Dui Purush (1945)
Director: Subodh Mitra; Writer: Tarasankar Bandyopadhyay, Binoy Chatterjee; Producer: Rajnarayan Dube; Cinematographer: Sudhin Majumdar, Yusuf Mulzi; Editor: Subodh Mitra; Cast: Chhabi Biswas, Sunanda Banerjee, Chandrabati Debi, Amita Bose, Harimohan Bose, Naresh Bose, Tulsi Chakraborty, Ahindra Choudhury, Sailen Choudhury, Jahar Ganguly, Rekha Mallick, Naresh Mitra, Shuktidhara, Ashok Sarkar, Aditya Ghosh, Pur Mallick, Debkumar, Arjun Ghosh, Latika, Laxmi, Luna, Sabitri, Sadhan Sen
Duration: 01:50:08; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 60.508; Saturation: 0.012; Lightness: 0.314; Volume: 0.118; Cuts per Minute: 2.833; Words per Minute: 92.235
Summary: One of the last existing films of New Theatres', 'Dui Purush' also ironically charts the beginning of the end of the studio itself. One of the early films of Chhabi Biswas featuring him as a leading man, before he came to be associated with the dominating patriarch roles that have become iconic in Bengali cinema, the film is a tale of the love, relationships and ideals of two generations. Nutubihari (Biswas) is an idealist who has given up his love for Kalyani (Sunanda Banerjee) for the sake of his beliefs. He marries Bimala (Chandrabati Debi) and becomes a lawyer, fighting for the rights of the poor against the feudal lords. Meanwhile, Kalyani comes to ask refuge after she becomes a widow and is inexplicably accepted by Bimala with a lot of warmth. As the years pass Kalyani's daughter Mamata (Latika) and Nutu's oldest son Arun (Debkumar) fall in love and wish to get married. However, the new-found fame and fortune turns his head and Nutu begins to resemble all the ideals and vices that he had always despised. On the other hand in an ironical turn of events, Arun comes to occupy the position once held by his father, highlighting the generational conflict of ideals.
The film was remade in 1978 by Sushil Mukherjee with Uttam Kumar, Supriya Choudhury and Lily Chakraborty and playing the roles of Nutubihari, Bimala and Kalyani, respectively.
Release date: 30 August, 1945 (Chitra)
A generational tale of conflict and ideals, the film ironically also charts the beginning of the end ofr New Theatres, one of the leading studios in the first decades of Bengali cinema. The title 'Dui Purush' can be translated as, literally 'Two Men', or more genrally 'Two Generations'. Both of these are significant - while the first refers to the conflict between the father and the son the second refers to the generational nature of this conflict and how ideals and worldviews are always naturally susceptible to mutation with the passage of time.
The reference to honey alludes to a common practice of feeding honey to the newborn to ensure sweet speech when the child is older. Nutubihari is shown in the film as outspoken and extremely morally upright, which is why he makes a passing joke about perhaps not having been fed honey. The other metaphors of bitterness, the bitter gourd and neem leaves, reinforce the fact that he is used to saying things which are unpleasant for people. The Gandhi cap is an obvious symbolic referent and will come back in a big way when the generational conflict comes into play later.
Nutu mentions that Kalyani's father was a colleague of Surendranath Banerjee, one of the first nationalist leaders and one of the founding members of the Indian National Congress. Consequently, the man's refusal to give Nutu permission for his speech is extremely ironic. While it mimics Surendranath's own gradual fall-out with the growing wave of extremist politics in the National Movement, it is also a stark allusion to the often pro-British Bengali bhadralok's reluctance to voice their opinions against the governing powers. At a local level, the man's reluctance in speaking against his zamindar friends is a deliberate indictment of the bhadralok class.
The reference to Rabindranath must also be qualified by the fact that Tagore's poetry has always found immense purchase among the bhadralok as a form of cultural capital that continues to be dominant unto this day. Here, Kalyani's use of his lines is ironically in opposition to the bhadralok project that her father stands for.
Harimohan, one is given to understand, is a well-known public speaker who can draw in the crowds, a rudimentary version of a spokesperson or a publicist. As it has already been mentioned in the earlier scene, he had even delivered a successful speech against the zamindar some time back which, ironically, has prompted his hiring. To underline the irony, Harimohan's speech is entirely generic, even wishing that the free hospital fill up with patients.
