Bimal Roy’s ‘Bandini’ (1963) took rather long to make. Its production had started in 1961. The film was a screenplay adaptation of ‘Tamasi’, a novel by Bengali writer Charu Chandra Chakraborty (Jarasandha) on his experiences as a jail superintendent. Bimal Roy, who made classic films like ‘Do Bigha Zamin,’ ‘Parineeta,’ ‘Devdas,’ ‘Madhumati’ and ‘Sujata’, besides ‘Bandini’, is said to have inspired master filmmaker Satyajit Ray himself. His unique journey, however, ended three years after the release of ‘Bandini’. Bimal Roy passed away at 57.
The making of ‘Bandini’, which saw the beginning of Gulzar’s career as a lyricist, has many interesting episodes associated with it.
After a disagreement between him and SD Burman, Shailendra left the production team. On Shailendra’s advice, Gulzar went to meet Bimal Da. He ended up writing his first film song, “Mora gora ang lai le”. Meanwhile, Burman and Shailendra patched up, and the latter wrote the rest of the songs of ‘Bandini’.
Thereafter, Gulzar joined Roy as his assistant. The influence of Bimal Da’s cinema is evident in Gulzar’s films like ‘Khushboo’, ‘Angoor’, ‘Aandhi’ and ‘Mausam’, which too were based on literary works, just like those of Roy. Bimal Da’s other literary adaptations — ‘Biraj Bahu’, ‘Parineeta’ and ‘Devdas’— were based on the writings of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, while his ‘Sujata’ was adapted from a Bengali short story by Subodh Ghosh.
‘Bandini’ had some of the finest performances, with nuanced acting by the likes of Ashok Kumar, Nutan and Tarun Bose. Dharmendra was a newcomer then. As Kalyani, who is facing a jail sentence for poisoning and killing a hysterical woman who happens to be the wife of her former lover, Bikash (Ashok Kumar), Nutan dominates the plot with her acting. When the jail doctor, Devendra (played by Dharmendra), falls for Kalyani, she reluctantly agrees to marry him. At the waiting room of the railway station on way to Devendra’s house, she comes across Bikash, who is terminally ill. Her decision to leave a secure life with Devendra to live with an unwell Bikash made a case for a woman’s perspective and choices in a socially-constricted era. It is said that Bimal Roy’s wife Manobina was keen that the movie’s climax be changed, with Kalyani marrying the doctor. However, Bimal Da remained true to the novel.
The music of the film remains fresh even today. “Mora gora ang layi le” and “Jogi jab se tu aaya mere dware” were sung by Lata Mangeshkar, while “O jaanewale, ho sake toh laut ke aana” was given vocals by Mukesh. Asha Bhonsle sang “O panchhi pyare” and “Abb ke baras bhej bhaiya ko babul”, which were set to the tune of a folk song of Uttar Pradesh, “Nimbua taley dola rakh de musafir”. Sung by SD Burman, the hauntingly beautiful “Mere sajan hain uss paar, main mann maar, hun iss paar” is picturised when Bikash is a freedom fighter.
The film, which is set in Bengal of the 1930s, bagged six Filmfare awards for best film, best director, best actress, best sound, best story and best cinematography. That year, the award for best music went to Roshan for ‘Taj Mahal’ and Sahir Ludhianvi got the award for best lyricist for “Jo wada kiya woh nibhana padega”. However, when Sahir went to the stage to receive the award, he called upon Shailendra to join him and share the award for the ‘Bandini’ song, “Mat ro mata, lal tere bahutere”, which was sung by Manna De.
‘Bandini’, which also won the President’s silver medal for best film, is considered to be Bimal Roy’s magnum opus. Roy’s minimalist technique and evocative imagery gave a rare subtlety and sophistication to the film. While Gulzar’s cinematic debut will always be linked to the making of ‘Bandini’, Bimal Roy’s swan song will undoubtedly remain his most beautiful and meaningful work.
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