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Posted by martinteller on May 13, 2013

It is 1934, and Kalyani (Nutan) is serving time for murder.  The prison staff needs a volunteer to take care of a tubercular patient.  The others are too afraid of catching the disease, but Kalyani steps up.  While working with her and seeing her gentle nature, the doctor Devendra (Dharmendra) falls in love with her.  He wants to marry her, but Kalyani turns him away, haunted and guilt-ridden over her past.  The warden (Tarun Bose) tries to talk to her and, unable to speak it, she writes out her story for him.  Back in her village, she had fallen in love with Vikas Ghosh (Ashok Kumar), a freedom fighter watched by authorities… and he had fallen in love with her.  Through a series of events, Vikas had to announce that he was married to her.  Before they could actually get hitched, however, he had to leave… and was never heard from again.  This was the first step on the path to Kalyani’s downfall….

This is decent melodrama.  It relies on some of the farfetched coincidences that are common in Bollywood cinema, and the depiction of the penal system makes it seem ludicrously lenient, but otherwise it stays pretty well grounded in reality.  The film’s structure is unusual… kind of made me think of Mildred Pierce in that it’s a long long time before we find out the circumstances of Kalyani’s murder.  In fact, it’s over 45 minutes before the flashback even begins.

Cinematography is generally quite strong, not genius or anything but there are some nicely expressive shots and movements.  A flashback within the flashback has a heightened sense of style, enhancing the sense that it’s coming from a removed point of view.  Nutan gives a solid and often complex performance, staying very much on tone with nothing hammy.  The other actors are quite fine as well.  As for the songs, I thought they were all very nice and interacted well with the narrative.

I realize this is a rather vague and shallow review.  Truth is, I’ve got another review to write after this one, so I’m trying to keep two different trains of thought/critique in my head.  I’ll just wrap this up by saying that although I didn’t think the movie operated on any especially intriguing levels, I’ve seen much worse from classic Bollywood.  It’s a fine bit of heartfelt drama without any hugely detrimental flaws.  Rating: Good (75)


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