This was till I saw Tapan Sinha's Jhinder Bondi. This 1961 remake of The Prisoner of Zenda had me gaping. It's fun, romantic and at the same time adventurous. It is shot in western India, something that no Bengali filmmaker did before. It is a story set in Jhind and Jharwa in Madhya Pradesh, a refreshing setting for Bengali cinema. It shows women clad in ghagra and choli (a very sane step on the part of the filmmaker), it folds in plenty of intrigue without resorting to melodrama. And most importantly, it pits Uttam Kumar against Soumitra Chatterjee. The former a matinee God and the latter inching his way to superstardom on the strength of his performance and spontaneity. And they both go on to create sheer magic in this awesome film.
Shankar Singh is betrothed to the Queen of Jharwa called Kasturibai (Arundhati Devi). If Shankar Singh is not found out fast he would have to marry this woman. Fact is, he would not like to dupe an innocent woman, but the situation is rather sensitive as he is falling in love with this beauty really fast. He goes to meet her secretly in the darkness of the night and even the woman takes a huge liking to the changed man. This relation might just cost him a whole lot.
Mayurbahon has his spies spread all over to track the whereabouts of this imposter. He is sure that this 'Bangali' is an actor who is trying to fool him and Udit. But he is too shrewd for such simple games. Like his nimble feet that move when he fences (and it is declared that he is the best fencer not only in Jhind but throughout the country), his brain functions fast. And very soon, he will nab the crook.
The trap is closing in fast on Gauri, who had come to Jhind for some adventure and thrill. But now, he is a prisoner here. A prisoner of his own wishes as well the responsibilities thrust on him. Watch what he does to win his freedom again...
All the performances are amazing. Uttam Kumar is as usual very good. He is smart, suave and easy. Watching his transition from a mere fun-loving young man to a man who sacrifices his desires for the betterment of Jhind is great. In his dual role of Shankar Singh, he is spineless and credible. He looks good, yes, but there is someone who walks away with that baton. Yes, Mayurbahon.