Sujata (1959)

Another film from one of my favourite directors, and with two of my favourite stars as well. Like many of Bimal Roy’s other productions—Parakh, Usne Kaha Tha, Bandini, Kabuliwala, Do Bigha ZameenSujata is about people like you and me, not outright villains (I like to think I’m not one!!), but not saints either (yes, well, I have to admit I’m not one of those, either). People who’re shades of grey, not black and white. And, like most of Bimal Roy’s other films, this one too focuses on the underdog: in this case, an ‘untouchable’ girl.

Nutan and Sunil Dutt in Sujata

The film begins in the household of a government engineer, Upendranath Chowdhury (Tarun Bose) and his wife Charu (Sulochana Latkar), who’re preparing to celebrate the first birthday of their baby Rama. Theirs is a typical upper middle class government gharana: pretty bungalow, large garden, lots of servants, many ‘suited-booted’ friends, much pampering of Rama. Upendra and Charu dote on their little girl and have arranged a party in celebration.

Upendra and Charu plan Rama's birthday party

The party’s not even begun when three men from the nearby village turn up with a baby girl. Both her parents have died of cholera, and the men were just in time to rescue the infant from lurking jackals. They’ve brought her to Upendra because they don’t know what to do with the baby: her parents were untouchables, the only people of their caste in the village. Nobody in the village—all of them from (technically) higher castes than the baby—will consent to take her into their own homes.

An unwanted orphan arrives at Upendra's house

Upendra tries to wriggle out of the situation, suggesting that someone be sent to a nearby village to find foster parents of the girl’s caste. The men explain that even if someone were to seek foster parents in other villages, it would take time; and who would look after the baby in the meantime?
Eventually, Upendra and Charu agree to keep the baby in their house until someone can be found to foster her. They hand her over to the ayah to keep in the room adjoining the house.

Charu instructs the ayah to keep the baby

But finding a foster home for the baby isn’t that easy, and in the meantime, Upendra and Charu find themselves willy-nilly succumbing to the baby’s helpless charm. Upendra bestows a name on her: Sujata (which, ironically enough, means ‘of a good caste’), and Charu—while singing a lullaby to Rama—ends up glancing towards the motherless baby in the room opposite.

Charu sings a lullaby to Rama

Not everybody is as charitable, however. An extremely straitlaced old lady (Lalita Pawar) who, though she’s no relative of Upendra and Charu, is called Buaji (‘aunt’), turns up one day. She’s bubbling over with affection for Rama, whom she’s never seen. Along with Buaji comes a pandit (Asit Sen) whom she’s picked up on her travels—she seems to be a perpetual pilgrim. In all the confusion of welcoming the pandit, arranging for Buaji’s stay, etc, Charu and Upendra don’t realise that Buaji has mistaken Sujata for Rama and is busy cooing over her.

Buaji pets Sujata by mistake

When Buaji discovers the truth, she drops the baby (the ayah springs forward and does a neat bit of fielding, but this scene horrified me: how on earth did Bimal Roy allow it? That baby could’ve actually fallen). Buaji and the pandit are aghast that Upendra and Charu could have so soiled their household by sheltering an untouchable. The pandit tries to brainwash Upendra by telling him that untouchables exude a poisonous gas. Upendra, thank heavens, is too level-headed to believe such rot, and the pandit eventually leaves. Buaji has a go at Charu too, and is a little more successful.

The pandit tries to brainwash Upendra

Meanwhile, the village men have found a foster father for Sujata. When he’s brought, Upendra discovers he’s a drunk, and is willing to take on the bringing up of Sujata only for the money. The man’s shooed away, and Upendra tells Charu it doesn’t matter; let Sujata stay on a while longer.
Upendra gets transferred, and four years later, with Sujata (Baby Shobha) and Rama (Baby Farida) now the closest of friends—almost sisters—they still haven’t found foster parents for the girl. Sujata firmly believes that this is her family, and though Charu is disapproving, even Upendra treats her like his own daughter—going to the extent of feeding her halwa from his own plate.

Upendra feeds Sujata from his own plate

Another solution presents itself: send Sujata off to an orphanage. Rama’s tutor (Brahm Bhardwaj) promises to help, and one afternoon convinces Sujata that her ‘Bapu’, ‘Ammi’ and Rama have already gone on ahead and that he’s simply taking Sujata to join them. But Charu, peeking out from behind a curtain for one last look, is spotted by Sujata, who runs back in. No going anywhere.

Sujata comes running back to Charu

And so the years pass, with Upendra and his family moving—as he’s transferred—from Dehradun to Bilaspur to Raniganj to Barrackpore and God knows where, until he finally retires. Rama (now Shashikala) is a bubbly, vivacious college girl who teases the quieter, housebound Sujata (now Nutan). Despite their teasing and good-natured tiffs, there’s much love between the two girls.

Sujata and Rama

Upendra and Charu too have accepted Sujata as a part of their lives, though Charu is still careful to point out to first-time acquaintances that Sujata isn’t their daughter, just `like a daughter’. Sujata is hurt by the slight, but doesn’t protest.
One day, Sujata overhears Charu speaking, and when she confronts Charu, is finally told the truth. She is not just no relative of the family’s, not just not of their caste, but an untouchable.

