Udayer Pathey (1944)
Director: Bimal Roy; Writer: Bimal Roy, Jyotirmoy Roy, Nirmal Dey; Cinematographer: Bimal Roy; Editor: Haridas Mahalanobis; Cast: Radhamohan Bhattacharya, Binota Roy, Rekha Mitra, Devi Mukherjee, Tulsi Chakraborty, Devbala, Meera Dutta, Boken Chatterjee, Maya Bose, Rajalakshmi, Parul Kar, Manorama, Bishwanath Bhaduri[R], Hiren Basu[B], Tarapada Choudhury[B], Smritirekha Biswas[B], Leena Bose[B], Aditya Ghosh[B], Bhupendra Kapoor[H], Hiralal[H], Dindayal Luthra[H], Ramesh Sinha[H]
Duration: 01:59:32; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 53.776; Saturation: 0.005; Lightness: 0.305; Volume: 0.103; Cuts per Minute: 11.745; Words per Minute: 83.312
Summary: Bimal Roy's directorial debut tells of an impoverished novelist Anup (Bhattacharya) who works as a speechwriter for the millionaire Rajendranath (Bhaduri), but leaves when his sister Sumitra is falsely accused of theft. Increasingly committed to the working class, Anup writes a novel, but Rajendranath's corrupt and evil son (D. Mukherjee) plagiarises the book. Although Rajendranath's daughter Gopa (B. Basu) falls in love with Anup, his commitment to the workers' union starts threatening the family's business interests. The evil son has Anup beaten up during a labour rally. The famous socialist-realist ending frames Rajendranath on his balcony as he sees Anup and Gopa leave the house and walk towards the rising sun. (In contrast, Pramod Chakravarty's remake, Naya Zamana, 1971, had Dharmendra and Hema Malini exit in millionaire-father Ashok Kumar's limousine, while S. Ray ended Mahanagar, 1963, with an ironic inversion of the scene as hero and heroine stride into the streets and merge with 'the masses'.) The title was taken from a Tagore poen, addressing Swadeshi indigenism in a changed political context, and appears on the wall of Anup's room. It inaugurated the venerable practice of using Tagore poems for Bengali film titles. Known mainly for Radhamohan Bhattacharya's remarkable debut as the incorruptible bhadralok hero, an image he repeated in several films (e.g. the little girl's father in Kabuliwala, 1956) and which was quoted in Mrinal Sen's Akaler Sandhaney (1980) in which Bhattacharya played the village teacher. The film's enduring reputation as a popularised version of IPTA theatre was enhanced by IPTA writer Jyotirmoy Roy's lively story and dialogue. The film is a fine example of the type of melodrama that addresses indigenous capitalism as a contradiction between inherited and earned wealth.
Release date: 1 September, 1944 (Chitra)
The fact that 'Udayer Pathe' begins with a hummed version of the would-be National Anthem of India is a testament to the unique space it occupies within the matrix of the IPTA. The Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA) was formed in 1943 as a direct result of the 1943 Famine of Bengal and the widespread protests and peasant movements that preceded and succeeded it. Though primarily a communist-led endeavor, the IPTA would find support from large spectrum of artists. Within the aegis of this movement, social criticism and realism would blend to produce a critical realism hityherto unseen in the arts. Of course, the genre of social critism had been already established in cinema prior to this but it had still operated within certain popular codes and tropes of romance and melodrama which had resisted this critical realism.
'A direct involvement of the IPTA in films didn't happen before 1946 but the new impulses are already palpable in a film like Udayer Pathe. Made in one of the foremost studios of the first sound era, the New Theatres, Udayer Pathe was directed by Bimal Roy with an important role played in the production by the writer Jyotirmoy Roy. Jyotirmoy Roy was already close to the Progressive Writers' Association and a socialist, Bimal Roy became the President of the IPTA later on.' - Moinak Biswas, "The City and the Real: Chinnamul and the Left Cultural Movement in the 1940s", 'City Flicks: Cinema, Urban Worlds and Modernities in India and Beyond', ed. Preben Kaarsholm, Roskilde University, 2002
One of the most striking markers of the influence of the IPTA and the Progressive Writers's Association seen in Udayer Pathe is the casting of non-stars in the leading roles, especially Radhamohan Bhattacharya and Binata Basu as the male and female protagonists. This move would come to be inextricably associated with critical realism under the IPTA and reach its zenith with Nemai Ghosh's 'Chhinnamul'.
