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Thursday, August 12, 2004

Bimal Roy : The Crazy Diamond

It is a tragedy that very people have seen his movies and still talk about cross-over/parallel cinema without any hesitation. While his peers Raj Kapoor and V. Shantaram were busy making romantic comedies and overtly dramatic flicks, he was bringing parallel cinema to the common people through his movies like Do Bigha Zameen way back in 1953. In his films we see a romantic idealist to whom any form of exploitation - social, religious or economic was unacceptable. The only other directors who I think are close to him in creating pathos and character development are Guru Dutt and Gulzar. I personally prefer Guru Dutt a bit more because of his narcissist cinematography.

The story of the dispossessed peasant and the moneylender had been told many times before but in Do Bigha Zameen, Bimal Roy with his innate reserve and good taste chooses a much wider context in which to place his narrative thus looking at rural poverty at one end and the brutalizing effects of city life at the other end. Do Bigha Zameen is a sad and moving tale which Roy projects with much sympathy, understatement and simplicity and gives us a film that is very human and has great emotional depth.

In Roy's Devdas, with the aid of cinematographer Kamal Bose, Roy achieved fascinating mood lighting which enhanced its tight-lipped protagonist's tormented emotional oscillations. Devdas's last journey in a rattling cart, Paro's midnight offer of elopement and the top shot of Chandramukhi swirling in a dance are sequences which Roy pulled off with finesse.

Sujata looking at the plight of untouchables remains one of the most humanistic films made on the subject. Sujata saw him returning to more realistic imperatives after the comparatively lightweight Madhumati and Yahudi, both of which incidentally were big successes at the box-office.

In Bandini (his last and my personal favorite) he beautifully used imagery and sound to convey the various moods of Nutan. As she is seated in the corner of her gray, grim cell facing the prison's high wall, she can hear the hoofs of the horse pulling the carriage taking away her lover, or that masterful scene in which Nutan murders her lover's wife with the hammering of a welder in the background thus heightening the drama.

I recommend to each and everyone of you to rent one of his movies this weekend for the love of cinema, for the love of his beautiful taste in music, for the love of beautiful cinematography, for the love of art.

Bimal Da. I salute thee!

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