Sujata learns the truth from Charu

The truth hits hard and Sujata, in the pouring rain that follows, wanders off to the riverside ghat to commit suicide. A carefully placed plaque with a quotation from Mahatma Gandhi catches her eye (and the pallu of her sari) so she desists.

Sujata nearly commits suicide

There is, however, one person who finds Sujata very alluring. Buaji’s grandson Adhir (Sunil Dutt) meets Sujata one day while she’s with Rama. He then comes over to their home, wanting Rama to introduce him to Sujata. Sujata is shy and appears to be more interested in her garden than she is in Adhir, but Adhir persists and wins her over. But life’s going to be very difficult now on…

Adhir falls in love with Sujata

…Because Adhir tells Buaji that Sujata’s the only girl he’s ever going to marry,

Adhir tells Buaji of his love for Sujata

…and because Buaji’s and Charu’s greatest wish is that Adhir and Rama should get married. Buaji, in fact, has already found a bridegroom for Sujata.

Buaji finds a groom for Sujata

Sujata is vintage Bimal Roy: sensitive, thought-provoking, and well made. Like a lot of the films of the period, it focuses on a social problem, but it’s handled more subtly than in some of the other films I’ve seen. Definitely worth watching.

What I liked about this film:
The main characters, at least, aren’t the absolutes you see in so many films. Charu, though she’s not as indiscriminating as Upendra, can’t help bestowing some affection on the pariah she’s found herself saddled with. For instance, the scene where she looks out as the tutor takes Sujata away—and then finally hugs Sujata when the child comes running back—is very poignant.

Then there’s the fact that Sujata is treated like a member of the house: she fetches Upendra’s umbrella for him when he’s going out, makes tea for him and Charu, and gets up to mischief with Rama (whom she insists should call her ‘didi’). Charu may tell Sujata that she’s an untouchable, not their daughter, but if you scratch the surface, there actually is enough affection here—especially from Upendra and Rama (even, deep down, from Charu herself) for Sujata to be at least a de jure daughter. And Rama, in a refreshing change from the norm, is a normal, happy-go-lucky girl who doesn’t put money and caste before her relationship with her foster sister, and is quite happy to further the Adhir-Sujata romance. Very believable. What I like is that all of this—Sujata’s relationships with the different members of her foster family—is shown through little snippets of daily life, not high-flown dialogue-baazi.

The music, with S D Burman at his best. Some of my favourite songs are in this film: my favourite lullaby (Nanhi kali sone chali), my favourite piano song (Tum jiyo hazaaron saal, which could also qualify as my favourite birthday song!) and my favourite telephone song (Jalte hain jiske liye). Sublime…I’m humming even as I write.

Nutan and Sunil Dutt. They look so beautiful together—and they’re such excellent actors. Nutan, by the way, got the Filmfare Best Actress award for this role (the film won Best Film and Bimal Roy won Best Director).

Nutan and Sunil Dutt in Sujata

What I didn’t like:
The climax is a little corny. It’s melodramatic and what I’d expect from most Hindi films, but it’s a distinct departure from the trademark subtlety of Bimal Roy. Also, in the second half of the film, there’s a bit of preachiness that got on my nerves, with Adhir waxing eloquent Sujata about Mahatma Gandhi’s championing the dalits and so on.

On the other hand, I’m inclined to give Bimal Roy the benefit of doubt. Perhaps, exactly half a century later, from an urban and educated standpoint (and as someone who’s never personally had to face casteism) I’m not able to appreciate the need for such blatant depiction of the practice and why it’s illogical. Perhaps, at that time, when a person’s caste was all-important (as it still is in many parts of India) and ‘untouchables’ were treated like little more than animals, the message could only hope to get across if it was really hard-hitting.

Whatever. Despite the occasional flashes of melodrama and preachiness, this is a good film.

81 thoughts on “Sujata (1959)

  1. Glad you reviewed this one.

    I think you have made a good point about its obvious message: it was much needed at the time (still seems to be in many parts).

    If you are like me and a large part of my class, who didn’t “discover” their official “community” until the day we had to fill out the CBSE Xth rxam registration forms, which had the space for Caste. and another for Sub-caste and most didn’t know what to put, the message will be too preachy. Had to go home ask and fill it in the next day, not that my mother was too sure either (sikhs)

    I also discovered at the same time that I was officially classified as a sort of “backward” caste!

    Btw, do these sections still exist on CBSE forms, I wonder.


  2. Ditto. Jalte hain jiske liye is an all time favorite, and the movie is good too. I like the way the relationship between the mother and foster girl never gets too sweet, it sort of builds up over years. There was an SD Burman song here too, am I right? Sort of forgetting that. The bubbly Shashikala livens up the drab moments.

    Ha ha @Bawa comment. Me too a Sikh and faced the same predicament during the same CBSE form. I remember my cousin filled in Hindu Sikh there. Dunno what that means.


  3. bawa, Ava: I’m joining you on this one! I’m a Christian, not a Sikh, so I faced the same problem. Incidentally, my mother still remembers a woman, the wife of one of Papa’s colleagues, who got after Mum, asking her “What is your caste?” When Mum said that there were no castes in Christians, she insisted that after all our ancestors must’ve converted from Hinduism to Christianity sometime in the past, so what caste had they been… really. She wouldn’t let go until she knew.

    bawa: No idea if that column still exists on CBSE forms. I wonder!