The figures drawn on the wall of the hero's room are direct references to socialism (like Marx), the IPTA and the Progressive Writers' Association (Rabindranath) or just simply social reformist ideals (like in the case of Vivekananda, Bankim Chandra or Aurobindo Ghosh). While Rabindranath Tagore was one of the patrons of the PWA, the title of the film also comes from one of his couplets.
The hero's ideals and the conflicts he faces because of them forms the crux of the narrative and it is played out on a muted level in his interactions with the heroine and in their initially contrasting world-views throughtout the first half of the film.
In direct contrast to the hero's family, the heroine is from an upper-class, affluent background. However, one must note her clear distinction between fashion and culture. It is made evident that she does not place too much stock on the wealth or standing of her family or the people who surround them. However, one must also place this distinction within the larger bhadralok matrix of culture itself and its many critiques especially from a socialist standpoint.
The hero has already been identified as having socialist leanings, and his opinions about the rich are revealed here. It is interesting that the writer chooses to read their contemporary class differences in the language of caste based hierarchies. Not only does this automatically implicate it within a domain of brutality and oppression that is associated with caste based discrimination, but it also serves to underline how in the Indian context especially caste and class together have been subject to dense debates. In this introductory sequence, all this serves to establish the male protagonist's character.
Bibhash stands in for upperclass pretensions and foibles and Gopa's sarcastic retorts to his comments almost throughout the film are a direct challenge to that.
Tagore's lyrics and his music have long been associated in an intrinsic way with any and all sorts of cultural manifestations of Bengal. This song is meant to be a celebration of spring and, by extension, new life.
Right from the outset, one is aware that Sumita's presence in such a gathering is nothing short of incongruous. From the clothes, to the obvious differences in their class positions, this scene is a charged exposition on class differences in practice. Sumita is uncomfortable in these surroundings where she is frowned upon from the very beginning, she is almost ignored when introductions are made, and the only conversation she hears deals with gifts and their values.
Gopa, unaware of the tension in the room, urges Sumita to sing. The song she sings is politically charged and almost in direct contrast to the song just a few minutes ago. There is still a sense of celebration of freedom, but it is a cautious one, under the shadow of equalitites and oppression, all of which is referred to in the song.
Bibhash's comment is quite obviously directed at Sumita, something that Gopa immediately responds to. At the same time, the stares that Sumita has been receiving the whole night reaches a crescendo when Gopa's sister-in-law, assuming Sumita's packet to be something she has stolen from the table laden with gifts, accuses her of theft. As Gopa correctly points out, her reaction is borne purely out of upper-class prejudices.
Gopa has been shown from the very outset as someone who seems at cross-purposes with the ideals and aspirations of her own class position, never for once believing in the allegations against Sumita, and profusely apologising after they are proved false.
The hero's reaction is of course justified, however, the scene also establishes a thematic core that would bind the entire narrative. The cross-class romance and resultant familial intrigue that forms the crux of the story were an accepted set of conventions employed in films of the time - for example in 'Doctor'(1940) or 'Samadhan'(1943). However, what sets Udayer Pathe apart is how this plays out within the IPTA ethos that had begun to make its presence felt.
Direct references to socialism and Marx (the hand-drawn image on the wall above the hero's table) make it clear that Udayer Pathe was meant to be more than a melodrama with social realist underpinings as was the custom of the time. Sharp, politically charged dialogues regarding poverty and class differences throughout the film reinforce this.
For further emphasis, it is made known that the hero is part of the trade union movement, which was gaining ground in protest against the factory owners and to safeguard the interests of the workers. At the same time, traditional ideas regarding the role of the literary figure in society is challenged. The hero's direct involvement in labour politics flies against assumptions that true writers need must remain pacifist and detached.
The first time the hero's name is revealed it is done sans the surname, a symbolic renunciation of an established order of things. At the same time, he is entirely unaware that his would-be-boss is Gopa's older brother. He had come here, as he had explained in the earlier scene, to learn a lesson in flattery. However, his conversation with the factory owner is anything but flattering and their interaction underlines their mutual prejudices. Especially, Anup's insistence on never mixing languages when speaking, and his barb regarding how people who don't know either well tend to mix them up, reveals their fundamental incompatibility - something which will eventually become central to the narrative.
It is extremely ironical that the factory that the trade unions seek to protest against is the same place where the idealist writer finds employment. His less than enthusiastic response, especially compared to that of his family, is testament to his own disregard for the job he has to now do for money.
