By Shreyas Bhide
- Do Bigha Zamin (1953)
Director: Bimal Roy
A poor farmer leaves his village to move to Calcutta and earn enough money to return to his village to free his land from the clutches of the evil Zamindar. At its surface, Do Bigha Zamin (DBZ) might seem like any film from the 50s and 60s with the vile Zamindar as its chief antagonist. But DBZ is a landmark film in Indian cinema, for it trades OTT melodrama for realistic portrayals of characters and situations in a newly free country. Balraj Sahni delivers what is one of the finest performances seen on Indian film. Bimal Roy collaborates with Kamal Bose (cinematography) and Ganesh Basak (art direction) to create contrasting scenes of the sprawling Esplanade and the bustling Chowringhee Road with poor slums and hopeless villages. DBZ is a film where you invest your emotions in characters, their moral values, and their stories and feel beaten when they lose their battles. After all, how can one not feel a pit in the gut when the film’s protagonist runs around Calcutta, hand-pulling his rickshaw, bare-footed with an injured leg.
- 1947 Earth (1998)
Director: Deepa Mehta
Earth is a spine-chilling tale of partition and the turbulent atmosphere of a nation and its people divided. Through the love triangle of Aamir Khan, Nandita Das and Rahul Khanna, Mehta depicts how partition destroyed seemingly unbreakable bonds of love, friendship and affection. The scenes depicting refugee trains packed with dead bodies of raped women, Lahore being engulfed by the fire of riots and the eventual hair-raising climax will stay with you long after the film ends. The film also benefits immensely from a cast of talented stage veterans – Rahul Khanna, Nandita Das, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Raghubir Yadav, Kitu Gidwani, Gulshan Grover, etc. At the center of it all, is Aamir Khan. This film was a crucial hero-to-actor transition point for Khan.
1947 Earth is available to watch on YouTube.
- Ek Doctor Ki Maut (1990)
Director: Tapan Sinha
Inspired by the life of Dr. Subhash Mukhopadhyay, Ek Doctor Ki Maut (EDKM) tells the story of Dr. Dipankar Roy (Pankaj Kapur) who discovers a vaccine for leprosy, but is suppressed by vested interests, jealous peers and professional harassment. EDKM highlights the red-tape, ignorance and suppression that researchers in India have faced for years and continue to face even as times seem to have changed. The passion with which Pankaj Kapur brings alive Dr. Roy on screen is the mark of a great actor. Ably supporting him is Shabana Azmi, flawless as a the ignored wife who is witness to her husband’s frustration turning to insanity. The film also stars a young Irrfan Khan, who shows sparks of what would be 20 years later, one of the country’s finest acting talents.
Ek Doctor Ki Maut is available to watch on YouTube and Amazon Prime.