Director: Ajoy Kar; Writer: Maniranjan Ghosh, Hiren Nag; Producer: Krishna Das Ghosh; Cinematographer: Ajoy Kar; Editor: Santosh Gangopadhyay; Cast: Kamal Mitra, Kanu Bandopadhyay, Santosh Sinha, Shishir Batabyal, Gautam Mukhopadhyay, Biren Chattopadhyay, Dhiraj Das, Abani Gangopadhyay, Sarasi Chattopadhyay, Bikash Roy, Manju Dey, Ramala Choudhury, Kalpana Sarkar, Sushma Ghosh, Pushpa Devi
Duration: 01:52:07; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 62.428; Saturation: 0.017; Lightness: 0.202; Volume: 0.131; Cuts per Minute: 3.327; Words per Minute: 52.681
Summary: Loosely based on Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of Baskervilles. The role of the detective was played by Sishir Battobyal, with Manju Dey playing a ghostly character. Bikash Roy was given a different dimension as one of the relatives of the princely estate, who was deprived of real property of the royal family and took revenge by killing each of the new predecessors of the royal family. He stayed in the neighbourhood in the disguise of a botanist and was ultimately killed by the detective in the story before he could commit another murder. Jighansa is often credited as the chief source of inspiration for the Hindi blockbuster 'Bees Saal Baad'.
Release date: 20 April, 1951 (Rupabani, Aruna)
The first two scenes serve to thematically contextualise the film. 'Jighansha' is loosely adapted from 'The Hound of the Baskervilles'. The speeding landau, the desolate marshes, the unearthly scream and the dead body all serve to hark back to not only the source but also set the pace for the narrative to unfold. The music complements that feeling of dread. With the first scene dissolving to the title-card, the title 'Jighansha' appears, meaning Vengeance.
This continues in the second scene where the same set of feet seen beside the dead body earlier reappear. We learn it is the doctor, who had stumbled upon the body of the king and has now come to ask help of the detectives. As he emerges from the fog again in his landau it throws every character and their every action within the shadow of doubt. What aides in this is the fact that it is the doctor's outline and back that we mostly see, framed in shadows. His face is not seen till the next scene.
We learn that he has come for help. The scene introduces the typical Holmesian detective as crucial characters are now being introduced. What follows is a routine scene out of detective fiction with the sleuth displaying his flair for keen observation, deduction and common sense. We also learn the doctor's version of the first scene and how the king died.
The crucial laying-out of the leitmotif that structures the narrative: the family curse of the scandal and the vengeful witch. The scene begins amidst a eveving gathering at a palace, a courtesan dancing, a drunkard lecherous king - all typical markers of decadence and dissolution. The background music as the scene unfolds in the bedchamber, and the woman jumping to her death laughing hysterically, heightens the mood.
The story continues: how the curse has affected the family but in the present. Also, certain crucial details are revealed - about the inheritance and the oath, the exiled uncle, the young prince.
The detectives meet the prince at the Oberoi Grand Calcutta. It is quite obvious that the prince is rather naive and inexperienced. We also meet the sleuth's Watson-like assistant who will become a major player in the narrative. He will be doing the initial legwork and for all practical purposes will be there as the prince's bodyguard.
The next two short scenes, underline the fact no one in this narrative can really be fully trusted. The detective learns that the doctor has left in a hurry without any word, and the already existing suspicion around the figure of the omnipresent doctor is further crystallized. At the same time, the assistant sees the mysterious man discussed in the earlier scene who had come to the prince posing as the detective and had left a note of warning.
The Doctor's possible implication is further underscored, even though he was the who has set everything in motion.
The first shot of Ratnagarh and a crucial scene. Ajoy Kar, a renowned cinematographer himself, had gone on record to explain how they had had to create thick artificial fog for these scenes using Neol spray. The thick billowing fog, the desolate platform with the slightly ghoulish attendant, the marshlands through which the landau travels, the play of light and dark in the mise-en-scene, and finally the looming shadow that is the palace serve to congeal the feeling of impending doom and terror. Much of the film will be set in this foggy, terrible darkness and this scene sets the tone for all these future scenes.
The caretaker is introduced, lone resident of this desolate mansion. Right at the outset the viewer is left to feel a sense of recognition which will deepen in a few scenes as one realises that this could be the man the assistant had seen in Calcutta.
The first shots of the mansion serve only to heighten the mood created by the preceding scenes of the marshy land. The mansion is forbidding, imposing and constricting, fertile ground for curses to breed.
