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Monday, 31 October 2011

Judgement day (Bicharak)

When a director is successful in cooking up a compelling drama out of a small but important event from one's past, he has surely passed the litmus test. More significantly, the screenplay of Bicharak continuously flits in and out of flashbacks constantly whetting our appetite to learn of Gyanendra's secret past. What did he do that makes him continuously weigh his actions? Why is there such an eerie discomfiture between the exchanges a man has with his wife? Why does his mind travel back so much to his past? And most importantly, why is the question incessantly raised as to whether Gyanendra is right enough to decide a man's fate?

An intriguing psychological drama that keeps you hooked till the last, Bicharak presents Uttam Kumar in a role that shows his talent off yet again. Directed by Prabhat Mukherjee, this 1959 film presents Bengal's biggest matinee idol as a judge who has to decide the fate of the convicted presented before him. But through the legal intricacies and the interrogations, he is forced to face the truth about his questionable actions in the past. What I absolutely found fascinating was how the director, with the use of imagery and the clever use of time shifts, relate his past actions to his present. Judge Gyanendra might declare that his justice is divine and that it is even more powerful than the dictum of God, but is he really the man who can make such a lofty declaration? When he passes the judgement that Balai Das has indeed murdered his wife, he does so believing that the mother cannot be wrong. His wife questions his judgement, but Gyanendra is determined that his 'justice is divine'. But is there proof enough that Gyanendra's justice is indeed divine and there is no scope for betterment. Is Gyanendra fit enough to judge people? What is it that taints him?
A flurry of questions surface that shake Gyanendra's existence. His fear of fire, his being visually perturbed at seeing his first wife's picture, the silence that eats into Suroma and Gyanendra's conjugal life...
As the suspense thickens another case baffles Gyanendra a bit more. A man is convicted of murdering his brother and is presented before Gyanendra. While the lawyer (a fabulous Chhabi Biswas) presents his case before the judge, Gyanendra slips into weighing his past actions via a reverie. He was married to Sumati (Dipti Ray), when Suroma (Arundhati Devi) walked into his life. The simpleton that Gyanendra was, he found the chirpy daughter of his professor (Pahari Sanyal) a stark opposite to his domestic wife, and understandably found her company pleasing. It turned out that Suroma and Sumati were cousins. While Suroma sang and danced and joked with her brother-in-law without any inhibitions, Sumati was disturbed by what was going on. A blind suspicion crippled her existence and she pummelled Gyanendra with her caustic allegations. No matter how much Gyanendra tried reasoning with her, Sumati battered him with her poisonous remarks against him and Suroma, to the extent that one day the man was forced to admit that what he craved for in a partner, he got that from Suroma--happiness and mirth. He told Sumati that he was merely fulfiling his responsibilties as a husband with her, but Suroma was what Sumati was not. It's evident that Gyanendra utters all this after his soul was bruised by the constant bludgeoning of Sumati's harshness. But what he does after that is something that makes his conscience heavy in the days to come...
Perhaps Gyanendra never realises that the repercussions of his actions would cost him so much. Or for that matter even Sumati may not have thought about her actions. While Sumati is silenced, Gyanendra has to constantly battle the storm raging in his heart. 
Three questions are raised towards the end. Is it possible to live with such a partner who is ailing from a suspicious mind? Is it possible to constantly pass her test of faith? Why should one true soul constantly be tested whether he is being unfaithful to his wife? The second question is whether Gyanendra really had a liking for Suroma? Did he merely enjoy her company as a friend, or did he see in her the woman he wanted as his partner? Then, given this, was Sumati right? That means, did he really want to get rid of her so that he could settle down with Suroma? And thirdly, was it really impossible to save Suroma? Did Gyanendra fulfil his conjugal promise of taking care of his wife, no matter what? Didn't the wave of relief sweep over him, as he saw Suroma engulfed by flames? Questions galore surface towards the end, which make this drama so much more rivetting.
The cast is fantastic here--everyone contributes in making this offbeat film a superb watch. Arundhati Devi is is marvellous as the chirpy young girl before marriage and the reserved wife later. It's obvious that she has several questions to ask Gyanendra and is looking for the opportune moment. Dipti Ray is spectacular as the suspicious and rude wife who does not leave any opportunity to heckle her husband. 
But what do I say about Uttam Kumar, who essays this mature and difficult part to perfection! A man who starts out as an unsuspecting simpleton, goes on to become a suffering husband and then latter a proud yet troubled individual, where his past is constantly licking at the injuries of his heart. His makeup makes him look serious, sober and dignified, yet his eyes reveal the vulnerable state of his soul. His existence is crippled by a scalding truth that he must admit to himself. Only them will he be able to bury his past and move on. Only then will God's judgement be complete...


  1. That sounds very interesting. I think I've come across this film in the Seventymm rental catalogue. Must recheck and order, if it's there!

  2. This one's one of my favourites to say the least.Not only has the film good direction and good actors,it has got a very great and thoughtful storyline [thanks to Tarashankar Bannerjee].Have you read the original book.Please do read it.

  3. @Dustedoff: Yes, this is a very offbeat film. Uttam Kumar is superb. Please see it!

  4. !Madmusic: Let me grab hold of that book!

    1. wonderful summary of the was brilliant and uttam kumars performance is superlative.its a difficult roleand he has done it with panche.

    2. @Sharmila: Yeah. I guess Uttam Kumar was equipped enough to handle such complex characters :)

  5. hii.. Nice Post

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