|Narjis (Meena Kumari)|
I thought I fully appreciated the work of India’s greatest director Satyajit Ray. It wasn’t until I saw this film that I truly understood the importance of his work. This film has beautiful art direction and director Kamal Amrohi clearly knows how to use the camera, but everything else is pretty bad.
The movie is about a girl named Narjis who was raised in a brothel. She was the offspring of royalty and a prostitute. The head of the family rejects the prostitute and it prevented the lovers from being together. This put their baby into the hands of the prostitute’s sister who raised her. After the girl is grown she is on a train while sleeping when a man visits her and falls in love with her feet. He leaves a message between her toes in the form of a note. From there, the two search for each other in a very melodramatic, poorly acted, and over the top manner. It’s pretty to look at and the dancing is quite good, but it didn’t take long to overdose on it all long before the 150 minute running time was up. When you can predict that a dramatic burst of music will happen so precisely that you can make it look like you cued it with the movement of your hand, the film has serious issues.
If this is the norm for Bollywood, then Ray’s films are 100 times more important then I had ever imagined. However, for the dancing, art direction, and camerawork I am going to be generous and say it’s worth a look.