In 1944, Bimal Roy's 'Udayer Pathe' had crucially used labour unrest, trade unions and meetings as a central plot element, arising from a Marxist ethos. Such instances of social realism were quite often to be found in the films of the 40s, like 'Samadan' (1943) and earlier, in 'Doctor' (1940). However, unlike 'Udayer Pathe', most such instances had merely been peripheral to a plot consisting of tropes from popular melodramas. Here too, the scene primarily establishes Nutu's character as an idealist leader willing to fight for the rights of the poor peasants, and setting the stage for conflict.
Harimohan had compared the zamindars to the mythical tree 'kalpataru' which is rumoured to be able to grant any wish. In contrast Nutu compares them to the Indian date-palm, thorny and with useless fruits.
Kalyani has been singing, in hopes of Nutu's success. Ironically, though the incident is not shown, one soon learns that Nutu has been arrested, perhaps because of the agitated crowd in the previous scene.
'Rai Bahadur' was a honorary title often bestowed upon individuals who had performed great service to the nation during British rule. While it was somewhat equivalent to an OBE, the term had major pejorative connotations especially during the Nationalist Movement because the individuals who won it were seen as having pledged their allegiance and support for the British. For the bhadralok, it was a symbol of high achievement and social recognition, as evident in the behaviour of Kalyani's father.
Nutu's speech was perhaps more against the oppression of the zamindars than against the British Raj, so it cannot strictly be called 'swadeshi'. But it is possible that Kalyani's father is equating the term with any sort of rebellious behaviour. Besides, the younger man's disparaging remarks about the Indian National movement immediately after would perhaps justify that assumption.
Jahar Roy became immensely popular during his time playing an archetypal character who is good at heart but often cannot cope with the viciousness of the outside world, becoming a samaritan recluse or taking to alcohol as a result. This can be notably seen in another contemporary film - 'Sahar Theke Durey'(1943). Here, both Susovan and Kalyani act as the perfect foil to their father's bhadralok sensibilities.
It becomes clear that some time has passed and Nutu is being released from prison. The ordinance his cell-mate mentions could be any of the several that were passed in the last two decades of colonial rule in order to keep a check on seditious activities.
Susovan, henceforth, will perform a choric role in the narrative - a drunk who people rarely pay attention to but who will highlight the themes of idealism that constitute Nutu's character, especially at crucial junctures in the second act of the narrative.
The goddess being worshipped is Jagaddhatri who, according to Shakta tradition, is one of the three incarnations of the Mother Goddess - the other two being Durga and Kali. In fact, the popularity of Durga Puja is a rather late event what with Durga being identified with the nation in the throws of the Nationalist Movement. Previously, the Jagaddhatri puja of the feudal lords of villages would be huge community affairs where people from the entire rural community would be asked to participate.
It is immediately obvious that some years have passed, eight to be precise, and Nutu has married and settled down. The title 'Nyayratna' is an honorary one given to sanskrit scholars and it immediately underlines both their upper-caste status and cultural position. Thus, an upper-caste brahmin's family not attending the festivities of the feudal zamindar would be a glaring social slight. Besides, this discussion also reveals crucial information regarding all that has happened in these years.
Nutu has established a school in the village, ironically, with the permission of the zamindar and here he continues his protests against the oppression of the feudal system.
Nutu, quite expectedly, very poor and it is suggested that his idealism is a contant source of conflict between him and his wife Bimala.
In fact, Nutu and Bimala, in their first scene together, are almost pitted as rivals in their worldviews. While Nutu is satisfied with his lot, he insinuates that Bimala's desire for wealth and respectability is the cause of her unhappiness. Interestingly, throughout the film Bimala never denies that she desires a more affluent lifestyle. However, not once does she wish to achieve it by compromising on her husband's ideals and morals. Nevertheless, the scene reveals conflict and long-standing tension in the couple's relationship.
It is also quite clear that Nutu himself is quite proud of his knowledge and education, that is one of the causes of their conflict. Besides, Kalyani's presence in their lives as an unresolved third adds to this maelstrom, what with Bimala constantly pitting herself against the former and constantly coming up short.
