In the wintry dawn, the condemned prisoner—a freedom fighter, a slight man clad in shorts, his hands tied with rope, is led by prison guards to the gallows. The camera records the release of the fatal lever, the tautened rope, and goes up to the prison’s conning tower. With exquisite, though unconscious, irony, the watcher cries, “Sab teek hai.” (“Everything is all right”.)
Putting it mildly, everything almost is all right with the film itself — “Bandini,” a taut, brilliant product realized with breathtaking craftsmanship by the gifted producer-director, Bimal Roy.
“Bandini” has acting of a very high order and fascinatingly well-integrated music but it is a triumph mainly of the producer-director and the camera. It is their art, studied, repeatedly burnished, that the film is stacked high with. Many of the individual frames fairly glow with art and artifice, they will possibly linger in the mind longer than the film as a whole.
The great cinematic skill puts across a thin story — of a once happy young girl, the daughter of a village postmaster, who gets convicted for murder. Establishing the girl in the prison milieu, the film leans backward in time to tell her past in flashback. Then catching up with her release from jail, it takes her (and the audience) forward — to the final, difficult emotional choice she has to make: between a young prison doctor who loves her and the man from her past who was in a sense responsible for her misfortunes.
The camera records unforgettable vignettes: A young girl, the end of innocence far ahead of her, steps coyly on stones across water. The Bandini sits tensely in the great, dark shadows of the prison wall listening to the clop, clop of the horse carriage in which the young doctor, who cannot help loving her, rides away from her. The last shot, of a steamer belching dark, near-static smoke from the funnel, seems not just a camera exposure but almost a painting making an oblique comment.
The camera explores the prison, with its sombre high walls, its photogenically long empty corridors, the play of light on iron bars, the eyes of a hardened criminal shining with the light of memory, the petulance, and the frequent trigger happiness to violence of the prisoners. Often the camera broods in a low key but the main evocation is not grimness but a faint, aching nostalgia for a yesterday now gone—possibly because of the incidental echoes of the country’s liberation movement, of the vistas of water and woods and meadow in some outdoor scenes. The sets, too, have an evocative charm: the rambling home of the humble postmaster where the doorway may be framed by a squall of rain, the “home” across a barbed wire fence of the revolutionary.
In every nuance of every character, situation and event — in every image — the looming, unseen presence of the director, imaginative, dedicated and possibly cussedly painstaking, is evident. But art, repeatedly rarefied, can sometimes undermine the impact of art. Each “Bandini” image is so clinically perfect, it may vie in the spectator’s mind for an independent existence rather than as part of a memorable total picture. On a more mundane level, the director does not quite seem to establish the necessity for a marriage, between the postmaster’s daughter and the revolutionary.
Nutan, in just the kind of role that is her special forte, is tops. The film rests on her in the role of the Bandini, and she carries it with acting of a memorable, many-faceted excellence. Every other role is subordinate to that of the Bandini but a cast of able actors — Ashok Kumar as the first man in the Bandini’s life, Raja Paranjpe as her father, Dharmendra as the prison doctor and Tarun Bose as the kind-hearted jailor — manage to leave their marks.
S. D. Burman provides music of distinction, especially in the background. The crescendo of sounds from welding and forging instruments accompanying the murder scene is a noticeable background effect. The few songs, too, are delightful.
“Bandini” is possibly the most shining hour of Bimal Roy, who has not been so lucky with his immediately preceding films. It is also a shining hour for Hindi films enveloped in a suffocating cocoon of mediocrity by a long line of recent offerings.
Year – 1963
Language – Hindi
Country – India
Producer – Bimal Roy
Director – Bimal Roy
Music Director – S. D. Burman
Box-Office Status –
Cast – Moni Chatterji, Nutan, Raja Paranjpe, Tarun Bose, Asit Sen, Chandrima Bhaduri, Leela, Hiralal, Bela Bose, Dharmendra, Devika Roy, Iftekhar, Ashok Kumar
Miscellaneous Information – Not Available.
|Jogi jab se too aaya mere dware||1963||Lata Mangeshkar||S.D. Burman|
|Mora gora ang laile||1963||Lata Mangeshkar||S.D. Burman|
|O jane wale ho sake to laut ke||1963||Mukesh||S.D. Burman|