By Sunil Kumar

Shifting my attention to old movies again; here’s an absolutely interesting one in (my opinion); the Bimal Roy helmed “Madhumati“(1958) written by Rajinder Singh Bedi and Ritwik Ghatak. The mysterious subject of reincarnation is tackled well in this film; with Dilip Kumar and Vyjanthimala‘s acting along with the legendary Pran being the standout features. The gothic noir feel visible in old movies is unmatcheable in the present era.

“Filmi” rain leads Dilip Kumar(Devendra); an engineer to an old mansion of the road. The house looks uncannily familiar to him; and he recognizes the portrait in the bungalow. When the friend and the caretaker join him; Devendra narrates a story from his previous life.

In his previous life; as the manager Anand(also Dilip Kumar) had come to Shyamnagar Timber Estate as its manager. Most of these names were a staple of the “Ram aur Shyam” era in Hindi movies; and today we’re used to the more Hiranandani brand of “phoren” imports. Headed by a ruthless player Ugranarayan(Pran was pure and menacing); the movie sees Anand getting enamored by the culture of the tribals and the songs of the femme fatale; Madhumati.  Like the movie itself; the soundtrack is timeless; with every melody positively enchanting.

Tragedy strikes when Dilip Kumar’s affirmative action is resented by Ugranarayan’s feudal mind; and his fiance gets killed inadvertently; when Dilip Kumar is sent to a nearby town. Now Anand is distraught spending his time painting; until one day he meets a woman on a vacation; who looks exactly like his beloved Madhumati. Initially refusing to believe she is nothing apart from his lost love; Anand(Dilip Kumar) eventually agrees that the look-alike is a seperate person who can be used to get the truth out of Ugranarayan.

The climax scene with its accompanying drama is the high-point of this film; something that has probably been the inspiration for more current movies; as Anand plays Pran to the hilt; and he expects the look-alike Vyjanthimala to make an appearance. And she does; right on time. But; this is actually the aggrieved ghost; who had suffered as a result of Ugranarayan’s scheming.

As Anand realizes the truth after Pran’s acceptance of his complicity; and his death following the ghost of Madhumati; the movie comes back to the present day; where Devendra(Dilip Kumar) tells his friend that in this life he has met Madhumati in the form of his wife. Suddenly; he receives information that the train in which his wife was supposed to come has met with an accident; and he rushes to the station in obvious panic.

As his wife(Vyjanthimala again) steps out; the movie finishes with the proverbial nod to happiness. So; that’s all for today’s ode to old Bollywood.





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