Mahabharat was one of the peasants who had been present in the meeting when Nutu had been arrested. An ardent supporter of Nutu, in fact, it is Mahabharat's conflict with the zamindar that drives much of the action forward in the film. Tulsi Chakraborty, the celebrated comedian, appears as Mahabharat in one of his early film roles.
Bimala, in fact, is a mix of contradictions, at least in the beginning. Her comment encouraging Mahabharat to go and lodge a complaint underlines how she shares many of Nutu's concerns. However, she is also constantly worried about her family, going against Nutu's idealist nature.
A 'moktar' was a lawyer's assistant, especially in civil courts where the local claimant or defendant would need representation. A 'moktar' was not allowed to represent his client in the court of law, where one would require the appointment of certified lawyers.
As explained before, the contradictions in Bimala's character are central to the plot. It also becomes clear that much of her disquiet and disappointment stems from her belief that her husband still loves Kalyani.
We have talked about the idea of Durga, Kali and Jagaddhatri as the three forms of the essential feminine principle in Shakta philosophy. The god Shiva would be the corresponding counter-principle needed to maintain balance in the universe. There is a suggestion of order in this scheme which is a foil for the disorder that one has witnessed in Nutu and Bimala's marriage.
Kalyani's husband has passed away and consequently she is facing abject poverty. The Hindu widows of the time were not entitled to their husbands' familial wealth on their own right. This right would only come into place after Independence with the Hindu Succession Act of 1956.
With their reacquaintance, all traces of conflict are immediately removed when Nutu and Kalyani address each other as siblings. Besides, Bimala's startling decision to help Kalyani and her genuine warmth towards the latter is understandable when we take into consideration the complex nature of her character. Her complaints are clearly against Nutu and not against Kalyani.
The peasant strikes the manager refers to supposedly took place in 1878. While it may not be possible to ascertain which incident they are talking about in particular, one must remember that popular peansant movements and food riots were common features in many areas across the British dominion. In fact, historian Sumit Sarkar in his study on the popular movements during colonial rule has stressed on these as inevitable effects of food scarcities and feudal oppression.
The zamindar's plan had been to insult Nutu's wife further for daring to turn their invitation down; in such a social circle, especially given Nutu's caste position, it would be considered an insult. However, his quips are ironically reversed when Bimala is shown wearing actual jewellery.
Bimala's decison to wed Mamata to her son Arun gestures to the generational nature of conflicts and ideals that form a dominant narrative trope in 'Dui Purush'. This will significantly influence events in the last act of the film.
One constant feature in 'Dui Purush' is a severe indictment of the wealthy in a vein which is perhaps not quite Marxist but has definite socialist underpinings. Nutu's definition of the rich as a creature that consumes the poor underlines this. Besides, the rich people in the film are often ridiculed or laughed at, like the zamindar who is mostly a caricature of various identifiable character traits. Even Nutu, in exasperation, calls him a donkey.
In a deliberately ironic turn of events, the zamindar decides to admit his grand-daughter to Nutu's school, all the while making plans to cause him harm. Besides, there is also a brief gesture made at the exploitative nature of such feudal set-ups when the manager hints that the younger son's interests in the school have more to do with his interest in the young widow, Kalyani, who has arrived there.
Such occurences of special provisions for children of affluent or zamindar families, like the specail chair in this case, would not be uncommon and are striking examples of everyday ramifications of class and caste in many similar social formations.
As mentioned before, it is Mahabharat who ushers in crucial events in the narrative. Here, the friend's refusal to fight Mahabharat's case pro bono drives Nutu to move to the city and take up the profession of a 'moktar'.
One must remember, Nutu and Kalyani had once dreamt of working for the greater good together. Here, his handing over the reigns of the school to her is a symbolic gesture that recalls that moment while simultaneously underlining their changed circumstances.
The scene where they leave for Calcutta immediately cuts to a number of years later. A grown-up Mamata is seen singing.
A long sequence that revisits Nutu and Kalyani's earlier relationship, and Bimala's ever-present anxieties and insecurities regarding it. Nutu explains to Kalyani how Bimala's doubts and suspicions constantly make life difficult for him.
