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A look into 'Do Bigha Zameen'
In DBZ, Balraj Sahni showed a vast emotional range. He portrays the role of the peasant Shambhu convincingly that you can feel moved with every emotion that the character goes through. It was perhaps his best-known role as the peasant Shambhu
THERE IS a great Indian director, considered to be a master in the field but not exactly a part of world cinema; yet I consider him to be included in the category as well- it is Bimal Roy.

Leave all his other films aside, I feel the most mentioned is his Do Bigha Zameen (DBZ). A socialistic realistic cinematic portrayal, a story of an agrarian society slowly been taken over by industrialization and commercialization and vices that accompany it.

As author BD Garga remarks in his book on cinema, “His (Bimal Roy) indignation arises out of one man’s exploitation of the other, lack of human decency and social decay. He questions not so much the political structure as the moral base of the society…in “Udayer Pathey” and DBZ, he despises the deception of the rich…He was a romantic and an idealist to whom exploitation in any form - social, economic or religious- was unacceptable.”

In DBZ, Balraj Sahni showed a vast emotional range. He portrays the role of the peasant Shambhu convincingly that you can feel moved with every emotion that the character goes through. It was perhaps his best-known role as the peasant Shambhu and gives a performance of a lifetime. His realistic portrayal stands out all the more particularly when one considers him in real life being well educated and westernized. It is said he actually rehearsed for the role by pushing a rickshaw on the streets of Calcutta and interacting with other rickshaw pullers who were convinced he was one of them. Nirupa Roy and Rattan Kumar as his wife and son respectively compliment Sahni perfectly.

Every character in the film is a representation of a class, be it a poor farmer who considers his piece of land to be his mother, a lecherous and greedy landlord, a scared and protective wife and mother, a child who travels to a city and sees the trials his father goes through and tries to become a part of it. Other than these there are a lot of distinct characters- like a dying father who only wishes to see his son save his land or characters in the city; like a crude landlady who is soft in the core of the heart.

What is also attractive in the film is the composition of the frame that makes every shot almost as if a work of photographic art. Roy never looses the sense of realism from the narration of the story. The film is beautifully photographed by Kamal Bose.

The story of the dispossessed peasant and the landlord had been told many times before but in DBZ, Bimal Roy with his innate reserve and good taste chooses a much wider context in which to place his narrative thus looking at rural poverty at one end and the brutalizing effects of city life at the other end. DBZ is a sad and moving tale which Roy projects with much sympathy, understatement and simplicity and gives us a film that is very human and has great emotional depth.

The film is strongly influenced by the Italian neo-realist Cinema and particularly evokes De Sica’s masterpiece Bicycle Thief (1949) particularly in the scenes of the father and son in the city.

The film also has a high dosage of metaphors as images like the idea of a man running as fast a horse to support his living. Something that hits me while watching this particular scene is a similar type of metaphor from a different film. I am reminded of Naya Daur (1957), a film too based on the ideas of change in the society. There it’s the negatives of industrialization and modernization and machine culture that displaces human labour. In that film it’s the horse-cart driving labourer as against the machine cars.

A moderate commercial success, the film won Roy much critical acclaim and awards at the Cannes and Karlovy Vary festivals. To quote the News Chronicle on August 17, 1956. The film also went on to win Best Film and Best Director awards at the inaugural Filmfare Awards. But perhaps the biggest compliment for the film was a comment made by Raj Kapoor. On seeing DBZ and being much moved by the film he had exclaimed, “How I wished I had made this film!"

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