Bollywood Rewind | Madhumati: The fantasy of reincarnation
It’s a stormy night in the hills, the kind where you fear for your life. Devinder, however, has no patience for these imaginary terrors because the love of his life awaits him on the other side. When he has to take refuge in a haveli in the middle of the night he experiences what we have come to think of as a typical Hindi movie cliché, his pichla janam.
Directed by Bimal Roy, Madhumati is one of the first films to introduce the concept of reincarnation to cinema and has inspired legions of filmmakers. Madhumati is named after her main character, played by Vyjanthimala, and the story here is a love letter to her written by her beloved Anand, played by Dilip Kumar. It is interesting to think that concepts like a love affair between the classes, a sheheri Babu falling in love with a village belle, haunted mansion, doppelgangers, reincarnation, and omnipresent spirits were all neatly wrapped up in an entertaining Bimal Roy ride. The concepts that have become clichés over the decades come from one source – Madhumati.
The music in the film is as haunting as it is memorable. Composed by Salil Chowdhury and with lyrics by Shailendra, it has nuggets like the melancholy “Aa Ja Ré»And the melodious« Suhana Safar »,.
At the time of its release in 1958, Madhumati was praised for its dark gothic side. Ritwik Ghatak’s film story is a healthy narrative that must have left viewers in awe of the magical realism of its subject matter. Combined with the sharp editing of Hrishikesh Mukherjee and the skillful camera work of Dilip Gupta which instills fear of the purani haveli almost instantly, Madhumati was in the hands of a few technical masters.
Watch Dilip Kumar and Vyjanthimala play lovers who will find a way to each other, in one or the other Janam, is satisfying and that’s mainly because these two actors look innocent enough to play these roles convincingly.
Madhumati’s story has been picked up in so many films that a new viewer might not find anything unique about it, but it’s the simplicity and effectiveness of the story that continues to translate well even after six decades. . Cursed lovers who are separated by death but reunite in the next life is also vaporous as it can be today, but back then it was the whimsy of the subject that attracted audiences.
Besides being one of the staples of Hindi cinema, Madhumati alludes to the theme of capitalism. After Anand first enters this village paradise, he discovers the constant tug-of-war between the tribes of the region and Raja Ugra Narayan who has encroached on their lands. The Raja, played by Pran, with all his power and money, is nothing short of a villain to the villagers. He can crush little children under his horse’s galloping feet and make Madhumati his own when he lays eyes on her, sparking conflict.
The plot of the film is essentially a love story and the film constructs it through various songs. Madhumati’s music has been a key factor in its success and although most of these tracks are evergreen, there is a sense of detachment from the story every time a song begins. Watching 11 songs in less than three hours can get overwhelming and hamper the storytelling process as well.
Madhumati has inspired generations of storytellers and a number of films have released scenes from the film. Farah Khan’s Om Shanti Om was a film that took its hat off to Madhumati as he took the angle of reincarnation.
Madhumati is a hopeful fantasy for cursed lovers and given its influence on Hindi cinema, it’s probably the fantasy that always fuels our happy ending desires, even though it takes more than one. Janam.
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Madhumati is streaming on ShemarooMe, MX Player and YouTube.
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