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Thursday, 24 March 2011

When ego tampers with love (Indrani)

I would say that Indrani is a good romance that is seriously ahead of its times. It shows a young girl fighting for her love against her conservative parents, her staunch and mean in-laws and against some inane taboos that rid society those times. She is also the one who voices her feelings first, leading her lover to recognise the feelings deep down in his heart. She is the one who proposes marriage first, a thought that was considered outrageous for women earlier. And yes, she is the breadwinner of the family for a good period of time. At least till the man of the house pulls up his socks and has resolve enough to do something worthwhile in life. In that, Indrani is a total departure from the films that projected the obvious.

These positives in this 1958 romance directed Niren Lahiri do not end there. For, this is a film that also deals with the grey shades of the heroine's character and how eventually she demolishes her ego to reclaim her love. Yes, Indrani is a complete individual. She is not devoid of the self-importance that every human aught to feel when she is in a more powerful position than the man in her life. She is educated, mature and hence, very liberated. She is not the one to crumble under pressure when her father opposes her marriage with a young man from a different caste. She reasons with him and sticks to her decision of marrying for love. It is really heartening to see her take the first step always. While she has her career choice sorted out, her lover is still suffering from a dilemma. While she declares she loves him, he procrastinates. But here we do get some awesome romantic songs by Nachiketa Ghosh. Hemanta Kumar's Surjo dobar pala is probably one of the most famous and lovely songs I've ever heard. But even though we see love in both Indrani and Sudarshan's eyes, we know full well that it would be Indrani who would profess her love first. Bingo to such a liberated soul!
Rajiblochan Bhattacharya (Pahari Sanyal) starts a newspaper in a village of Hooghly and understandably has problems sustaining the business. His wife gives birth to a daughter (which kind of upsets him as he knows that one day he would have to cough up a hefty dowry to marry her off). But, he spends his entire earnings to educate her and when the time comes she goes to a college in Kolkata for her graduation. Indrani (Suchitra Sen) is meritorious as well as beautiful. Hence, it is not strange that she attracts a lot of attention from her peers. One day her roommate, Jayanti, takes her to her house to meet her parents, brothers and sisters-in-law. Indrani is liked by one and all in Jayanti's home and she too cosies up to her new acquaintances. But most importantly she develops a thick liking for Sudarshan (Uttam Kumar), a research scholar and Jayanti;s brother. This lad, though extremely handsome to look at, is quite unsure about his career. But when he offers to help Indrani with her college studies, she readily agrees to the proposition and enjoys the time spent with Sudarshan. She makes it evident that she is falling in love with him with two brilliant songs. Jhanak jhanak and Ogo shundoro, both sung by Geeta Dutt, are ethereal.
After her final examinations, she declares that she wants to marry Sudarshan. While Sudarshan tries to dissuade her saying that he will not be able to provide for her, she stands her ground. Her parents are angry with her but she is adamant. With Indrani taking such giant leaps forward to culminate her relationship in matrimony, Sudarshan chickens out when he has to tell at his home about the woman he loves. So, the two go to Ranchi and get married secretly. Here there is a Hindi song sung by Mohd Rafi that I simply can't remember. Perhaps, it did not leave an impression!
When the newly-wed couple return to Sudarshan's home, they receive an enormous amount of flak from Sudarshan's people. That the two married on their own and do not belong to the same caste does not go down well with anyone. The sisters-in-law who were initially so much fond of Indrani become mean and manipulative. The brothers keep harping on the fact that Sudarshan does not contribute to the family income in any way (which is true!). The mother is plain angry with what happened.
Sudarshan is humiliated and keeps his head lowered all the time. Indrani tries to win over her in-laws but in vain. Frustrated and angry about how hypocritical relatives can be, the couple decide to move out. Indrani tells Sudarshan that she has got a job as an assistant head mistress in a girls' school in Dinajpur where she will also be given a quarter. Sudarshan is initially relucatant to live off his wife's income but relents thinking that that would be better than listening to stinging remarks here everyday. So, the two go.
From here the script of the romance changes. With responsibilities and hardships, love somewhat thins. Though the two start of blissfully with Neer choto khoti nei, their hope and togetherness takes a beating when every moment for Sudarshan is like a battle for survival as he sees his wife climb the ladder of success and importance. He is now like a burden to her. What commences is a power game of ego and complex. With that the couple gets distanced from each other. Misunderstandings and bickerings become a regular feature in their household and soon Indrani and Sudarshan part ways. Whether they two reunite again is a matter of destiny...
This is an engrossing tale that will interest you from the word go. Replete with great performances and a good script, Indrani is a very good Uttam-Suchitra story. Suchitra Sen gives a well-rounded performance, Uttam Kumar is as usual very good. They both look as if they were made for each other. Pahari Sanyal is awesome. What I thought of course that Tulsi Chakraborty and Chhabi Biswas were wasted in their parts. But, in totality here is a film that you will remember as one of the best ones featuring the most popular duo of the Bengali storehouse of cinema...