Suspicion about Laxman the caretaker intensifies as it is clear he is harbouring secrets. His warnings about the king's room, the witch, his insistance that they be careful at night makes it all the more obvious.
The theme song, set to Hemant Mukhopadhyay's haunting score, is what binds the curse and the vengeful witch together in the narrative. These are the first strains, meant to shock and startle, especially against the shots of the shadowy marsh and billowing fog.
Convulsive sobs are heard making the atmosphere further unsettling. As the two men are sitting on the bed a shadow is seen through the glass windows passing with a light; it is very obviously the caretaker. Masterfully shot, Ajoy Kar's background in cinematography is perhaps what ascertains that the mise-en-scene perfaectly captures the gradually crystallizing mystery and terror of the haunted mansion. The shot of the two men, barely shadows themselves, standing in the giant hallway almost consumed in the darkness around them throws this into stark relief.
When confronted the next morning the caretaker denies hearing anything blaming the witch instead. This is the perfect time for the entry of Mr. Sanjeev, the late king's friend and trustee to the property. The notion of inheritance, a central motif in the narrative, reappears. Suryakanta has not only inherited the property but the curse as well and that fact was well-established the night before. The trustee's warning and his firm belief in the witch re-inforces the fact.
The marshlands - quite nondescript in broad daylight. An eccentric botanist is introduced who appears to be the only one who is perfectly at home in the marshes.
The two characters who seem to be bearing the brunt of most of the suspicion are Laxman and the Doctor and the assistant talking to the latter about the former only drives home that fact. Especially, when the song is heard from the marshes immediately after.
Dense, choking fog swirls around the mansion as the prince listens to the song from the balcony and gets his first glimpses of the witch in the marshes. She is but a shadow as she hails him, but framed in light and darkness with the mist shrouding her, the shot is startling. More so because, the song is about how she but a mirage, meant to lure. As the song gradually continues, the prince moves out to the marshes and starts following the 'witch'.
The first time the 'witch' is clearly seen. A woman singing about loss and rejection, she suddenly stops, there is tense silence and then she starts laughing in the shadows, unresponsive to his queries about who she is, instead warning him to go away from there and from Ratnagarh. Finally she tells the prince that she is the marsh witch. It is a clear invitation: she knows he is transfixed, and so when she tells him she comes there every day, the viewer is well-aware that the prince will not be able to stay away.
The convulsive sobs take on a different dimension now that one has seen the witch. It is a clear insinuation that the sobs have to do more with whoever or whatever is inside the mansion than outside. This is confirmed by Laxman's fervent conversation with the unseen crying woman. He is clearly in too deep in something he would rather keep a secret, something that has to do with the marshes as he is seen signalling someone with a lamp right after.
Bimal, the detective's assistant, runs out to the marshes in search of the answering signal when, suddenly, terrifying laughter echoes in the marshes. A hooded figure seen running out of the sleeping prince's room.
The prince says that someone was in the room, someone he could not see.
Laxman, when confronted, denies everything, even saying he was in his room the whole time. The fact that one knows he is lying implicates him further in the mystery of the marshes and the mansion.
Immediately we see the Doctor who has come to check on Suryakanta. As mentioned earlier, the whole narrative is clearly pitting these two characters, the caretaker and the doctor, together in a web of suspicion. And the seemingly shifty nature of both these characters aides that assumption.
The midnight invader had apparently stolen some of Suryakanta's clothes.
The next night, the witch's song is heard again. Suryakanta, as expected, goes to the marshes to see the woman again. Her song, taken literally, almost seems like a cry of help. She is trapped in some nexus, a web she cannot extricate herself from.
The prince and the witch talk. She warns him again to leave, threatening to kill him otherwise. Just as suddenly, her warnings become more earnest, not the threatening warning of before but a concerned fearful warning of dire circumstances. The song one has heard takes on new levels of signification as one begins to wonder whether she is indeed trapped by something in the marshes - especially as one realises there are bruises on her hands. The prince, on the other hand, has become deeply attached to this mysterious woman.
The girl runs as she spies Bimal approaching. The prince tells him about her, deducing that the mysterious woman is probably not what everyone would like to believe she is. Thus, despite Bimal's advice, he maintains that stand.
The reappearance of the eccentric botanist, this time in the mansion.
