Mat ro maata, by Monica Kar

Bandini (1963) – Manna Dey – Shailendra – SD Burman

He is called The Silent Master, having mastered the art–or perhaps having formulated the art–of silent shots. He is called an aesthetic, socially committed director with a poetic sensibility by Dilip Kumar in a TV show called Portrait of the Director, available on YouTube. Obsessed by his work, Bimal Roy ranks amongst the top film directors of our country. For all the reasons stated above and perhaps a few hundred more.

My reasons are, perhaps, the same as those of others. A sensitive portrayal of characters, the social realism in his films, the successful marriage of “art, commerce, and entertainment” in most of his films. His ability to tone down the histrionics, being an ace photographer himself and being able to visualize the smallest gesture as speaking many words! He actually brought cinema successfully out of the shadows of theatre and put it on a more advanced technological platform where exaggeration was unnecessary, as it was not only possible to record subtlety- it was, in fact, preferred.

But what excites the editor in me is his grip on his story. The threads of his story almost always were completely connected.

For instance, in Bandini, the main story was one of a seemingly impossible love. Of a murderess. Some would say it was the journey of a woman. Of course, they would all be correct. What most of us forget in Bandini is that the story also involves a ‘krantikari’, a revolutionary, in pre-Independence India.

Bimal Roy doesn’t.

In fact, this part of the story cannot be overlooked. Nutan, the protagonist of the story, is powerfully impacted by her dead brother, also a revolutionary – as one can see from the emotion with which she relates his story to her jailor. Her brother is her hero. He helped people, he fought against the injustices of the times in his own way. Was she emulating him when she made her semi-conscious decision to murder Ashok Kumar’s ill-mannered wife?

Why is this song in this movie? To act as a filler? To sway public opinion and emotion?

Possibly to tie in the importance of the era in which the movie is shot. Just like a picture can speak a thousand words without ever opening her mouth, a song can convey myriad emotions in 2-3 minutes. Bimal Roy knew that.

And what a song Shailendra writes! Some of the best words were written here to convey a son’s feelings to both his mothers – his birth mother and his country.

Bimal Roy stuck to Salil Choudhary and SD Burman for most of his Hindi movies, with amazing results, I have to say! They obviously understood each other. Shailendra wrote the lyrics for at least 8 of Bimal Roy’s 20-odd Hindi movies. Again, with amazing results. Manna Dey’s powerful voice adds to this mix here in a brilliant song, IMHO, in a movie that was already full of brilliant songs.

SD Burman adds the folk touch, the use of that flute, the violins, that echo-effect in each stanza, and that taar shehnai in the background, adding the faintest touch of pathos to this proud, strong message from a soon-to-be shaheed!

Just brilliant.

Especially when coupled with Bimal Roy’s direction of the song. The faintest glimmer of tears in the mother’s (Dulari) eyes, the erect, proud stance of the unnamed on-screen singer lending a respect to the contributions of the unknown common man – a hallmark of Bimal Roy Productions – in our Independence, all done with minimal fuss and maximum simplicity. But the impact? Lasts 55 years!*

The detail with which Bimal Roy completes his simple narratives can be observed, mouth agape. Because aren’t these the little things that separate the ordinary from the extraordinary?

Bimal da – your obsession, our treasure. _()_


*Manek Premchand’s note: Monica Kar is referring to her age 🙂

Posted on Bimal Roy’s birthday, 12th July 2018

Monica Kar received her BA in English Honours from the University of Delhi. She now lives in St. Charles, Missouri, where she wears several hats, including doing voluntary work as an educator and homemaker.

3 thoughts on “Mat ro maata, by Monica Kar

  1. Manek – I saw your note – well, that is my age- this is correct. But it is the age of this remarkable movie and song, too. 🙂 All of us turn 55 this year!

    Being featured on your website always feels wonderfully humbling and a cause to let out a big ‘yay!!!!’
    Many thanks for the honor and for the kind words. Have learned immeasurably from you – still learning the art and the science of it – on how to look at a song 360 degrees.
    Thank you, Manek!

    1. There’s always a blind spot in all of us Monica…but thanks, and thanks also for enhancing the value of this site _()_ 🙂

  2. Why, this is quite a remarkable take, Monica, right up there in the company of your other great attempts at curating great songs! And this is so right: “His ability to tone down the histrionics, being an ace photographer himself and being able to visualize the smallest gesture as speaking many words!” Wow!

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