Saturday, July 05, 2014

Madhumati (1958)

Dilip Kumar, Vyjantimala
मधुमती. IN 1958. D: Bimal Roy. Story: Ritwik Ghatak. DP: Dilip Gupta. SC: Sudhendu Roy. ED: Hrishikesh Mukherjee. M: Salil Choudhury. Songs: Shailendra. D:  Dilip Kumar (Anand/Devendra), Vyjantimala (Madhumati/Madhavi/ Radha), Johnny Walker (Charandas), Pran (Raja Ugra Narayan), Jayant (padre di Madhumati), Tiwari (Bir Singh), Mishra, Baij Sharma, Bhudo Advani. P: Bimal Roy per Bimal Roy Productions. 35 mm. 149'. B&w. Hindi version. From: National Archive of India
    Precede
INDIAN NEWS REVIEW N° 172. IN 1952. 9'. V. inglese. - Featuring Frank Capra, whose name had appeared as a screenwriter in a film we had seen previously this afternoon (Westward the Women) - and celebrating the memory of D. G. Phalke.
    Viewed with e-subtitles in Italian and English by Sub-Ti at Cinema Jolly (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato), 5 July 2014

Rajesh Devraj (Il Cinema Ritrovato, 2014, catalogue and website): "Madhumati was Bimal Roy's biggest commercial success, a rare genre film from a director known for his realism and his socialist approach to cinema. Its romantic tale of reincarnation, ornamented with haunting songs and atmospheric visuals, was influential in establishing a sub-genre of Hindi cinema. The film tells the story of an engineer who takes shelter in an ancient mansion one night, only to realize he has been there in a previous life. He recalls that life when he worked for the lord of the mansion, and fell in love with the beautiful tribal maiden Madhumati."

A  Creature  of  the  Mist

"Madhumati's striking achievement lies in transcending the conventions of the Gothic horror/suspense film to bring in a wholly Indian belief in reincarnation and rebirth, as well as elements drawn from folk and tribal lore. Kamal Amrohi's Mahal (1948) was perhaps the first significant film to explore this territory, but Madhumati goes further in placing the genre - call it Indian Gothic - within the hybrid tradition of Hindi cinema, complete with melodrama, leering villainy, folksy humour and intermittent song-and-dance sequences. The film's narrative provides several satisfying twists and turns, besides taking some intriguing risks - there is a positive infestation of doppelgangers, for instance, from Madhumati the tribal maiden to her ghostly apparition, her look-alike Madhavi, and her reincarnation, Radha."

"It is Bimal Roy's skill as a filmmaker that keeps all these juggling balls in the air. An acclaimed master of social realism, he also succeeds in delineating the hierarchies of Madhumati's world quite precisely. We observe the representatives of an oppressive feudal system, the hill people it has dispossessed in its greed, and the urban educated class, represented by Anand, which sympathizes with one side, but must serve the other. The tragic fate of the film's heroine is indeed 'an allegory for India's indigent tribal population' (as Jyotika Virdi describes it). Her revenge - the revenge of the land against its exploiters - is necessarily outside the realm of the real."

"Madhumati's story was written by the Bengali director Ritwik Ghatak, whose own contemporaneous work reveals an almost ethnographic fascination for the world of the Indian tribal: one speculates how he would have presented the heroine, had he directed the film. As for Bimal Roy's Madhumati, she is something of a familiar archetype: an innocent who personifies nature itself, like Kalidasa's Shakuntala, like numerous other nymphs from Indian literature and cinema. This worn-out abstraction can become something startlingly immediate in Roy's hands. Throughout the film, one senses a search for the truth of Madhumati's elusive, protean nature, evoked most sublimely in the sequence where Anand follows her fugitive figure into the mist, drawn on by the music of her anklets. At this level, the film suggests that we are witnessing an eternal game of desire and yearning, stretching across centuries and lives. As always in Hindi cinema, it is the lyric writer who grasps its mystical essence: Main nadiya phir bhi main pyaasi / Bhed ye gehra, baat zara si. I am a river, yet I am thirsty / Simple words, but a deep mystery." Rajesh Devraj (Il Cinema Ritrovato, 2014, catalogue and website)

AA: There is a magnificent sense of the landscape, with snowcapped mountains in the horizon, in this Indian Gothic film, reportedly the major inspiration for the theme of reincarnation since then popular in Indian cinema.

I was also thinking of other films with female ghosts, apparitions, and doubles, such as Gryozy / Daydreams, Portrait of Jennie, Ugetsu monogatari, and Vertigo.

Devendra is urging the driver to step on it on a dark and rainy mountain road when huge boulders from a landslide make it impossible to continue the journey, and the two travellers have to stay at a nearby abandoned bungalow. Soon Devendra realizes he has been there before in his previous life as the manager Anand of the Shyamnagar Timber Estate. "The entire nature sang as if greeting me". During his first walk on the hills Anand enters forbidden territory and meets the phantom-like beauty Madhumati who is like Lorelei, a mythical feminine creature of the mists of the waterfall. Perhaps one could make a double-bill of Madhumati and Niagara. Madhumati is elusive, sings luring songs ("Please come, my stranger"), and Anand keeps seeing her also in the fair where she or her lookalike is singing and dancing.

The scenes of the lumbercamp are interesting for a Finnish viewer.

Johnny Walker - his stage name is an hommage to the famous Scotch whisky brand - is clowning again in this movie, a paragon of dishonesty among those working for the King.

Madhumati is also a tale of corruption rampant in the kingdom.

Festival fatigue hit me after 45 minutes. Evening had come, and I became aware of my early flight back home tomorrow. I could not digest any more of this fascinating film which I would like to revisit.

The print is duped and stuffy with no black in it. I kept imagining how beautiful the film must have looked.

Track listing from Wikipedia
No.     Title     Singer(s)     Length    
1.     "Aaja Re Pardesi"       Lata Mangeshkar     04:26
2.     "Chadh Gayo Papi Bichhua"       Lata Mangeshkar, Manna Dey     05:23
3.     "Dil Tadap Tadap Ke"       Mukesh, Lata Mangeshkar     03:27
4.     "Ghadi Ghadi Mora Dil Dhadke"       Lata Mangeshkar     03:11
5.     "Hai Bichhua Hai Re Hai"       Lata Mangeshkar    
6.     "Ham Haal-e-Dil Sunaenge"       Mubarak Begum     03:26
7.     "Jungle Mein Mor Naacha"       Mohammad Rafi    
8.     "Kancha Le Kanchi Lai Lajo"       Asha Bhonsle, Sabita Chowdhury & Ghulam Mohammad    
9.     "Suhana Safar Aur Yeh Mausam"       Mukesh     03:44
10.     "Tan Jale Man Jalta Rahe"       Dwijen Mukherjee    
11.     "Toote Huye Khwabon Ne"       Mohammad Rafi    
12.     "Zulmi Sang Aankh Ladi"       Lata Mangeshkar

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