Anup's visit to his landlord late at night is not just payback for the latter's earlier visit at dawn. It is important to note only the overarching nature of class antagonisms but local networks of class difference and oppression. For Anup, the nearest version of this is the owner of the property, his landlord, who is also revealed to be a hoarder.
Use of words like bourgeois and democracy are explicit references to the trade union movements and the Marxist, socialist milieu the film is set in. At the same time, the complete disconnect between the factory owner's beliefs and what he wishes to portray in front of the students who have invited him, besides his complacency about his position vis-a-vis everyone else's, underline the hypocritical nature of this transaction.
The applause that the resultant speech invites is a hollow one, underlined by Bibhash's rather shameless hankering for approval and appreciation.
Moreover, the very next scene shows Anup looking upon a long winding queue in front of the shop selling rice, a direct response to the disconnect between the various strata of society. This disconnect is heightened in the next scene when we learn how this crisis has come to be as the owner of the factory discusses the market and plots to ensure further price rise so that he can sell the rice he has hoarded at a higher rate. Anup's sarcastic comments on this are not lost on the owner.
That exploitation is not just economic is quite clear, especially when one considers how in the guise of an advertisement-writer, Anup has specially been employed to ghost-write for the owner.
The owner's complete disinterest in the actual library itself, considering how he is more interested in the expensive things he has used to decorate the place, speaks of the superficial nature of his interests - this is further reinforced by his boastful claim that he knows all the names of the books and their authors by heart.
Anup and Gopa meet for the first time after the debacle of the night of the birthday party and though Gopa seems willing to put things behind her, for Anup things are not so simple. Realising he has come to the same place where his sister was insulted, he resigns immediately.
For Gopa's brother, the concern is primarily the speech he has promised at the next meeting which he had boastfully promised to deliver. Gopa, despite her anger at Anup, is quite perceptive about her brother's morals or their lack thereof.
Both Gopa and her brother are well aware that not everything can be bought with money. However, for Gopa, her barbs and jibes at Anup are more due to her wounded pride while for her brother it is an impossible scenario, one which he must acknowledge but one he cannot really envision. The enusing scene of him trying to write the speech himself and failing is thus both comic and deeply sardonic.
With all demands of the job done away with, the factory owner's arrival at Anup's house is an attempt to employ him full-time for the purposes of ghost-writing on his behalf. The apology to Sumita is a part of that. Anup, on his part, is well-aware of this and harbours no illusions regarding the man's motives even though he does not yet realise its limits.
Now that Sumita's insult at the party has been somewhat redressed, no matter under what pretentions, Anup and Gopa's interactions can continue with a gradual decrease in the insulting barbs they have traded thus far. This becomes evident in the next few scenes as they interact while he is working in the library. The song and the conversation after it marks this new phase.
For Gopa, Bibhash has thus far mostly been a source of annoyance, made clear by her sarcastic quips to every one of his pompous comments. While she may have used the excuse of his arrival to leave the library and stop talking to Anup, Bibhash by himself is more than she can take.
While Bibhash may have been harmless enough in all his pomposity, Gopa's brother is anything but. His constant demand for Anup's unpublished novel which he wishes to publish seems too good to be true considering what one has seen of him thus far.
In fact, Anup's novel serves as a major plot device for the rest of the narrative. An outcome of his socialist leanings, it will serve to smoothen Anup and Gopa's interactions henceforth and will also begin to parallel their fledgling relationship. For Gopa, the book is revelatory, not because of her disregard for what is around her but because she has lived a sheltered life thus far. However, she also reveals a keen awareness and sensitivity for all that she hears.
Anup's words have had a lasting impact on Gopa, signified by her discarding of the expensive necklace and how she closes the jewellery box in disdain.
The very next scene completes the transformation Anup's words had begun. Gopa, who had thus far been seen always well turned out, has undergone a metamorphosis of sorts. Dressed in a plain cotton sari, she enters Anup's room and comes to stand near his table under the sketch of Marx.
Anup too has undergone a change of heart regarding his impression of Gopa. In an oft-used trope, he mistakes her for his sister and begins praising her, remarking that the superficiality that marks modernity has only reached her clothes, it has failed to taint the person she is. Their conversation is now on smoother ground, the complaints they had had against each other having been dealt with.
One can here note the beginnings of the cross-class romance that will form the core of the latter half of the film. As mentioned before, unlike socials of the era, Udayer Pathe's narrative does not boil down to this romance and its ensuing intrigues but takes on a much different route, in keeping with the ideals of the IPTA and PWA that had an indelible impact on the making of the film and of course on the time in general. Gopa's request to visit her family's workers, more than the obvious socialist implications, marks a definitive shift in the narrative of such social realist pictures.
