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Bimal Roy


Bimal Roy was without a doubt one of the greatest ever directors of Indian cinema. In his films, we see a romantic and sensitive idealist to whom any form of exploitation – social, religious, or economic was unacceptable.

Today, records say that he was born on 12th July, 1909, in what was East Bengal in pre-Partition India, in a well-to-do Bengali zamindar family. But according to his daughter, Rinki Roy Bhattacharya, his actual date of birth is a mystery. When she was a child, the Screen Yearbook published his birthday as July 12, 1909. Thereafter, the date became Roy’s ‘accepted birthday’! Quoting her, “If the public requires a date to honor Bimal Roy – so be it.”


Roy came over to Calcutta and entered films as a cameraman with the prestigious New Theatres studio, where he evocatively photographed some of their most well-known classic films like Devdas (1935), Maya (1936), Manzil (1936)Mukti (1937) and Meenakshi (1942). His first film as Director too came at New Theatres – Udayer Pathey (1944) in Bengali, which was then remade by him as Humrahi (1945) in Hindi. The film, an early social realist film, was a big critical success for Roy. Right from his first film, Bimalda was able to introduce realism and subtlety suited to the cinema. He then went on to direct Anjangarh (1948) in Bengali/Hindi, Mantramugdha (1949), and Pehla Aadmi (1950), all at New Theatres even though by now, the once grand studio was beginning to flounder, its last production being Bakul (1955).

Following Pehla Aadmi, Bimalda migrated to Bombay along with editor Hrishikesh Mukherjee and composer Salil Chowdhury. His first film in the City of Dreams was Maa (1952) for Bombay Talkies, a typical melodrama starring Leela Chitnis in the title role, Bharat Bhushan and Shyama. According to the critics at the time, the film was largely redeemed only by Roy’s innate reserve and good taste. He then formed his own production unit, Bimal Roy Productions, and made his breakthrough film, Do Bigha Zamin (1953). The film, heavily inspired by the neo-realistic films of Italy and Vittorio de Sica’s Bicycle Thief (1948) in particular, was a moving tale, which Bimalda projects with sympathy and simplicity. The film followed the travails of a poor farmer who migrates to the city and works as a rickshaw puller to make ends meet and earn money to get his land back from the moneylender. After a series of misfortunes, he returns to his village only to find his farm taken over by a city developer. The film, boasting of a superb central performance by Balraj Sahni, was a moderate commercial success and a huge critical success and won Bimalda awards at Cannes and at the Karlovy Vary Film Festivals. Even back home, when Raj Kapoor saw the film, his reaction was, "How I Wished I Had Made This Film."