On his 52nd death anniversary on Monday, the world pays tribute to Bimal Roy, the legendary filmmaker of immortal stories like `Do Bigha Zameen’, `Parineeta’, `Madhumati’, `Sujata’, `Biraj Bahu’, `Bandini', `Parakh' and many more. Some of his films like `Madhumati', made on the theme of re-incarnation, have inspired films through generations and even continents.
Bimal, fondly called Bimal Da, represented social, progressive and gender sensitive cinema. He, like some others of his time, was influenced by the European neo-realistic and parallel cinema.
Inspired into making socially relevant cinema after watching new wave films like Vittorio De Sica’s `Bicycle Thieves' and Akira Kurosawa’s `Rashomon', Bimal Roy made his masterpiece, `Do Bigha Zameen’, about a peasant family. The film has become an integral part of film appreciation courses all over the world.
Among other things, the desperation on the bare-foot Balraj Sahni’s face, as he struggles to pull his hand-rickshaw for the pleasure of a man who was chasing his lady love on a cycle rickshaw, remains etched in memory. So also Manna Dey’s ``Kuch toh nishani chod jaa, kaun kahe is oar tu phir aaye na aye; mausam beeta jaye”. The film won the Karlovy Vary Award in 1954 and received rave reviews from film critics in England, Russia and China.
Bimal Roy was born in 1909 in a landlord family in Suapur in Dhaka, then in Eastern Bengal and Assam province of British India and now in Bangladesh. He came to Calcutta and entered into cinema as a camera assistant with New Theatres Company.
PC Barua of New Theatres gave him the job of doing still photography publicity for his films. There Bimal Roy came in touch with Nitin Bose from whom he learnt the nuances of cinematography and direction. As a cinematographer he was involved in New Theatre films like `Grihadah’`, `Maya’, `Mukti’, `Badi Didi’ and the PC Barua directed `Devdas’ starring KL Saigal.
Bimal Roy got an opportunity to direct for New Theatres his first film `Udayer Pathe Pothay’ made in Bengali in 1944. The film released in Calcutta and was a huge success. It ran for a year in Chitra theatre. It was later made in Hindi as `Humraahi’.
The original Bengali title was taken from the title of Rabindranath Tagore’s poem. It is said that the film featured three songs of Tagore of which one was “Jana Gana Mana” which later became the national anthem.
His last film for New Theatres was `Pehla Aadmi’. When he came to Bombay for the premier of `Pehla Aadmi’, he was introduced to Ashok Kumar of Bombay Talkies. The meeting led to an assignment at a fee of Rs. 25,000 to direct for Bombay Talkies a film called `Maan’, in which Leela Chitnis played the main role. Meena Kumari, then a junior artiste, was initially given the romantic role but it later went to Shyama opposite Bharat Bhushan.
Meanwhile, Ashok Kumar, who had the rights of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhya’s `Parineeta’ with him, had moved out of Bombay Talkies company. He asked Bimal Roy to direct `Parineeta’ which was made with him and Meena Kumari in the lead. The film was successful and brought recognition to Bimal Roy’s immense talent.
Parineeta’s, ``Chali Radhe Rani ankhiyon mein paani apne Mohan se muhka mod ke...maan bhari abhiman bhari, nirmohi se naata tod ke’’ was to herald several melodious songs in Bimal Roy’s film.
Once while returning home with his friend and film editor Hrishikesh Mukherjee after watching `Roshaman', Bimal Roy decided to set up his own company. This gave birth to Bimal Roy Productions and the first film under this banner, `Do Bigha Zameen’, written by Salil Chawdhury who was also a music composer.
Bimal Roy then made `Naukari' under his banner which did not do that well. He also made `Biraj Bahu’ for his friend Hiten Chawdhury. He then got the rights of `Devdas’ for his banner and made the classic with Dilip Kumar, Suchitra Sen and Vyjayathimala.
Sahir Ludianvi wrote lyrics of the highly successful songs but it was Talat Mahmood who stole the show with his solo, “Mitwa...’’ that so well conveyed the depths of despair Devdas felt when Paro is married off.
In 1958 Bimal Roy made `Madhumati’, a story on re-incarnation, which was a runaway hit with unforgettable songs sung beautifully by Lata Mangeshkar: ``Gadi gadi mora dil dhake..’’ or “Aaja re pardesi”. The film won nine Filmfare Awards in various categories. It has been an inspiration for many re-incarnation films namely `Karz’ and `Karzzzz’ and Deepika Padukone’s debut film, `Om Shanti Om’.
Bimal Roy’s `Sujata’ made in 1959, remains to this day one of the best films on un-touchability with memorable music by maestro SD Burman. Talat Mehmood’s ``Jalte hain jiske liye teri ankhon ke diye’’ is amongst the best songs to this day.
In 1960 Bimal Roy made an off-beat `Parakh’ which gave us that ever-green melodious song, ``O o sajna barkha bahar ayi, ankhiyon mein pyar laayi’’ sung by the Diva.
`Bandini’ with Nutan, Ashok Kumar and Dharmendra was another classic which had a love story set against the freedom movement. It gave the Indian films a remarkable writer like Gulzar who penned the song, “Mora gora ang lai le mohe shyaam rang dai de, chhup jaungi raat hi mei mohe pee ka sang dai de’’.
Music composer SD Burman gave the offbeat song “ab ke baras bhej baiya ko babul’ to Asha Bhonsale who could relate to the feeling that lurks in the mind of every married Indian girl. “Mat ro mata lal tere bahu tere’’ is another touching number from the film.
Songs were as central to Bimal Roy's films as were the meaningful stories that had a powerful message. He produced `Kabuliwala’ written by Rabindranath Tagore which was directed by Hemen Gupta. ``Ae mere pyare watan, ai mere bichde chaman’’ remains an memorable song from the film.
He had a penchant for filming important songs on unknown characters so as to not take away from the lyrics as in “Ab ke baras bhej bhaiya ko” or “Mat ro mata lala tere” from `Bandini’.
In time, Bimal Roy became a complete school of filmmaking and gave India cinema several gems like Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Gulzar, Nabendu Ghosh, Salil Chowdhury and Basu Bhattacharya.
Bimal Roy won six National Film Awards. `Madhumati’ received the President’s Silver medal in 1958. Apart from this, he won 11 Filmfare awards for his films, of which seven were for Best Direction for `Do Bigha Zameen’, `Parineeta’, `Biraj Bahu’, `Madhumati’, `Sujata’, `Parakh’ and `Bandini’.
While `Do Bigha Zameen’ won an international award in 1953, `Biraj Bahu’ and `Sujata’ were nominated for Palme d’Or award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1955 and 1960 respectively.
His incomplete film, `Sahara’, was completed by his wife Monabai Roy. The film, re-named `Chaitali’ was directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee. His other incomplete film was `Amrit Kumbh Ki Khoj Mein’.
Bimal Roy passed away at the age of 56 on Jan 8, 1966, leaving millions of his admirers saying, ``O jaane wale ho sake to laut ke aaana; ye ghat, tu ye baat kahin bhool na jaana.” UNI