The scenes in the labour colony were unlike any seen in Bengali cinema of the time. Alternating between the horrible living conditions of the workers to the outrage and simmering rage of the people of the colony who wish to revolt against the factory owners, the scene inextricably links Anup, Gopa and their relationship with the Marxist, socialist ideals that were behind the inception of both the trade unions and the IPTA. Consequently, their conversation when they are alone hardly resembles any conversation expected between couples in the cinema of the time.
Anup's novel is finally published but with Gopa's brother credited as author. With the intellectual exploitation of the trade-unionist hero now at its farthest, the scene immediately shifts to more local forms of exploitation in the form of the land-lord who has come to demand his rent. The fact that Gopa overhears it and chooses to pay the man off without Anup's knowledge is a remnant of the romantic/dynastic intrigue that provides one of the thematic components of Udayer Pathe.
Consequently, it is hardly surprising that despite being told to keep the transaction a secret, the landlord immediately finds an excuse to come and tell Anup about Gopa giving him the money for rent.
With his pride having been smarted Anup comes to confront Gopa about the money only to be confronted by an even bigger deception, the truth about the publication of his long-awaited novel. Instead of shock, however, this scene surprisingly plays out like a confession of love, with the close-up of Gopa's tear-soaked face and Anup's admission that this suprises him more than her brother's deeds.
The scene fades into raucous sounds of the brother celebrating his 'literary triumph' with his friends as Anup is on his way out. The next scene shifts to the celebrations as Gopa enters the room, looks at her brother in accusation and sits down away from the group. The entire scene, with the celebrations in the foreground and the silent seething figure of Gopa in the background, underlines the disconnect between Gopa and her upper-class surroundings. Her silent accusatory stance remains a nascent presence throughtout. She is foregrounded only at the end to mark the ever-widening nature of this disconnect when she refuses to go to her brother's banquet, instead choosing to go to the trade union meeting she had decided on with Anup.
The scenes of the factory-owner brother throwing a banquet are intercut with scenes of deprivation and dissent at the workers' colony. Especially notable are the scenes of raucous laughter over food and wastage at the elite hotel and the young child in the colony who has stolen starch another woman had kept aside for her daughter.
A romantic interlude and song where one must note the obscure studio setting that was and still is used to denote bracketed off romantic scenes. Since the generic template is that of the cross-class romance it is interesting to note how 'Udayer Pathe' uses these conventional tropes in interesting ways. The scenes begins with the two talking about the upcoming trade union meeting and ends with the two discussing their different class positions and how Gopa has undergone a transformation.
The brother, in place of the absent patriarch, is the one responsible for the family and the factory. Gopa's gradual transformation and the frequent visits to the workers' colony are threats to both. The mention of the looming strike at the mill marks the point where the family and the factory intersects.
Immediately after we see the workers at the factory who have come with their demands. One of them defects and agrees to furnish all information regarding Anup to Gopa's brother.
The scenes of workers marching towards trade union meetings were unlike anything seen in Bengali cinema of the time. Crowds of people marching on song and with placards and posters would become very well-known images of labour movements henceforth, reaching its zenith with the scenes of mass exodus in 'Chhinnamul'. With the relationship between the factory owner and the workers already fraught with tension and suppressed violence, the violence that erupts here under the instructions of the factory owner performs multiple functions. At one level, it is implicated firmly within the ideas of class struggle, workers' rights, oppression and alienation by the factory owners, ideas which were also the moorings of the IPTA and its ideologues. At the same time, the scene is a climactic one. It reveals Gopa's relationship with Anup and the workers' movement to her family, firmly moving the narrative towards its denoument.
The actual owner of the factory, the patriarch who had been absent till now, is seen for the first time, re-establishing the order that Gopa had seemingly disrupted with her actions.
The two major conflicts, the public and the private, intersect with the relationship between Anup and Gopa splashed across newspapers. Unlike, the social melodrams of the time, the familial conflict does not supercede the workers' movement in the narrative of 'Udayer Pathe', instead remaining in a tense impasse with each other.
The father's decison to listen to the terms of the workers has probably a lot to do with Anup and Gopa's relationship.
