Director: Premendra Mitra; Writer: Premendra Mitra; Producer: Premendra Mitra; Cinematographer: Anil Gupta; Editor: Baidyanath Banerjee; Cast: Dhiraj Bhattacharya, Bipin Mukherjee, Pranoti Ghosh, Gautam Mukherjee, Namita Chattopadhyay, Nabadwip Halder, Shyam Laha, Biren Mitra, Sasanka Som, Kamala Adhikari, Krishna Bandyopadhyay, Shibprasad Roy Chowdhury, Bani Bandyopadhyay, Swapan Roy, Subal Dutta, Utpal Basu, Biren Mukhopadhyay, Antu Mukhopadhyay, Haripada Roy, Sunil Roy
Duration: 01:58:14; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 75.922; Saturation: 0.049; Lightness: 0.244; Volume: 0.222; Cuts per Minute: 3.290; Words per Minute: 90.631
Summary: Produced, directed, written by Premendra Mitra, Hanabari remains one of the most celebrated examples of crime/suspense thriller in early Bengali cinema despite meeting with rather critical or lukewarm reviews at the time of its release. A tense narrative typical of Mitra, one of the pioneers of science fiction in Bengali literature, the film is about a haunted house (the title quite literally translates to that) and its new tenants who are plagued by a fearsome creature that is hell-bent on driving them away. Add to this foray, a man they once used to know who suddenly makes a re-appearance, a painter who may or may not be hiding a dark secret, a strange English-speaking beggar who lives in the run-down wells of the mansion, rumors of hidden treasure in the ruins, and murder!
Release date: 13 June, 1952 (Uttara, Purabi)
Certificate no. 3854;
Released by Mitrani Ltd.;
Length of film: 11908 feet;
Date: 7th April 1952;
Premendra Mitra, one of the exponents of science fiction in Bengali literature, had made a name for himself in the genre of thrillers in cinema. True to the form, the film opens on a tense note, with a man frantically running on the road, not just running to towards something but running away. The rousing score, like a frantic marching rhythm as he runs, sets the pace of the short sequence of shots, a pace that will return later. As he spies a roadside house, he asks the owner for help and at the bewildered owner's request launches into his story. As the setting returns to a dilapidated house, the score starts again, a slow laborious one heavy on trumpets and violins, shrill yet slow. The mise-en-scene with the play of lights and darkness and the run-down house, create an eerie atmosphere which reaches a crescendo with the appearance of the giant ape-like creature that inhabits the house. This whole sequence, ending with the opening credits and the title 'Hanabari' ('The Haunted House') as the man runs out of the house again onto the road firmly establishes the context of the film and sets the narrative rolling.
The next shot returns to the tired, scared face of the running man as he finishes his story. It is clear he has been deeply affected by the episode, flaring up in anger when the owner of the house suggests that it could have been a hallucination. At the same time, when suggested they go to the police and report the incident he vehemently tries to get out of it thinking it unnecessary. The narrative of the film is simple enough with one of the focal concerns being of appearance and reality. Characters and situations appear in ways that make it difficult to ascertain whether that is their reality, and whether the whole thing hinges around the demonic creature that haunts the mansion. One can never be sure what that entity is: if it really is what it appears to be or something else entirely. This spills out onto the characters who are connected to that haunted house in some way. We will return to this point eventually.
At the police station next morning, the two men, Jayanta and the owner of the house, Srimanto, report to the officer in charge.
A strange-looking man, a beggar in fact, dressed in a coat and trousers and speaking perfectly clear English barges in seeking to make a complaint.
We learn of the history of the house and its previous owner Sasishekhar, how had been found dead in the house and how from then on one one had been able to live in the house.
It is also revealed that Sasishekhar was a smuggler and the eye-witness to his murder is brought in. The scene is intercut with shots of the beggar, bored and yawning, yet one can be certain he is listening to every word of what is being said.
The eye-witness's account takes the narrative back to the house when Sasishkehar was still living there. We see the man quarrelling with his associates over share of wealth, a clear indication that he had been murdered because of his wealth by his own associates.
The man further reveals that he had gone back there to find the wealth for himself. And we are immediately taken back to the run-down house in a flashback as the score resumes and we see the same ape-like creature from before murder Sasishekhar.
Jayanta leaves, annoyed with the police, followed by Srimanto.
It is perfectly obvious to the viewer that no matter how strange the beggar is, there is more to him than meets the eye, in keeping with duality between appearance and reality. Especially, since the role of the beggar is being played by Dhiraj Bhattacharya, one of the major stars of the time. We will keep coming back the beggar and his presence everywhere time and again.