    Ava: Sun mere bandhu re. Lovely song! I really like S D Burman’s voice. Wahaan kaun hai tera and Mere saajan hain us paar are two of my favourite songs sung by him.

    Hindu Sikh? That must’ve kept them guessing. :)


  4. I knew you would love Straßbourg, although the prices there are horrendous! Which other cities did you visit?

    Now coming back to the film.
    What I liked about Sujata, was also the fact, that they weren’t Rajshri type family saccharine-sweet. It shows, that they also have caste distinctions, but which fade away due to the confrontation with Sujata.
    This is the same about racial prejudice as well.

    I loved the way Rama eggs on the lovers and not at all bothered that Adhir hasn’t fallen for her.

    But what I didn’t understand is why Sujata wants to commit suicide, when she comes to know of her lower caste origins. I would have loved it if she had an air of ‘who cares’ about it. But after all, a little bit melodrama doesn’t harm anybody.

    I wonder, what Bimal Roy was trying to tell us when he shows that Upendra gets transferred so often? Is it just a excuse for not being able to separate themselves from Sujata?

    Lalita Pawar looked a little bit young to be Sunil Dutt’s grandmother.

    As to the missing of subtlety in the message. I think Bimal Roy was feeling very passionate of the caste discrimination and he thought it is better to put the message right across rather than in a subtle manner.

    Isn’t it curious that Sunil Dutt’s name is Adhir = impatience?
    Isn’t Sulochana’s clover pattern blouse lovely?

    All the songs are great in the movie.
    ‘Jalte hai jiske liye’ is so romantic. I would love it if somebody sings for me it on the phone as well.;-)
    I am not much into loris but I like ‘nanhi pari..’
    ‘Sun mere bandhu re..’ competes hard with ‘mere Sajan hai us paar’ on my fav S D Burman songs list.

    Thanks for the review!


  5. Caste in CBSE forms?!!! I dont remember filling that out – but had to do that for a couple of schools in UP (yup, my father got transferred as often as Upendra did!).

    You’ve made a nice point about all the good things in the movie. I too loved the fact that Charu and Upendra arent overflowing with the milk of human charity but normal people who are unable to bring themselves to abandon Sujata initially and then are bound to her by ties of affection. The end was cheesy and unsubtle but I didnt mind that. What I would have liked though, was a little more to the romance between Adhir and Sujata. He just takes one look at her and falls – surely Bimal Roy could come up with a 5 min scenario that was better than that! But apart from that minor quibble, I loved the movie too. And Jalte hain jiske liye is my favoritest (yes, I know its not a word, but it should be!) romantic song. :-D


  6. bollyviewer maybe things have improved if CBSE has stopped worrying about it.
    School was catholic convent in Punjab, class would have been 60:40 hindu-sikh? christians were a novelty.
    A couple of the more traditional girl students knew what to out in, while others were like…stumped.

    Good part is by now my sikh family has married everyone from christians to hindus to chinese to carribeans, we would have done Bimal Roy proud.

    I had forgotton to add the superb music from the film. I love S D Burman singing but he always makes me feel so sad: maybe because I know they are always sung at sad or key points of movies.

    I have a cassette with a collection of his songs and I have to dosify that one or I would be down in the dumps!


  7. There might have been space to state if you were from backward castes, I guess. But I had so many other problems to worry about that caste wasnt the biggest of them! I have a single name (no surname!) that doesnt give any religious odors. So all my teachers and classmates were keen to know my religion. I grew so tired of explaining that I dont have a religion (and had no idea about my ancestor’s caste) that I was willing to embrace any religion just to relieve the tedium!

    Considering how often I’ve had to encounter people’s curiosity about my caste (and heard of caste-barriers-to-marriage stories from my friends), even in recent years, I am certain Bimal Roy’s message is still valid now!


  8. harvey: A day trip to Colmar, but the rest of my vacation was in Switzerland – Lausanne, Geneva (which was so-so), Bern, Fribourg, Gruyeres, Chateau Chillon and Jungfrau. We enjoyed ourselves a lot!
    And oh, I can completely identify with Upendra’s getting transferred frequently (I supposed it was meant to show that they were so busy moving house they never got around to ridding themselves of Sujata!) – my father, who was in the IPS, once got posted a record 11 times in 11 months, simply because he refused to submit to local politics (this was in MP, way back in the 60’s; bad time).
    BTW: agree with you on the loris thing; I don’t usually like them either. In fact, my mother didn’t either, and instead of lullabies, sang gentle old Hindi film songs to us – O mere pyaar aaja to my sister, Yehi woh jagah hai to me! She still has a very beautiful voice, so perhaps that may have something to do with it, but those songs worked wonders with both of us.

    bollyviewer: Yes, I do wish Bimal Roy had worked the Adhir-Sujata romance a little slowly; it’s too swift to be very believable. Though, since there’s something so sweet and shy about both of them, it doesn’t come across as anything other than love ;-)
    And wow, I can imagine how difficult it must’ve been to explain the absence of a surname or religion… I have a very unusual (at least in India) surname, and as a child I was used to spelling it out every time someone asked me what it was!

    bawa: Ah, same here. We’re a merry mix of every nationality from Jamaican to Armenian, Chinese, what-have-you. And just about every religion too. Some of the older relatives in my family had trouble coming to terms with offspring marrying people who were a different religion (nationality doesn’t seem to be an issue in our clan), but even those days are gone now. I wonder if anybody ever made a Hindi film back in the 50’s-60’s about parental opposition to interracial marriages. Most of the ‘non-Indian’ leads I remember onscreen were women like Saira Banu in Aman, Mala Sinha in Aankhen, or Jayshree (was that her name?) in Dr Kotnis ki Amar Kahani – and most of them, except for Dr Kotnis’s wife, were supposed to be half-Indian anyway. And they never seemed to have problems winning approval.

    memsaab: “white girl in a saree” would certainly stump them! But then, I doubt if you’d get asked a question like that. ;-)


  9. I also always thought that the caste question was only for the SC/ST. In Bombay the forms had only SC/ST written on it and you could tick it if you were.

