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Mamta (1966)

Starring Suchitra Sen, Ashok Kumar, Dharmendra

Author-backed Suchitra Sen and a poster of the film.

For one of the finest crafted love stories seen on Indian celluloid one has to thank Asit Sen for his masterly creation of “Mamta”. Unfolding sublime virtues of filial affection and devotion, “Mamta” was the first of several stupendous movies like “Anokhi Raat”, “Khamoshi” and “Safar” made by this illustrious disciple of Bimal Roy. Even after four decades, “Mamta” invigorates and intoxicates with emotions “too deep for words.”

Adept in unfolding haunting screen images with “rhythmic feel” and emotional tug, Asit Sen was a superb storyteller who appealed to heart and mind alike. Like his guru, music and photography were integral crafts of his storytelling and therefore, song picturisations in “Mamta” are a treat to watch since each song is finely knit into the fabric of the story. Of course, the work was made easy by Roshan as each composition was flavoured to suit the scenic mood and everyone from Rafi, Lata, Asha and Suman to Hemant Kumar did justice to Majrooh Sultanpuri's remarkable poetry with their profound rendition and mellifluous eloquence.

In fact, so strong is the sparkling influence of Roshan-Majrooh combine that despite a character-rich story, powerful performances and inspired direction, the songs overwhelm your senses. From the pathos laden “Rahte The Kabhie Jinke Dil Mein” (Lata) to evergreen masterpiece “Rahen Na Rahen Hum” (Lata solo plus short duet by Suman-Rafi) and effervescent “In Baharon Mein Akele Na Phiro” (Rafi-Asha) to soul soothing “Chuppa Lo Yun Dil Mein Pyar Mera” (Hemant-Lata), each is a gem of eternal glitter, making you pine for more.

However, this is not to say that the story was upstaged by the musical bonanza, rather it enhanced the delicate execution of a script encapsulating middle class fears and class conflict. While performances by Ashok Kumar, Dharmendra and Pahadi Sanyal were perfect foil to each other, Kalipada Chakraborty, in the role of cunning Rakhal, was a revelation. His appearances are few but his portrayal evokes awe as well as revulsion.

Double delight

Yet the film belongs to Suchitra Sen who enacts the double role of an aged courtesan-cum-suffering mother alongside a bantering young advocate with equal ease and perfection. The sorrow ridden elderly character is in sharp contrast to the mischievous, irreverent, much-in-love girl and each part is performed with grace and conviction. Normally, author-backed feminine roles are a rarity in Hindi cinema and it is to Sen's eternal credit that she triumphed with glory! The film reveals a spontaneous Dharmendra and one wonders how Bengali directors like Bimal Roy, Asit Sen or Hrishikesh Mukherjee always succeeded in bringing out the best out of him; perhaps they kindled his inner sincerity of a noble artist.

“Mamta” is about a poor girl Devyani (Suchitra Sen) and her jinxed love affair with a wealthy lawyer Mohnish (Ashok Kumar). After he goes abroad for higher studies, Devyani's father suffers a stroke and needs urgent medical attention. Unfortunately, Mohnish's mother plays spoilsport and surreptitiously drives her to despair whereby she reluctantly agrees to marry a much older businessman Rakhal, as a compromise, for the sake of her father's treatment. But Rakhal turns out to be a habitual drunkard and womaniser, forcing Devyani to not just submit to his lust but also become a nautch girl.

After giving birth to a girl, Devyani alias Pannabai resolves to save her daughter from meeting a similar fate and entrusts the young daughter Suparna (also Suchitra Sen) into the custody of her lover-turned-barrister Mohnish and he brings her up as his doting daughter.

Several years later, when Pannabai is charged with Rakhal's murder and Suparna guns for her prosecution, the relationship and the cause of murder is revealed in court in a sensational manner but alas, it leads to the death of the mother in the arms of her bewildered daughter.

Despite nominations in four Filmfare categories for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Story (Nihar Ranjan Gupta), the film managed none but won hearts of cine goers of all ages for all times to come.


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