NAACHGAANA
Recalling: DO BIGHA ZAMIN (1953)
dwnpiyush | July 26, 2011, 10:24 PM | 83 comments | 1,443 views


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It was with great expectations that I sat down to watch this Bimal Roy classic from the early 1950s. It is was an award winning movie at that time and had received a lot of acclaim, not only in India, but around the world. Also, having recently watched the 1964 war movie Haqeeqat that boasted of a stellar performance from Balraj Sahni, I was completely looking forward to watching another superb performance from him. But contrary to expectations, ‘Do Bhiga Zamin’ ended as a truly underwhelming experience for me.

The movie is about the struggles of a helpless farmer Shambhu (Balraj Sahni in an author backed role) and his family, who have to return a sum of Rs. 250 to the village Zamindar, and have just three months to arrange for it (The actual debt is around Rs.65 but the Zamindar gets the account fudged as revenge for Shambhu refusing to sell his ‘Do Bhiga Zameen’ to him.) Unable to generate funds in the village, poor Shambhu decided to move to the city in hope of getting some work there. Unknown to him his son Kanhaiya too gets on the train by which he is making the journey; and they both reach Calcutta. Once in the city they struggle to find even shelter, and just when you think things can’t go any worse for them, their belongings get stolen (including the bit of money they had).

They end up getting shelter in a basti thanks to a good hearted land lady. Their neighbor, a hand-rickshaw puller, helps Shambhu to get a rickshaw license and soon Shambhu starts toiling hard to earn 2-3 rupees a day. His son too joins him in his struggle by taking up boot polish with the help of a street smart friend Laloo ustad. Just when it looks like things are going all right for them, disaster happens and Shambhu gets severely injured after meeting with a freak accident. And just when you think that all the misery in the world was not enough for the poor family, Shambhu’s father turns ill, his wife is forced to leave the village and visit the injured Shambhu in the city-where she is fooled into a trap by a thug. In the effort to escape from him she meets with an accident. For helping her recover, Shambhu is forced to part with all the money he and his son had earned by the efforts of their sweat and blood- resulting in the auction of their land according to the court order and his father going insane.

The film was a disappointment for me because of a number of reasons. First- it was highly melodramatic. The director was attempting a realistic subject but overdid it by including too many clichés (which might not have been clichés at that time- but even then it is hard to believe that all the problems in the world managed to find the address of the poor farmer Shambhu). Second- the entire tone of the film was theatrical- and the acting looked too in your face and sometimes even amateurish. Balraj Sahni really gave another spectacular performance but the effect gets diluted due to the less than adept supporting cast (Nirupa Roy being an exception). Third- the director took the extreme view as far as industrialization is concerned. The subject offered him the opportunity to propagate a new wave of thinking and break the shackles of illogical traditions and facets of our society, but he failed to capitalize on it. For instance even in an abject state the hero refuses his wife to work and earn some money (while the other women in the village are shown to fine with working for their bread). Similarly he rejoiced when his young kid starts to earn a living by doing boot polish (his spirit is celebratory while it should have been otherwise). The influential people are all depicted as monsters, apathetic to the woes of the poor- and this again is a very generalist view that the director takes.

And lastly, the film did not work for me because the way it culminated. After all the hard work, all the efforts that Shambhu and his kid put in, they are not able to save their land. This goes against the very thing that makes our movies so endearing- the spirit of hope and optimism. It looks ghastly the way they have ended the movie- just to make a point that the rich will keep treading on the hopes and aspirations of the poor to make their palaces of wealth.
However irrespective of the above there are a few sequences which are worth mentioning as individual pieces of brilliant art-
• When Shambhu loses the daily earning from a middle class household for which he used to drop two girls to their school, he still drops them without taking any wages- forgoing other customers from whom he could have made some earning.
• The Shambhu accident scene- A man and lady, who have had a fight, are indulging in a race of their hand-rickshaws (one of them being pulled by Shambhu). When the man offers a big amount to Shambhu to go faster, he puts in his all and unfortunately his rickety rickshaw is not able to handle the thrust- in the process causing a freak accident and an injury to Shambhu.
• The scene when Kanhaiya resorts to stealing in an effort to get some good food for his injured father. And later when Shambhu breaks down after discovering this misdoing on the part of his ‘bachhua’.