  1. What a coincidence! Just yesterday, was talking to The Third Man, about Uttam-Suchitra and their fabulous chemistry on-screen. Would love to see this one. Sounds really good.

  2. @Banno: Third Man?!?!? Interesting name!
    Yes, do see this one. If not for the story, just for the chemistry and the songs :)

  3. Yes, he's a friend, and a true blue film buff and encyclopedia on old films. He runs the film site, Worth a visit!

  4. This one sounds very good - will look out for it, especially as I really enjoy seeing Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen together! Thanks for the recommendation. :-)

  5. Hi Sharmi. This one sounds an entertaining watch. And your review came at a very appropriate time just as I am in the Suchitra Sen mode, after Aandhi and Bombai Ka Babu. :D
    Will surely search for it (just pray I get a subtitled version, though bangla isn't too difficult a language to understand). Thanks for the review!

    PS - Do visit my new blog. Its nice to hear words of appreciation and guidance from fellow bloggers. :)

  6. @Dustedoff: Yes it is a good film with lovely songs. Do watch it :)

  7. @Punya: Wow! You started a blog! Will definitely visit and comment. I'll add you right away in the list of blog sites I visit :)
    Well, Suchitra Sen was very different in her earlier Bengali films. In Aandhi and Bombai ka Babu you saw a different lady altogether. But she actually rocked with Uttam Kumar, a pair that is beyond comparison with all other pairs in moviedom. The film is up on youtube. And I think it is a subtitled one. Go watch it :)

  8. @Banno: Oh Upperstall sounds so familiar. Will definitely visit. Thanks :)

  9. Thank you for the youtube suggestion (complete with subtitles :)
    Just finished watching it.
    Loved Uttam Kumar (as expected) and Suchitra Sen too. They both re so great together, and their chemistry is unbelieveable. Wonder they didn't fall in love in real life.

    Suchitra Sen was not at all sympathetic or understanding towards the unemployed Uttam Kumar. Agreed he was quite spineless and helpless.

    Loved the last dialogue, which nailed it.
    Thanks for this :)


  10. @Pacifist: Wasn't it great!
    YOu know, everyone wondered why they didn't fall in love in reality. But that's because both were too professional and damn good friends. In the industry, it was only Uttam who called Suchitra Roma (her nick name). All others addressed her as Madam.
    And Uttam anyways was smitten by the charms of Supriya Devi (even though he was married!) :)

  11. @Pacifist - There are two listings in youtube for Indrani. The subtitled one is not running.. atleast not on my PC.. and the other one without subtitles is of no use to me. :(
    And I didn't find any other subtitled link online. Which link did you follow?

  12. @Punya: Try this:

  13. Thanks Sharmi. But this is the same link I was talking about. Its not running on my PC. Don't worry, I have found a way around. would try to watch it asap. Thanks again!

  14. @Punya: Okie great. I'm sure you will like it :) Enjoy!!

  15. I loved it! This was my first Suchitra-Uttam experience and they looked so much into each other. Really wonder why didn't they fall for each other? Its such a complete film. What more.. I got to hear two beautiful Geeta songs!! I loved "Jhanak jhanak..." and went crazy for "Ogo shundoro..." what beautiful and unconventional lyrics!! I heard them on a repeat mode till my heart's content! Mesmerizing rendition by Geeta ji. :)

  16. @Punya: See I told you you would like it!! Even Hemant Kumar's songs were so good, hain na ??

  17. Need you ask that??? "Neer chhoto kshotai nei..." (I hope I got that right)in his soothing voice has become one of my Hemant Kumar favs.

  18. @Punya: haha... yes, you are almost right. It's actually Neer choto khoti nei! But I'm more in love with Surjo dobar pala :)

  19. Uttam and Suchitra ushered in a new age of star-power and charisma. The why’s and how’s of their togetherness mystified an entire generation who took the pairing for granted.