A reincarnation story with the lead actors in multiple roles. Devendra (D. Kumar) shelters from a storm in a deserted house and believes he hears a woman crying. Exploring the house, he finds a painting of its former owner Raja Ugranarayan. Devendra feels he must have painted the portrait in a previous life when he was called Anand. This cues a flashback to Anand’s life when he worked as a foreman on a plantation and loved a woman from the village, Madhumati (Vyjayanthimala), who died escaping from the libidinous Raja Ugranarayan (Pran). Then a trap is set for the Raja by means of another woman, Madhavi (Vyjayanthimala again), who looks like the dead Madhumati and could be her reincarnation. The happy ending arrives when the original Madhumati returns from the dead to take her revenge. The film deploys an eerily romantic atmosphere, enhanced by Choudhury’s background score and Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s editing. Its songs have remained enduringly popular. The film includes the famous Aja re pardesi sung by Lata Mangeshkar. It was Bimal Roy’s biggest commercial success, scripted by Ghatak. Many of the people involved in this film had worked together on Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Musafir (1957), also based on a Ghatak story. The imagery at times evokes Ghatak’s Ajantrik (1957), linking the beautiful Madhumati with nature and tribal cultures beyond the grasp of capitalist appropriation.
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The film was the highest-grossing Indian film of the year. Read More