Shambhu is shown as such a good and self-less person that it seems like sacrilege when he does not achieve his goal in the end. And as I said that’s where I lost whatever little connect I had with this movie.

Piyush Dewan

http://moviesandnomore.blogspot.com/

About the author:
Has 125 Articles

MBA. Electrical Engineer. Film buff. Learning to blog.

83 COMMENTS
  1. Arise_Awake

    Thanx ….

    One of the Greatest BW movies, IMHO.

    Bimal da and Balraj Sahni at there best… An Iconic Rickshaw race scene which depicts the apathy of so called bourgeois and Sahni played rickshaw on Calcutta streets bare footed to get the feel of the character and the actual scene in movie again is real…

    some grt music by Salil Da, mostly famous russian communist song tune in “Dharti kahi pukar k”….

    Its Bench mark movie.

  2. Raju Guide

    Disagree totally with your review. But I respect your opinion. Would like to have some discussion on this…

    Second- the entire tone of the film was theatrical- and the acting looked too in your face and sometimes even amateurish.

    I didnt feel it was theatrical at all. In fact Balraj Sahni and the way Bimal Roy habndled story was so much natural way – compared to those times – and even in today;s times

    Third- the director took the extreme view as far as industrialization is concerned.

    Its not an extreme view IMO. Same things are happening even today. See the news – farmers land seized / farmers being shooted near Pune and some other parts of India. Exterme measure have always been taken and small farmers always ignored in India .

    And lastly, the film did not work for me because the way it culminated. After all the hard work, all the efforts that Shambhu and his kid put in, they are not able to save their land. This goes against the very thing that makes our movies so endearing- the spirit of hope and optimism. It looks ghastly the way they have ended the movie- just to make a point that the rich will keep treading on the hopes and aspirations of the poor to make their palaces of wealth.

    Dear Piyush. This movie is not about how we should make films. This portrays one side of things – agreed – This was a landmark film for communists…
    I especially dont agree with the line “This goes against the very thing that makes our movies so endearing- the spirit of hope and optimism.”

    This is what happened in India and is still happening.

    The film high on dramatism IMO – but that does not look forced…and very realistic way to show what happened.

    I especially liked the way it ended.

    Also one scene I remember is when Balraj Sahni shouts and slaps his son for a theft
    “Kissan ka beta hoke chori karta hai”

    That was so touching.

    Still we see many farmers not getting their due after all the hardwork. Middlemen take all the money.

  3. RAJ

    This is one of the all time best movies to come out of Indian cinema..Agree with Ritz regarding farmers…

    If you have a good story to tell and you tell it in the most sensitive manner,then the movie can’t become out of sync with “”any times”..This movie is one example…

  4. Raju Guide

    RAJ – on the other thread when I was inviting beld to join NG – accusing you and milind was more of leg pulling – for him to get irritated and inspire to comment…. Hope u understand. :)
    I was not drunk.

  5. RAJ

    Ritz..

    Thanks for the clarification…Even if you were serious,I have moved on :)

    BTW,I would like Beld to come back and comment here as well…Probably,I have to pull your (Or may be that of sandy’s) leg to achieve this goal :)

  6. sandy

    “Probably,I have to pull your (Or may be that of sandy’s) leg to achieve this goal”

    I dont understand why my name must figure needlessly – it’s very bugging and so silly.

  7. Tanned Sen

    RaJ dear, who is this beld? He doesn’t comment it seems but his name keeps coming up.

    Piyush, thanks for the review. Am making a list of all the movies you review to watch them at a later point

  8. sandy

    Thanks piyush for this very useful post. For someone like me who hasn’t seen Do Bhiga , my impression is that it is a outright classic. But you really throw some fresh insights as to why the film does not entirely work for you. I think there is a need to re-evaluate some of these ‘classics’ and see whether they still stand the test of time. I felt the same about Khamoshi – which i think is very unrealistically treated even if the concept is interesting.

  9. Shalu

    I haven’t seen this one but like Sandy I also thought that this one was a great film (I have seen the riksha-puller race scene on TV and thought it was brilliant). After knowing the full story I can see why it didn’t work for you, most probably it won’t work for me too. I agree that there should be some ray of hope for the main protaganist, some little victory on their terms. This is the reason I hadn’t liked Chandni Bar.

