June 21, 2012

Masala Month Meme - Day 2

Day 2 - An Underrated Gem

Sujata (1959)

 This lovely little film was one of Bimal Roy's later films that maybe lost between the his two classics Madhumati and Bandini. I watched this when I sneakily sat in on the Bollywood film class that my friend was taking a few years ago. Naturally the schedule had the usual gems of Raj Kapoor, Sholay, but I was really surprised to see this addition. It's so subtle and delicate in its handling of inter-caste love, as it was a remake of the 1936 classic Achut Kanya. Nutan plays the adopted Sujata, who is always reminded of her untouchable status by her mother, even though her kindly dad Tarun Bose and sis Shashikala try to treat as one of their own. Then the dashing Brahmin young guy Sunil Dutt falls for her, and you can guess all the conflict and drama that might ensue. I love that Roy approached this controversial topic by looking out how important it still is in that 60s context, and his avocation of love without signifiers like that. Sujata is quite the gardener in the film, and the songs are so gorgeous in using these motifs and symbols with such eloquence and aiding the narrative too. My favourite has to be 'Kali Ghata Chaye" when Sujata awakens to her sexuality and reveals her longings for Sunil Dutt. Nutan is so subtle and expressive here, when she finds out about her status, she takes you on that self-discovery just with her small gestures and expressions. This film may seem preachy to some, but I'll give Roy the benefit of doubt because he's crafted such a thoughtful and beautiful film.Of course there's a bit of melodrama in the finale about a blood transfusion but I'm sure you can forgive it, after all social films do come with a bit of that Hammer-on the head masala device This gem was in competition for the 1960 Cannes Palme D'or, which is great because it is easily accessible to a Western audience, even though there were nitpickers in the class who went on and on about the melodrama! Give it a try!