IFFI is hosting an exhibition of posters of Bimal Roy's films

Yesterday, never dies at the ongoing International Film Festival of India. Take for instance, the black-and-white reels of Bimal Roy's masterpieces, right from the 1940s to the 60s. Or the fading posters of the master craftsman's films. They all keep you company at the biggest festival of films in the largest film producing nation of the world.

In a veritable blast from the past, the festival, this year is hosting an exhibition of posters of Bimal Roy's films. Quietly, almost imperceptibly, without any loud proclamations, the exhibition scores a few points as a guardian of the annals of film-making. What appears as a little sop for those with an eye for history turns out to be an exercise in nostalgia as the exhibition at Kala Academy takes us to the very best and least known facets of Bimal Roy's works.

Predictably, it starts with “Udayer Pathey” and “Humraahi”. Incidentally, “Udayer Pathey”, now regarded as a masterpeice of cinema, almost did not happen. The film was a cut piece production made with leftover pieces of raw stock.

The film's good results encouraged Bimal Roy to film “Humraahi” a year later in 1945. It was his first Hindi essay and a fine version of “Udayer Pathey”. The posters of the film, in suitably mellow tones, say a lot through the language of silence. Just like Bimal Roy's films where silence spoke as eloquently as dialogues or music.

Talking of music, probably the very best of Bimal Roy's came in “Madhumati”, a 1958 production that is still regarded by many as the best of Dilip Kumar-Vyjayantimala combination. The exhibition gives fine details about the movie, including a little insight into how a narrative by Ritwik Ghatak was elaborated into a full score for the film!

Around the same time as “Madhumati” came “Yahudi”, not taken in the same breath by most. But the film, as revealed through its posters even today, scores on more than one count.

Socially responsible

An adaptation of Agha Hashr Kashmiri's play, “Yahudi ki Ladki”, the film is notable for its music. A year later, Bimal Roy came up with his take on untouchability in “Sujata”. The 1959 film has become a masterpiece in socially responsible cinema. And a poster very helpfully recalls what our then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had to say on it. “There is always a danger, in films which have too obvious a moral purpose, to become dull. In ‘Sujata' this error is avoided.”

Similarly, the exhibition gives little insights, small anecdotes into the making of Bimal Roy's films. Not just the likes of “Devdas”, “Do Bigha Zamin” or “Bandini” but even the lesser appreciated ones like his production “Do Dooni Char” that relates the story of twins. His wife had a twin sister too, we are told! Or “Biraj Bahu” and “Maa”.

Each has a little story to share, a little incident to recall. And lots of nostalgia to spread. Colour or black-and-white, the posters have a unique language of their own.