Parallel shot of Bimala having overheard him. One must note that whatever her complaints are, they have never been directed at Kalyani. Here, Bimala displays some sort of irritation for the first time.
True to her constantly changing state of mind, Bimala soon comes back, having apparently put the outburst behind her.
Kalyani's song expresses her own desperation and discontent with what she perceives as being a burden on Nutu, especially given the tense atmosphere her presence seems to create.
During these years Nutu has become a successful 'moktar', continuing his fight on Mahabharat's behalf against the zamindar.
Kali is presumably part of the 'bagdi' caste, fishermen who would also work as stick-fighters and often as the local feudal lord's strongmen. Though the film does not dwell on it, the undercurrent of violence apparent throughout in such a social setting is startlingly revealed in this short scene where the zamindar hints at taking more drastic steps to keep Mahabharat under control.
While Mamata has come to complain about the zamindar's son and his men destroying their vegetable garden, there is an interesting aspect here that the narrative underplays yet again: the fact that it has already been insinuated that the younger son might have had more than a passing interest in the women living alone there. This aspect of the exploitative zamindars is only hinted at.
Mamata and Arun are shown to be in love and both are aware that they will get married. Arun's attempts to confess his feelings to Mamata and the subsequent few scenes concerning the love-letter are some of the few light moments in the narrative, especially acting as a foil to the complicated nature of interactions between Nutu, Bimala and Kalyani.
Susovan's sudden arrival after so many years highlights the choric nature of his character, especially at crucial junctures as mentioned before. He is an alcoholic and it is hinted that he is probably extremely unwell. The archetypes that a character like this represents are all present in this case: sensitive, socially inept, outspoken, and the wise drunkard whose words and opinions barely ever register. Much like Mahabharat, though he is a peripheral character, he is crucial to the progression of the plot.
As discussed before, a 'moktar' would not be able to officially represent his client in court which explains why Nutu has fixed another lawyer instead of fighting the appeal case against Mahabharat himself.
The scene gives a sense of closure to the unresolved nature of the relationship between Nutu and Kalyani. The fact that they are like siblings had already been established but here Nutu admits it for the first time. An 'upabit' is the sacred thread worn by brahmins, a symbol of piety and upper-caste position. The comparison immediately casts their relationship within the purview of the sacrosanct. In a deliberate twist of the narrative, Bimala overhears their conversation and it is suggested that she has finally gotten rid of her doubts.
'Basumati', 'Hitabadi', 'Kallol' were Bengali journals which would report on diverse issues and were quite popular among the public during their run. Dainik Basumati was a Bengali daily published from Kolkata by the Basumati Corporation Limited. It was first published on 6 August 1914 and stopped publication in 2003. 'Hitabadi' was founded by Dwijendranath Tagore, a pioneer in Bengali shorthand and musical notations and older brother of Rabindranath Tagore. 'Kallol' was the main mouthpiece for both the movement and a group of young writers starting their careers around 1923-1935, including Premendra Mitra, Kazi Nazrul Islam, and Buddhadeb Basu.
The procession is modelled on the lines of a 'shong', a traditional popular performance, meant to be public and directed at particular people, and more often than not, aimed at being offensive. Here, it is meant to make fun of both Mahabharat and Nutu who have lost the appeal petition.
Parikshit was the grandson of Arjuna and a Kuru king who ruled during the 12th or 11th century BCE. His insult to a brahmin had resulted in a curse whereby on the seventh day he had been bitten by the snake king Takshaka. Bimala, angry at the manager's obvious attempts to cause trouble responds to his snide remarks with this reference. The idea of a brahmin's rage and curse was a powerful foundational myth, a crucial fall-out of the caste-based codes that structured society.
The public humiliation has immense consequences for Nutu who decides to take up law and become a full-fledged lawyer.
Susovan's gullible and unsuspecting nature has already been established. The fact that the zamindar is trying to take advantage of that will become clearer as the conflict between him and Nutu gradually intensifies.
In an earlier scene the zamindar had already hinted at his desire to teach Mahabharat a lesson. Here, Kali Bagdi is instructed to set fire to the latter's house in revenge for opposing the feudal lords.
