Rare is the filmmaker with a vision to deal with sensitive issues like marital discord in a mature way. Without doubt, Bhimsain belongs to that elusive breed. Despite a very limited oeuvre in Bollywood, the man who earned his spurs essentially as an animation pioneer weaves a web of emotions in “Dooriyaan” that pulls many a heartstring.

By the time he produced and directed “Dooriyan” in 1979, he had already created an impact on discerning viewers with his first venture, “Gharonda” (1977), in which he showcased his aptitude to deal with the “man-woman” relationship in a realistic and subtle way. Essentially an urban being, his films are also urban centric. During the ’70s, when the trend of women entering the work force in a big way was picking up steam, he certainly did not have many reference points, although he seems to be inspired by the work of Basu Bhattacharya (“Anubhav”, 1971 and “Avishkar”, 1974), both in terms of content management and technique.

The story of “Dooriyan” (penned by Shankar Shesh who won the Filmfare trophy for Best Story) might seem rather straightforward in today’s milieu, but it certainly had an innovative streak to it in the ’70s. It deals with the personal ambition of an urban working couple and how it affects their married life, considered against the background of their courtship period — when they professed undying love for each other. Responsibilities of marriage, especially bringing up a child (Kireet Khurana — Bhimsain’s son — as a cute moppet, Moju), bring forth fault lines in heaven, generating conflict in their relationship. This leads to separation, as seemingly irreconcilable differences wreak mayhem. The denouement is left to the readers’ imagination, in a bid to spur them to watch the film.

The movie is replete with subtle nuances, in contrast to those by more prolific filmmakers that degenerated into over-the-top slanging matches. Bhimsain’s effort would have failed to reach the heights of cinematic excellence, were it not for the sterling actors he cast in lead roles.

Uttam Kumar is genius personified; such is his command over his craft.

His face conveys a thousand emotions without taking recourse to a single word. He fits in the role with ease, although at 53 years he looks a bit old for the romantic scenes. Tragically, he died the very next year, in 1980, making us wonder about the body of work he would have created had he lived longer.

He is duly complemented by Sharmila Tagore, who, besides shining in a role tailor made for her urban sensibilities, looks stunning as the career-oriented woman. The grace, dignity and poise she imparts are superb. Probably, she has never looked more beautiful in any other outing on the silver screen. Her beauty is enhanced by the clever and imaginative use of lighting and shadow by Bhimsain. His cinematographer Apurba Kishore deserves kudos for this show of brilliance.

Equally riveting is the music, composed by Jaidev, to lyrics by Sudarshan Faakir.

Some of the numbers, including “Zindagi mere ghar aana” (Bhupendra and Anuradha Paudwal) and “Zindagi mein jab tumhare hum nahi the”, are all timeless gems. Both Jaidev and Bhimsain reposed considerable faith in Bhupendra’s talent, and in return, he did not let them down. It is indeed an irony that a singer of Bhupendra’s calibre could never achieve the commanding heights of playback singing, which were rightfully his due.

The director and his music composer did not stick to sombre tunes only. They allowed the child in them to come forth with the breezy “Evening news” (with a strong anti-poverty message) sung by Manna Dey and “Khota paisa nahin chalega, nahin chala hai, nahin chalega” by an ensemble of singers (K.N. Sharma, Preeti Sagar and Ranu Mikherjee).

The enviable support cast, Shreeram Lagoo, Arvind and Sulabha Deshpande, who had been together since their theatre days, add sparkle to the film.

Director: Bhimsain

Cast: Uttam Kumar, Sharmila Tagore, Shreeram Lagoo, Jalal Agha, Kireet Khurana, Sulabha Deshpande, Arvind Deshpande, Priyadarshinee.

Music director: Jaidev

Lyricist: Sudarshan Faakir

Story: Shankar Shesh

Trivia: Won Filmfare Award for the Best Story