There is an undercurrent of tension within Jayanta and his reaction to the incident. Earlier he had almost accused the police of not doing anything about Sasishekhar's murder and leaving saying he didn't expect any help from them. Immediately, though he comes back only to ask whether they have kept an eye on Srimanto. The officer in charge, on his part, is equally suspicious of Jayanta, his motives and his reticence about the police.
Cut to the estate agents' office, M/s Bag and Nag Company. They are played by Nabadwip Halder and Shyam Laha, two stalwarts of comedy of the time who had a double act on the lines of Laurel and Hardy which would be used as comic interludes with films. This is one such interlude, where they play the estate agents in charge of the haunted house. Such interludes were meant to dissipate tension after serious scenes, as a filler between scenes, and at times, like here, to provide important information. They give Jayanta information about who owns the haunted house right now.
We immediately cut to the new owner of the house, a middle aged man with his two nieces Lalita and Namita. They have come recently from abroad.
The two sisters, out exploring the house. They encounter the very old beggar who has turned up there. It is made clear that the older Lalita is the braver, more mature one while the younger, Namita, is the naive, inexperienced one. The beggar seeks to read their palms and tell them that he sees danger in their future, a strange man and perhaps a murder or two. While it is obvious he is doing this to cultivate them so he can continue living there, it is unsettling how his predictions ring with conviction in the context of the narrative, harking back to the appearance-reality duality. He warns them of the house before being interrupted and driven away by the uncle.
Jayanta, still restless after the morning's events. He seems to have taken it onto himself to get to the bottom of the mystery of the house. Srimanto has reluctantly agreed.
The old man, the girls' uncle, had already been warned by his servant and some of the porters about the ill-repute of the house. The younger sister shares the feeling. The older, more in tune with their circumstances, is more amenable to making the best of what they have. There is a feeling that they had to leave from somewhere under stress and were forced to take the first option they could find on arrival in India.
Song written by Premendra Mitra. The song, about a mysterious wind that blows, speaking about desires that lay hidden within the shroud of the night, rings particularly portentious in the context of the film.
It's not the wind, not the wind.
lt's the silent night talking.
It's not the wind, it's talking.
This is not the wind.
The silent night is talking, not the wind.
lt's talking, it's not the wind.
There's a secret in the heart.
There's a secret in
the heart of the earth.
Of hunger and thirst, of hope
and despair, a stream flows.
It's not the wind, it's talking.
This is not the wind.
Is it heard or is it felt,
That is not certain,
yet the heart knows for sure.
The stars in the sky,
have received a sign.
So they strain to hear.
It's not the wind, not the wind.
lt's the silent night talking.
It's not the wind, it's talking.
This is not the wind.
Deep in the night, the ape-like creature strikes again, breaking into their room.
As they figure out what to do, there is knocking on the door, which is revealed to be Jayanta and Srimanto who had been guarding the house.
The uncle's reaction confirms they know Jayanta from before, a fact which is confirmed by the latter. Lalita's reaction too seems to convey a history as Jayanta leaves to inform the police and Srimanto is left behind to explain everything.
In Jayanta's absence, Srimanto goes to the run-down portion of the house to see the creature for himself.
The police arrive and the scene cuts to the creature climbing down a set of creepers pursued by the police but in vain.
Probably some missing scenes: we learn that the creature had attacked Srimanto, without causing major damage.
The girls' room. Jayanta is somewhat relieved now that the police have no option but to believe his story but it is also very obvious that the officer has developed a deep suspicion of Jayanta's motives. Answering the old man's concern, the officer assures them of constant guard at the house from then on, and they deduce that at least the creature is not a supernatural entity but an animal of some sort.
Jayanta also asks to stay and be there for them. He had already made his intentions clear, but now that it is revealed that he knows the family, especially Lalita, from before. This then takes on further significance. They had known each other from Burma, until Jayanta had left one day without any word, an act that Lalita very obviously still feels very deeply about.
Lalita's displeasure is made rather clear in the very same scene. As Srimanto enters, somewhat shaken, Jayanta sarcastically calls his bravado into question. Lalita makes a stinging comment about bravado and courage and walks out, directed obviously at Jayanta. Jayanta makes light of the remark but it is very clear the barb has hurt.
The sour nature of their relationship is firmly established in the very next scene when Jayanta interrupts Lalita and wishes to explain his actions. Lalita rebuffs him, wanting nothing to do with him or his explanations. Jayanta leaves in anger; their relationship, which probably had been rather intimate back in Burma, seems irreparably damaged.
Almost as a necessary complication, Srimanto is seen present there. He had already been there, and once he had heard them he had been unable to reveal himself. The scene plays out like a obvious narratorial attempt to introduce a necessary personal conflict into the Jayanta-Lalita equation by introducing a third person into the mix.