    Another Lori which I like is “Ankhiyon mein chote chote..” I think I prefer it more than “Nanhi pari…”

    As to non-indians leads in Hindi films, doesn’t Asha Parekh portray a Japanese woman in Love in Tokyo. Saira Banu is half-indian half-british in Purab Paschim. In pardesi the male lead was russian with a Russian playing the role. Oleg Strizhenov, I think.


  10. The second love of Raj Kapoor in Mera Naam Joker was Russian wasn’t she?

    harvey: in my time, late 70s, it definitely said Caste: _____ Sub-Caste:_____

    In the 80s a German friend of mine went to the US consulate in London to apply for a Visa. Said the form had something about Race or something along those lines. You know, with a multiple choice and “others”. She put in Green with Pink Spots.

    My favourite Lori was “chanda mama dur ke” mostly because we had one of those 45 rpm records with it. 2 songs each side. The other one was “Nani teri morni ko mor le gaye” ..just loved that song as a kid.
    The other side was “Kabuliwallah” and a Rafi song “Chhun chhun karti aaye chidhiya”.

    Maybe Atul over in his song a day can do a collection of all the loris we have been mentioning!


  11. bawa, Ava: Ah, yes: I remember all those kiddie songs. Not loris, all of them: but cute kid stuff. I also liked Lukka chhupi o chhupi aagad-baagad jaayi re.

    bawa: “Green with Pink Spots”??! I love that!!

    harvey: No, I don’t think I’d call those non-Indian leads. Asha Parekh’s character pretended to be Japanese for a short while in Love in Tokyo, but she’s Indian, all right. And, as far as I remember, Saira Banu’s character in Purab aur Pachhim was Indian, just brought up in the UK by a very Westernised mother. From what I recall, Madan Puri played her father and Shammi was her mother… don’t remember it too well, it wasn’t a film I particularly liked!
    I’ve never heard of the Pardesi you mention. Is it the 1957 version? Nargis? Wow, I gotta see this! :)


  12. They showed Pardesi in the good old DD days. It had lovely songs (here’s one with Nargis and one with Padmini). I remember Balraj Sahni being in it, too. The songs were lovely and I remember liking the film, too.

    And thanks for reminding me of Luka chhupi o chhupi – have you seen the film? Its a 50s film, so I think Ashok Kumar is in the lead and Meena Kumari was still beautiful in those days (hard to confirm from the youtube print, though) – ergo, a must-watch!


  13. I can’t imagine how I missed Pardesi in DD’s good old days… I remember seeing just about everything that came our way back then! But thank you for the links to the songs: this is one film I’m going to look out for!

    In fact, I vaguely recall watching Savera (that’s the Lukka chhupi film) on DD. As far as I remember, Ashok Kumar was a sadhu in it: and Meena Kumari was a widow, I think. One of those much looked-down-upon romances. But I remember it had great music: there was also the vibrant O pardesi chhora chhaila gora-gora in it.


  14. Yes, well…sort of forbidden, she being a widow and he a sadhu, so both expected to be celibate! ;-)

    BTW, have just discovered that the Russian guy in Pardesi plays Afanasi Nikitin!!! I am so excited and now so eager to watch this film, because I’ve actually read part of the real Nikitin’s accounts of his travels in Mughal India. I’ve got to see what they made of him in the film. :)


  15. I’ve never heard of Afanasi Nikitin! There was a Russian traveller in Mughal times! Why dont NCERT history books have more facts?

    So the actor in Pardesi was actually a professional onscreen traveller to India? How fascinating!


  16. You’ll be glad to know NCERT have changed their ways :-). My niece, who’s in Class IX, actually studies stuff like the history of Indian cricket and (better still!) Indian cinema. They’d begun when I was in Class XII – I remember my Class XII history books were completely new, introduced that year itself – and we had to study interesting things like Modern Art, Science and Industry in the Modern World etc. They even enlivened the politics section by including things like relevant anti-war poetry, photos of the holocaust, and a reproduction of Picasso’s Guernica… good effort, and it stayed in my mind.

    And yes, Afanasi Nikitin was a real traveller; a horse trader, in fact. I’m trying to see where I can get hold of Pardesi, now!


  17. bawa: thanks for the info. But I remember only caste to be put in. Even on my birth certificate, there is only caste on it. And the funny thing is that the officer in charge has just filled it with my religion name!

    dustedoff: Well, since Shammi and Saira are both wearing blonde hair, I thought Shammi is her mom and she is English.
    Yeah I meant 1957 Pardesi with Nargis and Oleg. There is an interesting video of the song rasiya re, which is sort of half colour and there is b/w version as well. i don’t know the origins of the half colour version. But interesting! Thanks also for the info on Afanasi Nikitin.
    Will try to grab a copy of Pardesi in Bombay, when I’m there in August.