    Sandy, I saw Khamoshi as a kid and it made quite an impression on me. I don’t know if I will see it differently now.

  10. Raju Guide

    God!!

    Ppl who are talking of Kahmoshi and DBZ in same breath….please dont insult Bimal Roy’s classic!!!

    See it for yourself before blabbering some nonsense!!!!

  11. Shalu

    Calm down Ritz! Many consider Khamoshi a classic too. Its not as if DBZ is being talked about in the same breath as RGV ki Aag.

  12. dwnpiyush

    @Raju Guide

    Sorry I was away watching Singham:) Ya I expected that most people wont agree with what I have to say abt the movie-

    I really wanted to love this movie- I agree that it has a story that was very much the reality at that time – in fact even today it happens a lot- I have no qualms regarding the story- it is the treatment that I didn’t find appealing-

    I did find it theatrical- and I beg to differ that it had a natural treatment compared to those times- I am not making a comparison here- but I would like to mention like Khushboo here- which also had a rural setting (although the subject was really different)-

    And it really looked to me that the people were trying to act- (which should not be the case in a movie of this nature according to me)-

    I think I will tend to repeat here what I had to say in the review… but I didn’t like the way it ended at all- I know this movie is not about how to make films- but somehow it didn’t appeal to me- especially the last 20 mins or so…

    Agree with you regarding the scene- Actually it did have many powerful scenes that I felt were brilliant when seen in isolation-

    @Mr. Sen
    Thanks. I hope you find most of them interesting.

    @Raj
    “It is one of the best movies to come out of Indian cinema”

    I guess this is a statement more often in the west- who love to see the bad side our society and always relish watching the penury, apathy and corruption in our country-
    But if you too feel this I certainly respect your opinion- but do not concur with it…

    @Sandy-
    Thanks glad that you find the post useful. I would love to know your views on the movie.

    @Shalu
    Yes- if as you say you like watching some hope- some victory- some happiness at the end of a long struggle- you might not like it- but do watch it- would love to know your views

  13. RAJ

    Sandy..

    “”I dont understand why my name must figure needlessly – it’s very bugging and so silly.””

    My apologies if took offense…

  14. Arise_Awake

    dwnPiyush…

    ” I guess this is a statement more often in the west- who love to see the bad side our society and always relish watching the penury, apathy and corruption in our country-”

    Did you made this seriously or in Jest ????

    Than All our grt movies are garbage and only Good for West Be it DBH, PP, Pyaasa, Awara, Shri 420 and list goes on….

    That’s not Bad reality But F@@@@@ reality, Than and still…

    Just living in metros, seeing smooth roads and malls doesn’t make the other part go Vansish..

    We seem to have Ostrich Trait Than and still carry that…

    India doesn’t exist in Cities only and that is not only India

  15. Arise_Awake

    @Ritzz

    “God!!
    Ppl who are talking of Kahmoshi and DBZ in same breath….please dont insult Bimal Roy’s classic!!!
    See it for yourself before blabbering some nonsense!!!! ”

    NO TRUER WORDS WERE EVER SAID …

    I see it more often, ppl judge everything on there own terms, never on the cinematic terms

  16. RAJ

    I don’t think,DBZ showed india in the bad light…In the contrary I think Slum Dog Millionere did show india in bad light…

  17. dwnpiyush

    @ Arise_ Awake

    “India doesnt exist in cities only” I agree wholeheartedly

    Maybe I didnt phrase my thoughts correctly- I didnt mean that all our movies liked in the west are garbage- nor is DBZ garbage- please my apologies – didnt express myself correctly-

    What I wished to say that such kind of movies that show the harsh realities (or claim to show the harsh realities in some cases) more often or not do gain acceptance in the west…

  18. Shalu

    “I see it more often, ppl judge everything on there own terms, never on the cinematic terms”

    AA, So one shouldn’t have an individual opinion about a movie but should see it from the point of view of the filmaker? Isn’t the point of any art form to see it on our own terms?

  19. RAJ

    Piyush..

    This movie was made in 1953..I am sure,this was the only reality at that time…

  20. Arise_Awake

    dwnpiyush..