Lalita makes light of his appearance, changing the topic. The omniscient mysterious beggar is the perfect diversion for bringing the narrative back on track. The police arrive and the talk veers back to the events that have transpired.
The Nabadwip Halder-Shyam Laha track but true to the nature of the film there is an important development that happens - a mysterious old man comes to their office to enquire about the titular haunted house. Their interest piqued, the agents decide to visit the house next day.
They are received with a less than welcome reception and are forced into a tour of the dilapidated portions of house where the creature had been seen.
Whilst on their tour they encounter the mysterious English-beggar. An unnecessary interlude as it has been established that he had already been living there.
The estate agents, unsure of what to expect next, are waiting when the mysterious man who had come to their office arrives to see the house for himself. The estate agents are asked to show him around.
The fact that he has ulterior motives is made clear when we next see the man snooping about in the run-down portion of the house, looking for something. The beggar, obviously there, sees everything. Assuring the agents that he will give it a thought, the man prepares to leave.
Srimanto catches the beggar and the latter uses his usual tricks.
Whilst leaving, the mysterious stranger, who clearly isn't done looking around, obviously feigns illness and manages to be invited to spend the night in the house.
The romantic and personal equations are explored again. Namita and Lalita are talking about being detectives. Namita teases her older sister about someone, obviously Srimanto, and then breaks into a song.
Song written by Premendra Mitra, a teasing love-song about secret admirers.
Do you hear?
Do you hear who calls
you day and night?
Is he far away in a forest?
Or is he in your heart?
He stays distracted.
He says he will not listen.
Yet, he strains to hear
The heart does not wish
to reveal anything to him.
Yet, the heart itself is
like a mirror to the soul.
On hearing him, the
sleeping heart awakens.
It stares in surprise
Almost on cue, Srimanto is seen there. Namita teases Srimanto and he reciprocates in kind, the whole thing directed at Lalita.
Jayanta and the police officer talk again. The latter's suspicions against the former have become more certain. Jayanta warns him about something that probably will immediately happen and advises him to be prepared. He insinuates his distrust of Srimanto again.
At night, the mysterious stranger is seen missing from his room. Lalita claims to have heard voices in the ruins.
There are a few missing scenes, because in the very next scene we see a meeting where it is revealed that the stranger had been found murdered in the property. The officer obviously suspects Jayanta and his alibis seem flimsy, revealing he is somehow involved in the mystery. The officer also reveals that the murdered man was one of the two accomplices Sasishekhar had had a quarrel with. Besides, he also reveals that the creature is in fact a man wearing a suit because the fur they had found and tested had been revealed to be artificial. With the appearance and reality binary brought to the fore, it is but obvious to expect some sort of upheaval now.
On cue, the beggar is seen. He has dared to venture inside the house. Just like the creature, he has begun to appear different from how he seems.
At Srimanto's place, everyone is there in response to his invitation in the previous scene. The tension in the Srimanto-Jayanta-Lalita equation is revealed through their quips. The sisters leave with Srimanto to watch his artwork, much to the obvious resentment of Jayanta.
Like the previous few scenes it is revealed that all is not how it appears, this time with Srimanto. They discover a fierce looking man lurking within the house waiting for Srimanto. The latter claims it is a dissatisfied former employee but the whole matter seems obviously suspect.
Like a series of falling dominos, they next intrigue transpires. The uncle chances upon a hidden cabinet with a coded map-like sheet inside. With Jayanta absent, they decide to call Srimanto.
Srimanto has obviously been welcomed into the house warmly. In fact, it seems he is attracted to Lalita. Namita, as has been seen before, supports their growing closeness.
They show the map to Srimanto. He rubbishes it as nonsense. Jayanta is obviously irritated that he has not been shown the piece of paper and takes no interest in it.
The beggar has followed Srimanto to his home.
The two sisters and the uncle are discussing Jayanta when the latter sees light among the ruins and goes out to investigate. He asks the guard posted there to stay back. Whoever he sees, he obviously recognizes, because next we hear him scream. Then Jayanta's voice is heard and he seen cradling the old man's prone unconscious form.
The doctor reveals the old man's condition to be serious, his brain centre has gone numb with shock.
At Srimanto's place, they find the beggar and the disgruntled employee talking. Srimanto drives the latter away and then adds that there is a possibility that the creature will make a re-appearance that very night.
The creature is seen lurking in the shadows, the familiar background music playing. The three men wait to lure it in but Srimanto shoots and the creature jumps away from sight. They run and discover that the man has left the suit behind but has obviously been wounded. Tensions between Jayanta and Srimanto rise to the surface and Jayanta cleverly mentions the map. Though it does seem a bit of a lapse in the plot that the police seems to know nothing about these events and also seems hardly involved.