    Savera sounds good as well. Hope it has a daring happy end!


  18. Oh, the blonde hair in Purab aur Pachhim was fake. But for an Indian only brought up in the UK rather than actually half-British, Saira Banu’s character was more phoren than her half-Japanese character in Aman.

    And thank you so much for telling me about Pardesi: I really want to see this film now!

    Don’t remember the end of Savera. Knowing the sort of films Meena Kumari and Ashok Kumar tended to act in, I wouldn’t hold out much hope of a happy and daring end, though!


  19. You’ll be glad to know NCERT have changed their ways” – I am! I need to get my hands on that history text book. By the way, my Xth history book did have a reproduction of Guernica – I didnt find the effect particularly enlivening, though! I’d rather have had mutilated statues than THAT!


  20. Yes, Guernica (or The Scream, which was also there in my history textbook) wasn’t exactly the thing for schoolchildren. I still find both of them unnerving and not precisely my favourite works of art…


  21. Madhulika,

    I’m dying to see this movie! Do you know I can lay my hands on it? I know you can watch it on the streaming websites, but it isn’t subtitled there. So if by any chance you had the DVD, I’d love to borrow it, it’s imposible to find; neither Nehaflix nor BollyUK have it in stock: perhaps you know of another shop? (The indian shops have it in a pack of 3 or 4 of Bimal Roy’s films, but won’t ship it to France)
    Any help musch appreciated!


  22. You’re welcome! I hope you’re able to get it from them – if you aren’t, let me know. A cousin of mine who lives in Switzerland will be in town in December, so if you still haven’t been able to get the film, I could get it for you and send it to Europe through my cousin – she can mail it to you.


  23. Yes you are right about the end being a departure from the trademark subtlety of Bimal Roy, in fact Roy himself was not comfortable about ending the film in this manner he thought over it but finally relented because I think – I am not too sure — that is how the Bengali novel by Subodh Ghosh – on which the film is based — ends.


  24. Oh, okay. I hadn’t known Sujata was based on a novel. Yes, I guess if that’s the way the book ended, if Bimal Roy wanted to be faithful to the book, he’d retain the ending as it was. (Not that that is common when making films – cinematic adaptations of books are so rarely much like the book!)


    • If you do remember, please leave a comment here! I’m always on the lookout for versions made in different languages – it’s interesting to see and compare. And seventymm, from whom I rent a lot of my DVDs and VCDs, do have a collection of Telugu films too, so I just might get lucky!


      • Finally found it. “Kaalam Marindi” (Times have changed, 1972) with Sharada and Sobhan Babu. The story is slightly changed in places, but adopted low-caste girl being loved by the high-caste boy is the theme.

        Personally, I wasn’t able to stand preachy tone of Sobhan Babu. I never understood how Sharada got awards either.


        • Thanks a ton, Violet! I’ll make a note of that – though from your very brief review of it, I’m already not really wanting to see the film! But I guess just to compare the two films might be an interesting exercise… maybe. Thanks, anyway!


  25. well, sujata is one of my favourite film of all time.i have watched it many times and sujata is surely one of the best bollywood film i have seen.Other than Bimal roy and Nutan who won filmfare awards for this film, subodh ghosh also won the best story award for this film,which is based on his novel of the same name.interestingly that novel was a great fav of my naani.And yes, the music of the film is great too.By the way, do you know that jalte hain jiske liye is based on Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore’s composition Ekoda priye tumi.But i must say that Sachinda did great job of taking it to an altogether new level and an all time classic.


    • Oh, okay – I didn’t know the story had originally been a novel, or that Jalte hain jiske liye is based on a Tagore composition! So that was originally Rabindrasangeet which S D Burman adapted – hadn’t realised it, since I always associate Rabindrasangeet with a particular sound and rhythm (for instance, a song I’d have sooner identified as Rabindrasangeet, though I think that’s probably all imagination on my part, is Ganga aaye kahaan se from Kabuliwala… though, considering Tagore wrote that story, maybe it wasn’t a coincidence.)


  26. well,I must praise your hearing abilities for able to realise that Ganga aaye se kahaan se is based on a bengali tune,although not one a tagore one.It is a Bhatiali tune [ Bhatiali is a form of folk music of east bengal,usually sung by Boatmen and usually includes themes of river,soil and rain.] AAMAY DUBAILI RE AAMAY BHASHAY LI RE.An important and unusual characteristic of bhatiali music is the breaking of the voice while singing.Some other famous songs based on Bhatiali are Sun mere bandhu [sujata],Ore majhi [Bandini],ore taal mile nadi ke jal [anokhi raat], majhi naiyya[upahaar].


    • Thank you for that piece of information, Raunak! I didn’t know about Bhatiali (despite the fact that I’m part Bengali myself – my mother’s half Bengali, half UPite). Actually, now that you’ve listed some other songs that are based on Bhatiali, I can see a definite resemblance between all those songs… they sound very similar. The style obviously was a favourite with SD Burman!

      By the way, have you heard Ganga behti ho kyon? Bhupen Hazarika sang a version; it sounds a lot like some of these songs, too – even though the original song was from the American classic Ol’ Man River.