    DBZ, forget west, see how BW treats it. Its Considered Classic, Bench Mark Movie, A Path breaking one and I hv seen it umpteen times….

    I would love to be fed on such movies rather than RH, Faana, KKHH, K3G, Dabang, Ghajani…and this list is really endless :) :)

    At least My heart will be at peace….

    Ps: I didnt read ur post and I dont read reviews of any movie. I have seen this movie so commented, if not, I would not have commented.

    When one is fed on from childhood on fast food, than its difficult to relish and enjoy the Desi food or other foods

  21. Arise_Awake

    Shalu …

    I will narrate you a true incident of Picasso.

    One of his pricey painting got sold to a rich lady and she put the condition that if the author of the painting himself gives this to me than only I will buy that. So Picasso came next day to hand over the painting to the lady, Than lady asked picasso, ” What does this painting menas”, picasso replied, ” Young lady for You its Picasso paiinting and for me Its 20,000 Bucks, Rest is all BullS@@@”…

    There is day light difference between liking or disliking the movie and judging the movie…

  22. dwnpiyush

    @Arise_Awake

    “When one is fed on from childhood on fast food, than its difficult to relish and enjoy the Desi food or other foods”
    I love all kinds of movies- ones that you consider crap too- I will any day take any of the movies you mentioned over this-
    My heart is always at peace- but dances with happiness when it experiences a good movie- an engaging movie- irrespective of the genre/film-maker/actor

    You didn’t read the write-up so you won’t be able to see my point of view- which is perfectly fine- fair enough-

  23. Shalu

    AA, I didn’t understand how that story relates to the discussion here.

    As for there being a difference between liking/disliking a movie and judging the movie – I haven’t seen DBZ and therefore, there is no way I can judge it. Please read my comments again – I have written that I have only watched the rickshaw race scene and found it brilliant.

    I only reacted to what Piyush had written in his review about not a single good thing happening to the main protaganist. Unlike you, I read reviews of movies I haven’t seen and try to understand different perspectives.

    Understanding different perspectives is a good thing in my opinion.

    First Tanned Sen proclaims everybody who didn’t like ZNMD unintelligent and immature. Now you and Ritz giving a verbal lashing on one small critique of a classic. Honestly!

  24. dwnpiyush

    @Raj

    I have no issues with the story- which tries to depict the reality – which I admit was the case at that time- but I didn’t like the treatment of the film- simply put-
    and it’s perfectly fine if you don’t agree with me-

  25. dwnpiyush

    @Shalu
    Thanks for pitching in. Exactly guys- I am no one to judge the movie- I saw it and didn’t like it- and I shared the reasons why- You guys can of course have a completely different take (do have a completely different take)- which is fair enough- democracy remember??

  26. Tanned Sen

    Huh shalu, I must say your comments are showing your high levels of maturity and intelligence. My comment on what kind of people znmd appeals to was a very valid one. Doesn’t mean that everyone in that sample set will like it. For you to take it personally and make absurd statements is quite silly. Honestly!

  27. Tanned Sen

    Shalu, just talking about understanding different perspectives means nothing. Learn to back up your flowery words with your actions. You have had your own theories of trending etc. which many of us think is absurd, but have we mocked you for it. That is becoz we know to understand different perspectives. You should probably learn to do that before proclaiming that you do

  28. Raju Guide

    @Shalu 0 the problem with you is you assumed – yes assumed too much from Pitush;s review and in commented following

    “After knowing the full story I can see why it didn’t work for you, most probably it won’t work for me too. I agree that there should be some ray of hope for the main protaganist, some little victory on their terms. This is the reason I hadn’t liked Chandni Bar. ”

    Give us a break please!!

    Chandni Bar and DBZ ???!!!

    I feel like burying myself somewhere now.

    Yeah you can take out ur fav “harassement” or “verbal lashing ” or “i am a female” card now…but you dont know the stuff you are talking about here.

  29. Tanned Sen

    Raju, please edit your last comment and remove the bad words please. While we may believe that shalu over-reacted, let’s not use bad language. A request sir.

  30. Raju Guide

    @Piyush its :”Do Beegha Zameen”

    Not Bhiga (wet) and not Zamin.

    Thanks. :)

  31. Arise_Awake

    Shalu..