Reiteration of the suspicion already surrounding the doctor and the caretaker. The doctor has been markedly absent all this while and yet the caretaker seems to know his whereabouts, insinuating that they are in cohorts and this is reaffirmed when the latter makes excuses for the former.
The day of the doctor's invitation is the same as the day the last king was mysteriously murdered in the marshes.
The eccentric botanist, as disconnected and clueless as he seems to be, clearly has secrets others did not know about, like the fact that he is good chess-player. He leaves just as suddenly as he had arrived.
Instead of waiting for the song, Suryakanta is seen waiting for the girl in the marshes. Laxman is also there, taking a bundle to someone, probably the person he was signalling from the palace. His instructs the person about something that has to happen that very night.
The prince and the witch talk. They are very obviously deeply attached by now so much so that the girl attempts to convince him to leave, not as a warning but as a plea. She wants to escape too, excited by the idea when the prince promises to take her with him. She confirms earlier suspicions that she is merely a tool in some larger nefarious plan.
They are interrupted by Laxman's footsteps. The latter does not know it is them but the girl seems to think it is someone dangerous and asks him to flee. Cut to close-up of scaly dark feet plodding through the marsh as someone unseen creature approaches. The background music reaches a crescendo.
There is a tall man wading through the marshes. Suddenly the howling laughter rings through the marsh again. In fear and confusion the prince runs.
Bimal has heard the laughter too and calling for Laxman, runs out to save the prince.
The dazed and petrified prince is running through the marshes as the oppressive howls seem to saturate the atmosphere. The tall unknown man is running through the marsh too and so is Bimal in search of the prince.
A piercing cry of pain is heard which Bimal assumes is the prince's. The pace and frenzy that the background sound and the music had created till now is replaced by complete silence signalling that something has happened. One assumes that the prince has succumbed to someone. Suddenly shots ring out.
Bimal sees a body and overturning it sees a strange man. He has been shot. The groaning prince is few feet away. He had attacked but the tall man had pushed him aside and had jumped on to the attacker, which is why he had been shot.
Someone is seen dragging the body of the tall man away through the marshes. Bimal and Suryakanta find the body no longer there and immediately a landau is heard.
A landau can be seen, speeding through the fog, out of the marshes. It is very obviously, Dr. Palit's
Bimal is at the scene of crime when he meets the botanist Professor Gupta again. The latter confirms hearing sounds in the marsh the night before.
The footprints of the attacker are seen on the mud, huge foot-prints, almost non-human. The botanist asks Bimal to check the area beyond the nearby hill where apparently a strange man lives.
A rundown temple-like building shrouded in creepers in heavily wooded area. The background score, comprising primarily of the violin and the cello, and the sudden howl of a jackal heightens the anticipation of someone unseen lurking within.
The inside, although equally rundown, shows signs of an inhabitant. Suddenly footsteps are heard.
A man, in crutches and strangely disfigured, comes into view. When confronted it is eventually revealed he is the detective, who has been living there in disguise all this while. He is the one who had shot the attacker which had hit the other man hiding in the marshes instead. There is a clear indication that with the appearance of the detective and the protective watch he had been keeping on the marsh, the narrative is hurtling towards a climactic confrontation.
The duo visit the botanist's house at the edge of the marshes.
The struggle for survival, supremacy and justice speech is a surprising one coming from the professor who has hitherto been seen as mostly disconnected with the world around him. His voice takes on an unfamiliar edge, revealing a side to him not seen before, something he himself realizes.
While the prince is a little annoyed that the detective has not revealed himself earlier, Mr. Sen seems transfixed by a portrait hanging on the wall. It is revealed to be the portrait of the ancestor who was first cursed, whose tale we have already seen in the beginning.
The detective is seen looking around the mansion at night when he discovers a hidden passageway from the room where Laxman had been seen signalling. One can now clearly deduce how Laxman could disappear from there so effectively and how he could go out to the marshes to meet the man there. The prince's stolen clothes are found there. The gradual revelations begin. It is correctly deduced that the man had died that night at the marshes because he had been wearing the prince's stolen clothes.
The detective discovers a note from a woman named Chitralekha addressed to the late king. It is revealed the woman is a famous courtesan from the area although Dr. Palit denies there could have been any association between the king and her.
The courtesan herself, though, when confronted admits she and the king were involved but denies she had ever written to him asking him to meet her near the marshes on the fateful evening of his death.
Dr. Palit comes to confirm his invitation to dinner.