  27. yes,i have heard Bhupen Hazarika’s Ganga behti hain kyun,in all it’s three versions[Assamese,Bangla and hindi].What ,bhupen hazarika actually did was that he took an english song on river and sang it the bhatiali way.In assamese version ,he speaks about brahmaputra [ Bodha Lohit is what assamese people call brahmaputra and that’s the name used in the song].Bhupen Hazarika used ganga in the bangla and hindi versions.By the waywas your naana or naani was bengali?


    • Yes, I knew Bhupen Hazarika had adapted an English song – that’s the one (Ol’ Man River) that I’ve linked to, in my comment above.

      My nana was Bengali, my nani was from Lucknow. My mum was brought up in Calcutta.


  28. well,there is nothing to be sorry about not knowing bhatiali even after having bengali blood.Infact ,many pure bengali people do not know anything about bhatiali or other forms of folk music of bengal. I know cos searching about folk music of not just bengal ,but the whole world is one of my favourite pastime hobbies. More so, i am particularly interested in Bhatiali as S.d.burman happens to be a very distant relative of mine.


    • You are a distant relative of S D Burman’s?! My goodness, I am SO glad to have met you, even if it’s only in cyberspace. How are you related to him? He happens to be one of my all-time favourite music directors (my father’s, too, for that matter). A genius of a man, so brilliant both as a composer and as a singer!


  29. well,my kakima is burmanda’s grand mom once met him,but sadly i could never as he was long dead before i was born.i met panchamda also,but at that time i was too young to remember anything.


      • you see, as i told you sdb is a very distant relative and not a close one of might have noticed that though he is actually related to my father’s side here i have only written about his meeting with my mom.WHY? COS I only consider that single meeting more significant than the quite a few meetings my dad had with him.Tell me what would you do, if you met someone like sdb,what would you talk about?Of course music.but sadly for my dad both SA-RE-GA-MA AND VASCO-DA-GA-MA have same meaning.SO Instead of talking about music, my dad would talk about food and education to burman da.My mom still teases my dad about asking burmanda such stupid questions.IMAGINE TALKING ABOUT ALOO BHAJA[ALOO FRY],PAAN AND RUI MAACH[FISH CURRY] WITH SDB.HOW STUPID?My MOM on the otherhand,only discussed about music with sachinda in her only meeting with him.


        • That is such a delightful anecdote! Maybe if your dad had met Madan Mohan, discussing aloo bhaja and rui machh would have been very acceptable – Madan Mohan was very fond of cooking, and was a very good cook himself. :-)


          • ya,you are right it would have made much more sense had my dad meet great madan mohan and discussed the same things that he did with burmanda..By the way,Madan mohan first started his career as assistant to burmanda .Burmanda on his part always maintained that MM was one of his most favourite composers.the other two most favourite composers of sdb were Naushad and Khayyamsaab.


            • I can well imagine Madan Mohan, Naushad and Khayyam being SDB’s favourite composers – they were also so good, such talented MDs. (By the way, I just realised: another topic that would probably have made for a good conversation with SDB would have been football, if your dad was interested in it – I believe SDB was mad about soccer!


  30. Pingback: Happy Birthday, Nutan! « Harveypam's Blog

  31. That is a rather interesting cyber conversation between you and Raunak. By the the way the Bhatiali song on which Ganga aaye kahan se was based as Raunak mentions Aamay dubaili re features in a classic Bengali film Ganga. I saw the film recently on You Tube, it featured a very, very young Sandhya Roy (probably her first film) she was one of the top heroines of Bengal and also a very young and sweet Ruma, who was Kishore Kumar’s first wife and Amit Kumar’s mother.


    • Oh, I would have liked to see Sandhya Roy! Oddly enough, I haven’t seen any of her Bangla films, though I have seen two Hindi films in which she acted – Asli-Naqli and Pooja ke Phool. I especially liked her in Asli-Naqli; she was so wonderful in that.

      Somehow I always keep losing track of all of Kishore Kumar’s wives! ;-) The only ones I tend to remember are Madhubala (of course! One of my favourite actresses) and Leena Chandavarkar. This was the same Ruma who went on to become Ruma Guhatakurta, right?


  32. This may seem a little weird but somehow whenever I watch Sujata, the setting of the movie (the quiet afternoons, the rainy night, the rustic/suburban life) somewhere in the back of my mind, the Ghulam Ali song “Phir sawan rut ki pawan chali…Tum yaad aye” begins to play. I can’t really put my finger on the connection but somehow there seems to be one.

    I agree that the ending is a bit corny and something one could totally foresee – blood as the metaphor for human equality. Things also seem to go about too abruptly as if there was some kinda rush to end the story. Besides that I love Sujata and it is among my movie library at home. What can one say about the songs? They are out of this world. But I really like the background score – especially the Geeta Dutt rendition as the credits roll, and the combination of different instruments that accompany Sujata’s joy at Adhir’s confession of his love. And it’s presented so well as if the whole garden is playing music with the fluttering of leaves, swaying of trees. It seems Bimal Roy liked to use nature to portray human feelings and perception. In Sujata, it seems the garden has suddenly turned musical and in sync with Sujata’s joy. In Madhumati, another classic, when Dilip K. first encounters Madhumati, holds her hand firmly and has a look at her face as the mist parts, his glimpse of her face is juxtaposed with a flowing brook and flowers, as if equating her with the freshness and loveliness of nature’s wonders. Truly a great director who made great movies.