    It Was you who put the question to me..

    I never commented abt that at first..

    I tried to gave answer to you thru a real incident when you used the word “Art”… Alas You didn’t get that :) :) My bad

    I am no judge and I dislike being judgmental, I am all for likes and dislikes but I wont comment on the movie on its cinematic terms if i m not trained n that field, may be you are

    You took my comment personally, and it was not to You but to All, including me also…

    E.g, I don’t like DDLJ but Thats it and I won’t question its impact, place and worth …

    Also Will you be kind enough to point me where I Did “verbal lashing” ?? That’s not fair Shalu :)

  32. Raju Guide

    @Tanned sen

    I did.. Thanks sir!!

  33. sandy

    I find it pathetic that anyone would target Shalu for her perfectly sane comments.

    Ritz: I dont see anything wrong in what is being suggested by piyush and shalu or me. You are a big fan of DBZ but that doesn’t mean one cant critique it. Piyush has explained with points why he didnt think it to be a great film. I think rather than criticise him and others, it would be nicer and less childish if you do a review yourself and tell us why it is a great film.

    I myself feel it’s a wonderful exercise to re-look at classics. We dont have to make every film a sacred cow. OF course one has to back one’s opinions which i think piyush has made an attempt to do, unlike others who get personal.

  34. Shalu

    Arise_Awake,

    “God!!
    Ppl who are talking of Kahmoshi and DBZ in same breath….please dont insult Bimal Roy’s classic!!!
    See it for yourself before blabbering some nonsense!!!! ”

    NO TRUER WORDS WERE EVER SAID …”

    I was talking about this verbal lashing. And I took it personally because only two people were talking of Khamoshi and DBZ in the same breath – Sandy and I.

    Its alright, we are different people with different tastes. You don’t question a movie’s impact, place and worth. I do. Even though I’m not trained in that field :)

  35. Raju Guide

    Sandy – I dont think you are shalu are being tagetted here.

    Its the movie which is being targetted by ppl like you who havent even seen it.

  36. dwnpiyush

    @Raju Guide-
    Acc to me also it should be do bheega zameen- but it is spelled as do bhiga zamin on wikipedia and imdb- I know what bhiga means- itna toh credit do bhaiya :)

  37. Tanned Sen

    Sandy, let me ask you then. If one says that a movie would work only for educated audience, is that an insult to someone educated who saw the movie and didnt like it. I do not agree with you that shalu made sane comments today ( she usually does ). She seems to be taking everything personal today and getting worked up. Anyway, enough about shalu. Sorry dear piyush…your lovely review got hijacked. My sincere apologies sir

  38. shilac

    somebody gave me a long lecture that I sud c DB first n then comment. Otherwise, shut up my big mouth. And I obliged.

    And here – the same person is giving her esteemed opinion without seeing a movie which is held as a true classic based on a review. Talk abt being hyporcritical. ..Honestly!

  39. Raju Guide

    @Piyush…i stand corrected..but its not BHiga…its Bigha.

    see the posters

  40. Arise_Awake

    Shalu…

    “ts alright, we are different people with different tastes. You don’t question a movie’s impact, place and worth. I do. Even though I’m not trained in that field”

    Than Wat I said, No truer words were said ever is perfectly right…

    and its not verbal lashing..

    Ritzzi has a point, When without seeing movie one has pre decided the POV..

    I would request Mod to see wether that qualifies as verbal lashing or you becoming too sensitive..

    Holy Cows, Than wat abt personal Holy Cows when there name comes up, ppl start defending….

    It should never be Holier than Thou attitude, My cow is holy but your cow is bholi but not holy :):)

  41. sandy

    No one is giving any opinion about any film. Learn to read first shilac. I bet you havent read this thread well. One is only asking a small thing – to be tolerant of opinions even if it is against a classic. No one is making any judgments, certainly not me who has not seen the film. But yes, I support piyush and think he has a right to dislike a film, if he is taking the trouble to point out why

    Shalu: Babes, dont bother – not worth it.

  42. shilac

    Sandy: I did read all the comments.:-)
    You brought in Khamoshi for comparison without even seeing this classic..

    And when I comment something about Delhi Belly without seeing it, u get hyperbolic just because it has AK associated with it.