From a sympathiser Anup has clearly begun to take on a more leadership role. The first shot of him entering the meeting is with the Gandhi cap on, an enduring symbol of political activism in Independant India. His interaction with Gopa's father also reaffirms this renewed strength. At the same time, the owner's reaction is expected. He claims he does not fear the workers' movement and will agree to their demands because of the scandal around his daughter. This also probably why he attempts to dissociate Anup from the movement by offering him a job, an excuse to solve both the factory and the family crisis at once.
The father's parting comment about Anup and his kind, that they are truly humane, is thus both a grudging appreciation and an expression of defeat.
A series of disjointed frantic shots that compose this scene, the moving feet fading in to the tram tracks, and parallel shots of Anup along with the voice-over of brother's words that Gopa has admitted everything has been a mistake. Anup, despite his claim otherwise, has been deeply affected by the borther's lies about Gopa. This is more evident in the conversation Anup has with his friend immediately after and what propels him to ask his family to move from the city for some time.
Even though the father does not approve of Anup and Gopa's relationship, he is equally mistrustful of the boastful Bibhash.
Anup has been deeply affected by what he has heard from Gopa's brother about her regrets. His attempt to erase the Tagore couplet from the walls, something that has always guided and aided him, is thus a sign of his disillusionment - not just with Gopa but with whatever he had hitherto believed to be true. The symbolic tearing of the newspaper with their images is a similar conventional gesture. However, the film does not extend this misrecognition for too long, instead bringing Gopa face to face with Anup immediately after in order to sort out the confusion. Consequently, the reunion is doubly significant. Through an admission of love it brings a sort of closure to the cross-class love affair, at least between the hero and the heroine. At the same time it serves to remind Anup about his beliefs and ideals, bringing the personal and the political together in one fell swoop.
With Gopa having refused to listen to every dictum, the only possible way to separate her from Anup is to get her married.
The clock is a constant presence in the next few scenes, marking a sense of urgency. The parallel cuts merge at the clock, one where Anup is waiting for her and the other where she is waiting to go out of the house but is waylaid by her father. Interestingly, the same mechanism also works in the crucial scene where the father comes to visit Anup asking him to leave Gopa alone, a conventional mechanism of melodrama and family intrigues where the unwilling parent comes with such requests.
Coerced by her brother to meet her prospective suitor, Gopa is nonetheless rebellious throughout, so much so, that the song she sings makes her thoughts very clear, concerned as it is about breaking free and giving oneself over to love.
Gopa's confrontation with her brother is both a personal accusation and a larger indictment of his actions. She points out that despite their apparent class differnece it is Anup who is a far superior man than her brother, all in the presence of her father who is reading the very book whose credits the son has stolen from Anup.
The very next shot is of a crowd of mill workers who have come to thank Gopa because they feel she is the reason for their demands having been met. In a way, Gopa has moved far away from the ambit of the upper-class society she had been born in and which her father and her brother wish to restrict her to. The accompanying news that Gopa's prospective suitor is also not someone trustworthy, drives home this double indictment of the upper class and of their material and intellectual exploitation of the poor.
In a way, the crowd almost performs a deus-ex-machina sort of function, making Gopa aware of her father's meeting with Anup, driving her to action. The father's reaction in this case is noteworthy. Every single prejudice regarding the lower classes and his daughter's ability to survive there has crumbled under the weight of the truth about his own class, be it with his son or with the suitor he himself had chosen. His tacit approval about Gopa's leaving marks his inability to furnish any more valid reasons even to himself that would justify forcing her to stay back. When he agrees with her brother that she indeed has moved down, he does not quite mean it in the way the latter has meant it. While the latter has been speaking literally, for the patriarch it is a sign of admission that she indeed has moved out of their class for good.
The open road has been a recurrent leitmotif for Anup and Gopa's relationship - denoting a sense of unknown and also a sense of shared purpose in this journey they have set out on. Thus the final shot of the road and the milestone showing that it leads out of Calcutta, Anup walking away on foot, and parallel shots of the car racing out of the city towards the same destination, reaffirms this.
'Udayer Pathe ends with the protagonists leaving the metropolis, as they walk into a new dawn in the picaresque tradition of cinema they renounce the city in some sense.' - Moinak Biswas, "The City and the Real: Chinnamul and the Left Cultural Movement in the 1940s", 'City Flicks: Cinema, Urban Worlds and Modernities in India and Beyond', ed. Preben Kaarsholm, Roskilde University, 2002
As they walk away on the open road together in the end, out of the family ambit and towards organising a workers' strike, one can clearly deduce how much the rather conventional happy ending and union of the lovers has been invested with the upheavals that the IPTA brought in its wake.