What a magnificent magnum opus by Mehboob Khan, one of the finest movies ever made in Indian cinema and unarguably one of the greatest performances ever by Nargis.
Story of a rural family struggling against all odds in the fight to just eke out a honorable living. Radha (Nargis) and Shamu (Raaj Kumar) in dire debt to the local money lender who has taken advantage of their illiteracy to add a few rupees to their never ending debts on usurious terms, like mortgage of jewellery, hiving off the majority harvest and the likes. The movie of that era when poverty and depression ruled the roost in the years after independence of India.
Radha and Shomu have a small 5 acre barren plot, which they try to cultivate but it is full of stones, one of which falls on Shomu’s hands and decapitates him for life. He leaves the family one night never to be seen again. Raaj Kumar has done a brilliant role as the angst ridden farmer with a desperate family to look out for.
Radha grows up with her three sons, one of whom dies in a flash flood. But growing up does not lessen their woes as the money lender continues to harass them for years and years together. Sunil Dutt and Rajendra Kumar as her two sons – one angry and other calm and the mother, its a brilliant relationship between them. Radha loves her sons dearly but she is a woman and will not tolerate insults to women. Its a very subtle women centric theme. Its a moving story of utter poverty, helplessness, depression, in a rural India much like reading Mulk Raj Anand’s Coolie or Kamala Markandeya’s Nectar in a Sieve.
Mehboob has done a brilliant job creating this mega movie with not a moment of boredom in it. The cinematography by Faredoon Irani is breathtaking to say the least. All the characters have done brilliant acting, but this movie is all Nargis. Right from the first frame she dominates the movie like nobody else. Its her masterpiece, her acting is magnificent just like that of Karuna Banerjee in Pather Panchali, Smita Patil in Bhumika and Rekha in Umrao Jaan, it is unarguably one of the greatest acting performances by anybody in Indian cinema. Jenifer Kendall in 36 Chowringhee Lane is also another gifted performance.
No wonder Nargis won a clutch of awards for her performance. She fully deserved it. IMDB 10/10 – its for Nargis.