    Recently I saw Prem Patra and simply loved it. Such a quiet, beautiful sort of romance through letters – brings back memories of how exciting what we now call “snail mail” used to be – and how romantic! Emails and SMS/text messages are poor substitutes for those wonderful, so achingly anticipated letters!


    • I’m so glad to hear that you’re part of the ‘love Prem Patra‘ league! I hadn’t even heard of the film till a few years back, and then I rented the VCD simply because I like both Sadhana and Shashi Kapoor – and I adored it! It was so blissfully romantic. :-)

      I have to admit I don’t remember the finesse of the settings of Sujata – but when I read what you’d written, I was immediately reminded of the song Kaali ghata chhaaye – that has the quiet simplicity and faintly rustic air one sees so often in Bimal Roy’s work. Another of my favourite Bimal Roy films that captures that aura very well is Parakh. And while O sajna barkha bahaar aayi is my favourite Parakh song, I think Mila hai kisi ka jhumka is the very embodiment of sweetness in the ‘countryside’ sense of the word! Lovely.


  33. I have been away from all these blogs for the last two to three weeks for various reasons – my cold and cough, then my Dad’s accident and surgery, but today I am home, not sleeping in the hospital, so I was just browsing around and saw your post on Sujata. I don’t remember the story all that well, since I saw it over 50 years back (!!), but I do remember Nutan weeping during the song Jalte hain jiske liye …, since I was weeping along with her! I love the song Nanhi kali sone chali … and have sung this countless times to my children, as well as to my granddaughter lately (and if they did go to sleep, it was probably to escape my singing!)

    But what did catch my attention was the fact that the caste needs to be filled out in the application forms in Indian schools! Yes, it was in the 11th that I first found out what caste I belonged to, and if I thought I had escaped it after coming to the US, I was in for a shock the other day at the doctor’s office. Now they have a new form to fill out which requires me to state my race (and I wrote Human, with a question mark!) and ethnicity – new requirements here! It won’t be long before they start asking for my religion, at this rate.


    • Welcome back, Lalitha, and I do hope things are fine with you and your Dad – I hope he gets well soon.

      Yes, that ‘caste’ thing in forms etc was weird. Nowadays (though I don’t often fill out forms), the only place I’ve seen it is in places where they want to know if you belong to an OBC.

      My mum always relates an interesting story of how, in some parts of the country, caste used to be all-important to some people. My dad was in the IPS and in MP, and at a dinner party, another officer’s wife caught my mother and asked, “Aap kis caste ki hain?” Mum said no caste, since we’re Christians, and at least in North Indian Christians, there are no castes. “But you must have converted from Hindus to Christians,” said the lady. When my mother agreed – our ancestors, both on my mum’s and my dad’s side, had converted – the lady asked, triumphantly, “Toh unki caste kya thi?



      • I bet your mom was glad to escape from that lady! I have heard some of my Tamil Christian as well as Andhra Christian friends talk about their being Nadar or Pillai or Nambudiri Christians, as well as sitting in the Nadar pews, etc., Wonder when our people will stop this talk of caste?

        Thanks for the good wishes – my hope and prayer for my Dad is that he doesn’t suffer. He is 92, and whatever happens, I don’t want him to be in pain.


        • I can understand, Lalitha… to see a loved one in pain can be utterly painful. A friend of mine lost his father a couple of years back – only about 70 years old, I think, but had a massive heart attack and passed away. My friend’s mum, whom I met a few days back, said, “The one thing I am really grateful to God about is that he didn’t suffer at all. He was here one moment, gone the next.”

          Nadar pews? My goodness. Though I’ve read in the newspapers about casteism still prevailing in certain parts of the community even in religions other than Hinduism (including Islam and Christianity), I’ve never come face to face with it. Very unsettling, no matter which community.


      • I remember a similar conversation not in real life but in the serial Buniyaad, where the family of Aloknath is Khatri but they have joined the Arya Samajis. And during a marriage proposal for their children somebody asks about their caste and they won’t accept the fact that since they are ARya Samajis, the don’t accept caste barriers. Anita Kanwar retorts in a strong manner but I forget what her real dialogue was.

        I also realised about the caste thing at 15 or so. For the matriculation form though it was only needed to be said if one was BC, OBC or OBT.
        And funnily enough on my birth certificate the caste section is filled up with the name of my religion!


  34. Madhu, didn’t Amitabh create a controversy last year when he refused to fill out ‘caste’ on the census forms? He said he was a UP Kayasth / SIkh mixture, his wife was Bengali / Bihari (I think) – which made his children a complete mixed breed. His daughter was married to a Pathan / Punjabi household, while his son was married to a Bunt. As he asked, what ‘race / religion / caste’ do you want me to put, (especially when his father had changed their surname instead to his pen-name of Bachchan instead of using ‘Srivastava’.)

    @Lalitha, keeping my fingers crossed for you, Lalitha. Take care. *Hugs.*


    • Hah! Amitabh Bachchan’s family reminds me a bit of mine! My father’s side of the family – both my grandparents – were from UP, though I think my dadi had some connection to Alwar, too. My mum’s mother was from Lucknow (though her father was English); my mum’s father was Bengali. My sister’s married to a Bengali, I’m married to a Punjabi. What a merry mix of a family! :-)

      When people ask me “What is your ‘home town’?” I end up giving them the family history. And woe betide anyone who happens to ask me the origin of my very unusual last name…!


