Nearly fifty years have passed since Bimal Roy made Bandini, the story of a woman crossed in love who ultimately finds herself in prison, convicted of murdering her lover’s wife. And I have yet to see a movie to surpass it. Here are ten reasons why Bandini is my all time favorite:
1. Nutan as a prison inmate whose imprisonment within the high walls of the jail is secondary to the barriers she has erected between herself and her feelings after experiencing one loss too many.
2. The story by Jarasandha (Charuchandra Chakraborty) and its brilliant adaptation to screen by M. Ghosh with dialogues by Pandit Satyadev Dubey.
3. The cinematography by Kamal Bose with camera work by Chinu Shah and edited by Madhu Prabhavalkar. The startling luminosity and clarity of plot in this film is pure genius. The technical crew is always the heart of any movie, and Bimal Roy lucked out with this group.
4. Nutan as the carefree, naïve young village maiden tumbling head over heels in love with the fascinating stranger in their midst. In real life, she’d just gotten married after a fairly extensive career in Hindi films and was all set to retire when coaxed back by Roy, who’d earlier directed her in Sujata.
5. The father-daughter dynamic which never slips into the usual trap of weepy sentimentality espoused by Bollywood even when she breaks her father’s heart. Nothing cutesy, no melodrama – not even when he refuses to look her in the eye after the villagers begin to gossip.
6. The music of SD Burman. This is one of those rare soundtracks in which every song is pure magic. They’re a visual treat too – the open skies of Mora Gora Ang, the cage-like bars of O Panchhi Pyare, the quiet desolation of the prison yard in Ab Ke Baras… I knew the songs long before I saw the movie and even as a child I knew this was special.
7. Lyrics by Shailendra and Gulzar. This was Gulzar’s debut album and he wrote just one song for it: Mora Gora Ang Lai Le. Everybody should be so lucky with their first effort!
8. Ashok Kumar as the worldly-wise freedom fighter who turns Kalyani’s world upside down. Never in a million years would I have thought of Dadamuni as sexy but he made my little heart go pitter-patter as he flirts outrageously with Nutan.
9. Dharmendra as the dishy young doctor. He oozed dependability and quiet strength in this movie. It makes me forget his work in the 80s. Okay, so it doesn’t make me forget. I can however, tolerate it better.
10. The man behind it all: Bimal Roy.
O Panchchi Pyare
Mora Gora Ang
Ab ke Baras
[Originally published at Desicritics.org. For more oldie faves, there’s Take Two]