    Is that Fair? Huh!

  43. Tanned Sen

    Aa, no need to bring mod into this. Today shalu is all about ‘verbal lashing’ and ‘insults’. Just end of a long day perhaps. Happens to all of us, raju, shilac, aa – let’s insult each other with verbal lashes for a change..ha ha

  44. sputnik

    dwnpiyush is free to like/dislike/hate a movie and he has given his reasons for doing that.

    I have not seen the movie Do Bhiga Zamin. I had seen that rickshaw scene years ago on TV and thought it was brilliant back then. I tried to look for that scene a couple of weeks back and saw a few scenes of DBZ on youtube and they were not looking good. The kid’s acting was looking bad to me. I am not going to comment whether the movie is good/bad till I see the whole movie.

    ———————–

    Sometimes people overrate old movies as classics based on what they saw in childhood or years ago. We are constantly changing – we are watching new movies from all over the world. So what were once classics don’t always remain so.

    —————————
    Chandni Bar is a very good movie – it also has the all the problems falling on the protagonist who is striving to make a better life for her kids and a tragic ending. Now Shalu said that the ending has to have hope but I think the ending was good. The aim of the ending was not to give a happy feeling to the viewers but to make the viewers feel sad at her plight and I think it succeeded in that.

  45. Shalu

    A_A, This is too small an argument to involve the moderator – there weren’t any swear words used after all. When I said ‘verbal lashing’ I meant exactly that – a few people using harsh words. Happens all the time in all arguments. I am not so sensitive that I can’t take a few :) I was only complaining about them being unnecessary.

    Goodnight!

  46. Shalu

    Sputnik, Agree. Chandni Bar is a good movie no doubt. I didn’t work for me only because Tabu had nothing to lose in the beginning of the movie, yet she kept losing all her life. If the ending had been different, I’m sure I would have viewed the movie differently. Just my personal view.

  47. milind

    Why is Do Beegha Zameen a Classic

    Do Beegha Zameen is not only a socially relevant film but also endeavours to provide an outlook towards the political face of India in that era,if not the whole India,especially those parts where Communism was at its helm. Bengal saw many of such leaders who were fighting at the forefront to save the land of farmers from the erupting industrialist wave in the country Post-Independence. The same CPI(M) Government which was build on the theorem of opposing capitalism and promoting equality got crushed in the recently held elections because it diverted from a statement it had made in those eras.

    Not only is this film socially relevant but also culturally significant in my books. The struggle of a farmer to save the land and the bread and butter of his family forms the core of the movie.Emerging victorious or not was never the motive intended.One must analyse a piece of Cinema not only in isolation but also in conjunction with other relevant social narratives. Do Beegha Zameen became not only a symbol of ‘eternal’ struggle of a farmer against the capitalistic regime but also the face of the communist movement in Bengal.The deep seated roots that CPI{M} had in the Rural Bengal had its tracing to the opposition of the party against land acquisition.

    One cannot look for a ray of hope in this movie.Because sometimes movie needs to go beyond the surreal.It is not only about how it should have happened/how i wished it to happen—it is sometimes also about–How it really happened!! Lack of Optimism cannot be a reason to refute the place and the quality of the movie as it goes beyond the boundaries of hope to search for the truth. Sadma[i am not comparing it to Do Beegha Zameen] also had a tragic end–i hated the movie for long but as of now,i can really relate to it.My profession has given me a better perspectiev regarding lacunar amnesia. I would strongly advise Piyush–who has written a well-framed and argued article— to read about the communism in Bengal,the real political scenario in those times and re-visit the movie.

    To recall Classics–one should always look back not only through the movie length but also try and gauge the then times.And for movies as such Do Beegha Zameen,it becomes all the more important.

    Piyush– Kudos for framing an argument!! :-)

    Shalu and Sandy–Respect your views–but i would advise you humbly to watch it once.All it would take is a few hours to reach a conclusion. :-)

    Tanned Sen/Ritz/AA– Glad you all like it!! :-)

  48. Arise_Awake

    @Shalu

    I said mod to satisfy you, not me on verbal lashing and taking t personal…

    For me I alwys believe in self regulation, I dont need policeman telling me right or wrong :) :)

    You took it unnecessarily personal.. One should not.

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