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1954 163’ b&w Bengali d Pinaki Mukherjee pc Aaj Prod. dial Narayan Gangopadhyay m Rajen Sarkar lp Prashanta Kumar, Pahadi Sanyal, Nitish Mukherjee, Suchitra Sen, Mala Sinha, Anil Chatterjee, Chhabi Biswas, Jahar Roy

Parashar’s (P. Kumar) grandfather Kunja is the celebrated village performer on the dhol (folk instrument), but his grandson chooses the more respected life of a singer and moves to Calcutta to pursue his profession, where he falls in love with Minati (Sen), his music teacher’s daughter. Minati defeats the rich Ratri (Sinha) in a musical contest, the film’s high point presented in terms of Krishna choosing between two Radhas, as Ratri sings the erotic and physical Nigodia neel sari, while Minati sings a Meera bhajan which has her surrendering to her lord (both songs were sung by Pratima Bandyopadhyay). Ratri avenges herself by hiring Parashar as her teacher, thus introducing him into the decadent world of the urban rich. Eventually, a chastened Parashar returns to the village, realising he should never have departed from his ancestral vocation of playing the dhol. As Pather Panchali (1955) was still in production at the time, this is the film which established the Bengali village as a dominant icon in post-Independence romanticism. Placed outside the histories of famine and Partition, the village becomes a poignantly nostalgic repository of the values threatened by modernity. In the process, the country/city divide gets mapped on to the conflicts of tradition versus modernity, erotica versus surrender, innocence versus evil, good art versus bad and, finally, the good woman versus the bad. Importantly, in this form, virtue triumphs only in defeat and in death.