind | Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam
Bandini is the heartbreaking saga of a woman who finds no excuse for her sins and will live her life in that guilt.
Bandini is available on ZEE5.
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