Tapan Sinha’s violent and cynical melodrama in response to the Naxalite student movement in Bengal (cf. Satyajit Ray’s Pratidwandi, 1970 and Seemabaddha, 1971; Mrinal Sen’s Calcutta trilogy). An old woman, Anandamoyee (Chhaya Devi), ‘adopts’ a group of lumpen youth, sensing the emotional vulnerability beneath their violent reduction of democracy to a series of gang wars. Two gangs clash when their respective political leaders (representing also the ongoing conflict between ‘local’ people and post-Partition migrants from East Bengal) fight an election. Anandamoyee eventually dies trying to save one of the students from a bullet. The hit film is remembered for its tightly edited portrayal of the farcical election campaign and for its climactic confrontation. The film was remade by Gulzar (Mere Apne, 1971) with Meena Kumari emulating Chhaya Devi’s performance.
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