  35. But all the same such sections like caste are necessary for the census. In medical forms they (ethnicity) are necessary to see if certain diseases have genetic or regional distribution. It is also necessary to see if certain section of the populace is being discriminated by the doctors. On the basis of such forms (and other methods) researches were able to prove that in the US doctors take the symptoms of people with fairer skin much more seriously than for others. I don’t know of such studies for India, but I can imagine such (at times subconscious) discrimination takes place in India as well, where the factor of discrimination would be the caste or religion or language.
    One basis of discrimination that is all pervading is between the haves and have-nots.

    In India, I have seen that it is (at least for certain section of people) totally acceptable to ask for your caste. Sometimes I humour it and at times I answer in gibberish. I remember an incident some six years ago in India. I was attending a course for breathing exercises and there was this lady in her mid- 50s, who was bossing around everything. During the lunch break she started talking about her experiences and how her family is as it is well-versed in such ancient techniques and what not. Then she slowly wormed in the question about the caste of the teacher, who was conducting the course, sort of questioning his credentials. That was the proverbial last straw for me. I said calmly: “Breath doesn’t discriminate between caste or religion and nor does knowledge. We should be grateful for the knowledge we are getting and everything else is his private matter”. She was sort of taken aback but kept quite. To change the topic then I asked her if she would like a second helping from the dessert.


    • I think to some extent the Indian government retains the ‘caste’ section in their forms etc to keep an eye on ensuring that people from certain ‘backward’ castes get the reservations due to them, and whatnot. I suppose; am not sure. The problem is that it’s no big deal to get a forged certificate saying you’re of so-and-so ‘backward caste’ in order to be able to avail of a facility. It’s really a bit of a farce, I think.

      To change the topic then I asked her if she would like a second helping from the dessert.

      Touché, harvey! Well done! ;-) People who harp on such inconsequential matters deserve to be put in their place.


  36. Discrimination is the worst result of this IMO.
    As long as the human ‘race’ (Ha!) exists people will always group themselves. I think it has to do with ‘roots’/sense of belonging. If it was limited to that then no harm done, but unfortunately it doesn’t. That’s where problems arise.


    • Yes, the feeling of ‘community’ – whether family, school, workplace, or greater – even as great as a nation, a religion, a race, whatever – is essential for the wellbeing of people. It’s when that sense of community becomes an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ that it leads to problems… greater problems for those who find themselves part of a smaller and weaker community.


  37. Brilliant, brilliant film. I made my sister watch this and even she enjoyed it.

    It really defines the kind of awesome actress that Nutan was. And Bimalda’s simple, heartfelt filmmaking style is clearly visible in his proteges’ future work (Gulzar, Hrishida).

    Like Dharamendra, Sunil Dutt too was a pleasure to watch in his early ‘female-centric’ movies.


    • Sunil Dutt is good in female-centric films, isn’t he? One I particularly like – besides Sujata, of course – is Sadhna. Lovely film, and great music. And one of Sahir’s most hard-hitting songs.


  38. Sujata is a good movie. I remember watching it in a film class in university. I remember being very effected by it. I knew little about casteism (because I chose not to pay attention even though I’m pretty sure I had experienced some form of it in high school). I was kind of surprised by what a serious issue it seemed to be. My reasoning was that if Bimal Roy made a movie about it, it must have been a problem in India.

    I remember going home that weekend and asking my mom about casteism and hearing her stories about how it was a huge deal to some people even when she was living in Indore back in the early 80s

    I’m pretty sure I’ve been exposed to it growing up in Vancouver too. I remember there being about 12 Indian kids in my high school, all Punjabis, and them always asking me if I was a “Jaat” or something else. I had no idea what I was because as far as I was concerned I was Canadian. I figured out eventually that it was irrelevant since neither of my parents come from Punjabi backgrounds.

    More recentlt I actually had a client once who refused to let me take her case (I’m a lawyer by profession) because I wasn’t a Jaat Sikh. I don’t understand why it was so important to her, but I transferred her case to colleague who fit her criteria because I didn’t want to deal with that kind of nonsense.

    It just goes to show how deep rooted casteism can be.


    • “More recentlt I actually had a client once who refused to let me take her case (I’m a lawyer by profession) because I wasn’t a Jaat Sikh.

      Wow. That is – well, crazy. I have never had to face the brunt of casteism, but my mother recalls instances where people pestered her, wanting to know what her caste was (and, since we’re Christians) wouldn’t take no for an answer. “But your ancestors must have converted from Hinduism, no? What caste were they?”

      It’s scary that in this day and age, caste can still be so important to people.


  39. Sujata is very different from movie depicting untouchability it doesn’t have a दुखिया-बेचारी what I expect from most of the movies like this.


  40. i have recording of nutan ji radio interview. she was a traditional lady extremely traditional. will share more when i get the mobile in which it is. her views did shocked me and my mother that despite being a heroine she is like this and tanuja was aksed about her in interview. she said they didn’t spend much time together . her first line was janey do na duniya mai nahi hain. and was coaxed to speak so she said about not spending time and she was of jolly nature in real life so played the song of i think tere ghar k saamney.


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