Do Bigha Zamin: The film by Balraj Sahni which has not aged a bit | Bollywood rewind
Poverty is a vicious circle and it is almost impossible to break out of this circle. Bimal Roy’s 1953 film Do Bigha Zamin examines the ruthless nature of poverty and how the system supposed to help the poor is designed to keep the less fortunate in one place.
Do Bigha Zamin opens in a village where farmers celebrate the rains after a long period of drought. As they sing “Hariyaala Saawan Dhol Bajaata Aaya”, it is hard to imagine that this would be the last time we would see the protagonist, Shambhu and his family, experience joy because from now on they are bombarded with tragedies.
Shambu, played by a convincing Balraj sahni, and her family depend on their “Do Bigha Zamin” for a living. So when the village zamindar forces Shambhu to sell his land, he takes a stand but without hurting the great man’s ego. After all, his ‘dharti’ is ‘maa’ and the zamindar, his ‘maai-baap’. For this naive man, selling land is unimaginable, so he decides to sell everything he owns to pay off his debt.
But how will a poor, humble, uneducated man fight against the intelligent zamindar? Shambhu is trapped and must repay Rs 235 to the zamindar in three months, which is an impossible feat for a poor man like him. So he leaves for Calcutta, the big city that promises a golden future. As he leaves his village on foot and the villagers sing “Dharti Kahe Pukaar Ke”, you know things will get darker from now on. He looks longingly at his “dharti maa” as the lyrics say “Tu phir aaye na aaye” and it is obvious that poor Shambhu is trapped in a dead end maze.
Shambhu’s date to save Rs 235 makes him face one obstacle after another. The story of Do Bigha Zamin, by Salil Chowdhury, is so tragic that it leaves you breathless. Every corner he turns to is a dead end. Every lifeboat he rides on sinks. His struggles start to turn claustrophobic because everything he touches turns to ashes. Do Bigha Zamin is the kind of film that plunges you into the dark corner of the despair that accompanies you for a long time.
Do Bigha Zamin takes place at a time when India was still a young country and it is evident that at a time when changes were needed from the ground up, the disadvantaged class was ignored until it was needed. for his hard work. As the pandemic and the resulting migrations have shown us, little seems to have changed.
It is well known that Bimal Roy was inspired to do Do Bigha Zamin after watching the 1948 film Bicycle Thieves. The character of Kanhaiya, Shambhu’s son, is a tribute to Vittorio De Sica’s film. In recent years, Do Bigha Zamin has been regarded as the film that sprouted the idea of New Wave cinema. Even though Indian cinema was still in its infancy in the 1950s, films like this were pushing the boundaries of what could be done on the big screen.
Do Bigha Zamin rests on the heavy shoulders of Balraj Sahni who actually ran barefoot on the hot asphalt roads of Calcutta during the filming of the film. Balraj, who was known to play the high-end gentleman in the movies, melted into the role of Shambhu and put on a defining performance that is sure to leave you thinking for hours. Despite being a 68-year-old film, Do Bigha Zamin has a sad soul that can still haunt the viewer.
Hrishikesh Mukherjee, who later became a famous filmmaker, was a key part of Bimal Ry’s team and in Do Bigha Zamin, Mukherjee was credited with the script, editing, and even assisting Roy in directing. The film also features a short appearance by Meena Kumari, which is a pleasant surprise, perhaps the only one in this tragic story. Nirupa Roy, who was later known for her iconic mother roles in films like Amar Akbar Anthony and Deewar, here plays Shambhu’s wife Parvati. His reserved personality combined with his naivety adds a bit of charm to the film.
Do Bigha Zamin is one of those must-see movies that laid the foundation for Hindi cinema. The tragedy of this film is in his soul, and that soul has not aged a day.
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Do Bigha Zamin is streaming on ZEE5 and ShemarooMe.
In this weekly column, we revisit the nuggets of the golden years of Hindi cinema.
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