Jayanta at Srimanto's house. He sends the servant out on an errand and goes about looking for the map, and makes a copy of it even though he had expressed no interest in it earlier. Srimanto comes in just as he is about to put the map back and understands everything. Jayanta leaves in a hurry.
He is next seen at the police station talking to the officer. Srimanto arrives and he leaves. Srimanto informs the officer about Jayanta's earlier behaviour.
Jayanta is seen measuring something in the run-down well. He is discovered by Srimanto and in a suddenly turn of events he incapacitates the latter and ties him up, seemingly deeply involved in the dealings of the house.
Lalita hears Jayanta's warning shot and goes out to investigate. She finds Srimanto tied up and releases him with the help of the beggar who had been present there and had obviously seen everything. Shocked to hear that it was Jayanta, they rush with the officer to Jayanta's house.
They find Jayanta there and he is accused of all the crimes that have been committed thus far, and the fact that he was the late Sasishekhar's nephew. The narrative very obviously has now come to collate around the mysterious links that connect Jayanta to that house. His sudden departure from Burma as Sasishekhar's missive, his apparent incident at the house with the creature, all of it now comes together to fit perfectly, making him the most obvious suspect. Lalita, who still harbours feelings for him, cannot believe any of it. Though Jayanta resists at first, he quickly draws a gun on them and is arrested in the ensuing scuffle. Lalita is distraught but attempts to hide it from Srimanto.
Srimanto, who now has come off clean from the episode, assures Lalita he will solve the mystery of the house.
That night the uncle suddenly wakes up much to everyone's delight. He seems bent on telling something to the officer Mr. Some.
Srimanto arrives at night calling for Lalita. He wishes to solve the mystery of the house and leaves a pistol with Lalita for her safety.
In the run-down part of the property, Srimanto finds the trap-door to a hidden cellar. He has deciphered the map, though he had declared it to be rubbish to everyone. Inside are the treasures Sasishekhar had kept hidden along with explosives. As he is looking around, a masked figure enters the cellar. The figure takes off the mask revealing himself to be the beggar. They start fighting. It is long tense scene, shot in light and darkness with intercutting shots of Lalita's reactions to the shots, Srimanto's own shocked face and the beggar laughing sneer. As the masks literally and metaphorically come off one is now certain that it is Srimanto who had been behind everything all along. As an aside, this revelation, though stock-in-trade of the thriller genre itself, seems an uneasy fit in this narrative especially because of the slightly incomplete characterisation of Srimanto. The narrative never really fleshes out his character, instead, shifting from innocence and shocked bewilderment to a intervening period of suspicious dealings and then coming back to assumed innocence again. Unlike Jayanta, who has been difficult to peg from the very start, Srimanto seems like a stock-tool, used to drive the narrative towards a thrilling denouement or provide diversions as and when necessary.
Lalita chances upon them and obviously mistaken forces the beggar at gunpoint to release Srimanto. In an obvious trope of the genre, the unwitting heroine inadvertently helps the villain get a possible chance at escape, getting mired in the mix herself. Srimanto reveals his intentions to Lalita, forcing her to accompany him. The uncle, who had woken up, turns up with his gun to stop them it is revealed that they are surrounded by the police and Jayanta one side. Jayanta's arrest had been a ruse to throw Srimanto off the trail. The uncle reveals that it was Srimanto who had attacked him.
All appearances having been proved false, the final intrigue is the startling revelation that the beggar had probably been a sleuth as he turns up with Srimanto's accomplice who had been made to dress up as the creature and whom Srimanto had attempted to kill pretending to shoot at the beast.
Srimanto manges to get away but is pursued by the vengeful accomplice into the cellar. He attempts to bribe the man onto his side but the man refuses and they fight. The ensuing scuffle detonates the explosives and they are both buried beneath the exploding ruins. The rousing music that had been part of this whole climactic scene dissolves to absolute silence as the the ghosts of the haunted house are laid to rest.
Order having been restored, and appearances no longer deceptive, the personal conflict of the narrative, the Jayanta-Lalita equation is also quickly resolved on a happy note.
The stock scene of the sleuth revealing all. Everything is explained in minute details, all loose ends tied up and the narrative ends with the perfect symbol of resolution - the formation of couples. This time it is not one but two, what with the officer incredibly and unforeseeably paired off with Namita.
Ends with a comic interlude between the beggar/sleuth and the estate agents. Fade out to strains of the song Namita had sung in the garden earlier, signalling a joyous and upbeat end.