To heighten the dramatic nature of the scene, the shots of the burning house are intercut with Susovan playing a plaintive tune on his violin.
Susovan, ironically, has been playing a tune called the megh malhar, a hindusthani classical raga rumoured to possess the power to bring rain if played properly. The tragedy of Mahabharat's circumstances is intensified by the image of him fetching a burning peice of wood from the remains of his house for Susovan to light his cigarette - a scathing statement on the state of the poor in a feudal society.
Kali Bagdi's refusal to implicate the zamindar in the case, even at the risk of being blamed for the entire crime, suggests complex networks of fealty and trust that structure these feudal societies from within.
At the same time, caste is also one of the foundational institutions in such a scenario as has been pointed out at various junctures. Here, the zamindar refuses to come to an agreement with Mahabharat because the latter is of a lower-caste.
Some time has passed between Nutu's decision to study law and now because Nutu is seen on his way to the court to fight his first case as a lawyer on behalf of Mahabharat. Also noticeable is the fact that ever since the scene of closure between Nutu and Kalyani, his and Bimala's relationship has seemingly resolved itself and has lost some of its earlier bitterness.
The zamindar, as suggested already, attempts to take advantage of Susovan's weaknesses to turn him against Nutu and make him a false witness. The attempt, however, is seemingly unsuccessful as Susovan, despite being drunk beyond coherence, refuses to give in.
Mamata's staunch idealism against Arun's doubts has shades of similar resistance by Kalyani when her father had opposed Nutu's points-of-view.
The fact that the zamindar has sent the manager to plead with Nutu is a clear sign of their insecurity and fear where Nutut is concerned. When implicit threats and bribes don't work, the manager attempts to sway Nutu with the limitless possibilities in being a succssful lawyer. Though the scene reaffirms Nutu's convictions, there are crucial hints of the conflict that will take centre-stage in the final act.
An elaborate tracking shot of Nutu's entry into the court; the camera tracks in and out through the walls as Nutu halts, searches for the flowers from Bimala and then moves on ahead.
Nutu's speech against Kali Bagdi is also an indictment of the upper-class and upper-caste feudal lords; it has Marxist undertones that are identifiable with the socio-political milieu of the time. The court scene combines the theatricality required of such a scene in popular cinema with an element of social realism that had gained ground with the IPTA (Indian People's Theatre Association) and the PWA (Progressive Writers' Association) at the time.
The zamindar's words are more than a little ominous, he anticipates the changes that success will bring for Nutu.
The scene immediately after also carries suggestions of these changes when Nutu returns home, overwhelmed by his success and the adulation that has come with it. Kalyani's prayers reflect her own worry over this new sense of pride and achievement.
In order to teach Nutu a lesson, the zamindar decides to open a free school in the village so that Nutu's school closes down.
In order to accelerate what he has been hoping would be Nutu's downfall the zamindar decides to aid in Nutu's success.
Bimala's news suggests that some time has passed. Arun is in jail perhaps because he has joined the swadeshi cause - historically, this would the final phase of the National Movement. Nutu's nonchalance regarding her news suggests that the zamindar's expectations have perhaps begun to bear fruit as Nutu seems to have begun distancing himself from his ideals in favour of money and success.
To perhaps emphasize this new conflict in the final act of the film - a conflict within his own ideals - the scene immediately cuts to some time later when Nutu has established himself as part of the bhadralok that he had earlier distanced himself from.
The conversation reveals several things - Nutu's distancing from his own ideals and his consequent distaste for Kalyani and Susovan as reminders of his past life, and a hint of conflict with his own son regarding Nutu's social status and Arun's involvement with the swadeshi movement and the Indian National Congress. With his new found sense of respectability Nutu is less than keen on following through with promises, especially Mamata's marriage to Arun.
Also notable is Nutu's sudden defense of the zamindars of Kankana, his life-long rivals and the cause of much of the events of the film.
Arun is seen donning the white Gandhi cap which had been synonymous with Nutu's ideals in the first half.
Susovan is extremely ill, perhaps fatally. Nutu's unkindness towards him, spurred by a new sense of morality and respectability, underlines how much Nutu has moved away from his ideals. Notably, Nutu's outlook thus far had been humanist and had not involved questions of family name, honour and legacy, unlike now.