Bimal is still deeply suspicious of the doctor and almost coincidentally the prince receives a letter from the woman he meets in the marshes (it is revealed her name is Manjusree), asking him to meet her near the marsh that night. The detective reads the letter, asks the prince to go meet her at night and then makes an excuse and asks to be let off from the dinner because he has leave for Calcutta on urgent business. He instructs the prince to go to the dinner alone and return alone on foot and wear the clothes that had earlier been stolen. There is an obvious insinuation that the detective is merely trying to draw out the unknown assailant as one gets the feeling that things are finally coming to a head.
The station. Suspicions about the detective Mr. Sen's motives are confirmed when he enquires of the station-master as to how he can return to Ratnagarh by the next train.
At the dinner, the prince is restless. He is talking to the botanist when Dr. Palit enters. Just as he is about to apologise for being late he receives a telegram from Mr. Sen informing that they have had to hastily depart for Calcutta.
Cut to the prince. He is restless about the meeting. Noticing the others busy in a game of chess, the prince quietly leaves for the marshes.
Meanwhile, at Dr. Palit's, everyone notices he is missing. Suddenly the background music, till now used in the film to signal climactic moments, starts again. Everyone at the dinner, worried, leaves in search of the missing prince.
In almost an exact repetition of the first scene, the landau is seen speeding through the marshes to the rousing choral music. Suryakanta's is wading through the marshes too, in search of Manjusree. The landau arrives at the mansion. A frantic Dr. Palit sees that the prince has not returned there and leaves.
The shots are now rapid, cutting to the prince in the marshes and then to Mr. Sanjeev the trustee, the botanist, and the speeding landau in quick succession, giving the scene a sense of frenzy as the rousing background score combines with the mise-en-scene, heightening the sense of impending doom. The music suddenly mellows to a soft flute note which is immediately undercut by the howling laughter that startles the prince and rings out through the marshes.
Some entity seems to be moving through the reeds as the camera takes on its point of view. The dazed prince is running, the shots intercut with the landau hurtling towards the marshes. The background score now intensifies as it mixes with the laughter, oppressive and deafening.
A sudden silence again. The prince is lost in the marshes as the mist swirls around him. Suddenly the background score starts with the soft staccato beat of drums as the camera holds in close-up the same scaly feet as before plodding through the marsh.
Silence and the camera tilts up gradually revealing the creature as it attacks the prince from behind. Music starts again, now mingled with the dull angry growls of the creature and the prince's screams as he is chased. Shots intercut with the detective and the police who have arrived in search. As the creature begins to throttle Suryakanta, Mr. Sen shoots it. The music stops abruptly, as the creatures groans in pain and then drops dead.
Cut to the wounded Suryakanta lying nearby.
The landau arrives, as everyone gradually converges on the spot.
They approach the creature who is unmasked to reveal the ghoulish porter at the platform. It is revealed that the earlier man was an escaped convict wearing the prince's clothes. He had been Laxman's brother-in-law and the sobs had been Laxman's sister crying at night. Intercut with rapid close-up shots of Laxman, Dr. Palit and Mr. Sanjeev, all in shock. Before the revelations can continue the botanist revelas himself to be the one behind it all as he draws out a gun and escapes.
Chase and shootout through the marsh as they reach the tunnels the detective had found earlier. References to his earlier lapse in judgement and the fervent speech about justice and struggle.
Beyond a blocked passage, the woman can be heard crying in pain and the botanist threatening her. Their quarrel reveals all his plans.
The detective finds a way into the cave just as the botanist is about to kill the girl. Cornered and about to be arrested, he escapes again through a trap-door out into the marshes. Again a series of rapid cuts to convey the urgency of the scene and the chase as the rousing orchestra and the gunshots mingle.
Bimal is shot in the arm and the botanist tries to climb up a slope and escape. He is shot by Mr. Sen and he rolls down the slope. Music stops immediately as everyone gathers around him. Final revelation that the botanist is in fact the exiled uncle out for revenge. References to the portarit that had transfixed the detective in the mansion earlier.
Indrakanta apologizes, clears Manjusree of all responsibilty, and dies.
Bimal apologizes to Dr. Palit for suspecting the latter and both the doctor and the caretaker are cleared of the suspicion the narrative had wound around them. It is revealed that the person Bimal had seen in Calcutta was in fact the botanist in disguise.
Final words about the family curse, the scandal, and the dead man as the fog swirls and envelops them. The End.