Having woken up to this new respectability and notion of family name, Nutu delivers an ultimatum to Kalyani to sever all ties with Susovan. Ironically, he states that his decision is borne out of justice. His orders and Kalyani's reply draws parallels to the conversation he had once had with her father over his stand.
A 'joutuk' is a marriage gift, given either to the bride or groom by their family members. More a custom than a ritual, the gift generally consists of money or jewellery or something similarly valuable to bless the newlyweds. Kalyani returns the same cheque as 'joutuk' for the boys in a symbolic gesture of rejection of Nutu's pride.
The zamindar's arrival at such a juncture and the conversation between him and Nutu highlights the changed circumstances between them. Having moved up the social ladder, the marriage alliance with the zamindar's family would serve to firmly establish his claim to the world of the bhadralok.
The very framing of the scene heightens the idea of conflicting ideals that has been a constant undercurrent in the latter half of the film. Nutu and Arun stand face to face in a mid-long shot, almost like they have been placed in a tableau. While Nutu here represents the aspirations and desires of the bhadralok, Arun has taken on the appearance one had associated with Nutu thus far - the white Gandhi cap firmly establishes this reversal. This then shifts to a series of shots and reverse shots to highlight the tense nature of this conflict and Nutu is informed that his family has abandoned him because he has distanced himself from his ideals. Besides, Arun's words constantly refer to Nutu's earlier passionate defenses of his beliefs and principles.
Kalyani and Bimala have always had a warm relationship despite the latter's doubts and insecurities. With the generational conflict taking centre-stage and Nutu's fall from his ideals becoming a crucial aspect of the last act, this complex nature of their relationship is not revisited in the narrative. Kalyani and Nutu are now siblings, and Bimala's words firmly establish this.
Nutu has been deeply affected by his family's rejection despite his claims that there are other things in society worth living for.
Nutu decides to fight against Arun in court on behalf of the zamindars of Kankana. The fact that Mahabharat reports this is important; till date it has been his fight with the zamindars against oppression that has guided the course of Nutu's life in significant ways. Thus it is an ironic reversal that Nutu should now stand against these very same principles.
Despite his earlier refusal Nutu accompanies Kalyani to their village and his old school. He leaves suddenly, however, after hearing something through the window.
It is revealed that he has heard Arun speaking about him and the case. Arun's words, heard through a voice-over, reflect the idealism that had marked Nutu's passionate speeches in the first half and there is a suggestion that the experience has had a profound impact on Nutu.
The court scene has elements that recur from Nutu's first court scene earlier in the film, when he had been fighting against the zamindars. What heightens the dramatic irony further are the short shots that make up the scene and the reference to the image of Christ that had been central to Nutu's defense of truth and justice earlier. Besides, Arun, with the Gandhi cap on his head, as the accused, alludes to similar images from the Nationalist movement and this gives the scene a certain topicality that has not been evoked elsewhere in the film.
Having symbolically taken off the lawyer's cloak, Nutu goes back to his village school - it is a sign of return and reconciliation. One must note, that this conflict of ideals and generations as a theme, though central to the plot, is a rather hurriedly used device in the film, unlike the rest of the plot elements thus far.
Susovan's presence in the film as a choric character, present at crucial junctures in Nutu's narrative, has already been well-established. In fact, right at the outset, his presence almost seems like a figment of Nutu's imagination. The passing of the night is symbolic. In the very next cut it is morning, a sign that all conflicts have been resolved.
Consequently the feud with the zamindar of Kankana is also resolved, and quite hurriedly. The marriage plans remain partially valid as Nutu's daughter is still to be married to the zamindar's grandson.
The final scene reaffirms that the father son relationship, which gives the film both its title and one of its dominant narrative tropes, has also been restored. Interestingly, the film ends with a lone shot of the flag of 'Purna Swaraj', the only overt reference to the Nationalist Movement besides the few earlier references to swadeshi and the Congress. Nutu's appeal to Arun to keep the flag flying works at both a personal and a political level, contexualising the melodrama within the larger socio-political scenario of the time.