The film remains one of the finest art house classic Indian film in every connoisseur’s favorite film list and one of the best by Shyam Benegal. Benegal also confessed in one of the film magazine interview that he took so much pain during the making of this film. The major problem was seeking a sound producer to finance this creative Bio-pic on the life of 1940s actress of Hindi and Marathi films- Hansa Wadkar. If you look at the titles of the film, it gives you the clue about the artists he associated with the film- Photography by Govind Nihalani, Shama Zaidi as art director, Screenplay by Girish Karnad, Pandit Satya Dev Dubey, Vijay Tendulkar and Benegal himself, along with Smita Patil (in her first major role and the film which convinced her to be in vocation); we have the finest performances of Naseeruddin Shah, Amol Palekar, Amrish Puri, Anant Nag, Sulabha Deshpande and many others.
Today the actresses of Indian film Industry with all their glamour and celebrity status rules the world, it was not the same era in 40s and 50s when it was utter shame for the woman to be a film actress. Social and family taboos of male dominated world compared them with ‘naachne-gaane wali bai’ (courtesan/prostitute). Bhumika is a film about: How a playful girl belong to poor and destitute family became a singer and actress and always struggles to prove her identity among male dominated world around. She tried to explore life among all four different males she encountered by chances and she searched a better companionship among each of them but failed and reached to a stage where there’s no arrangement to return. The only improbable and darkest part of the plot is Usha’s union with aged Vinayak Kale (Amrish Puri) while knowing he was married man and has a son.
I still surprise to know that Smita Patil was just 22 years old when she played such a character which demands much depth and introspection but she’s born to act and watching this film many of you will admit that it’s one of the best performance you’ve ever seen of any Indian actress.
From the beginning Marathi lavani dance to the culmination climax of the film Smita Patil maintained the grace in every frame which bags her first National Award for it. I have to confess that like Sanjeev Kumar, we lost a gem of actress Smita Patil at very young and tender age of just 31 years and still she lived all those diverse strong characters that will remain dream roles for any Indian actress and its undoubtedly proves the versatility of such a quality actress.
To use the framing of 30s to 50s time period of an actress, Benegal used the black and white cinematography, along with sepia toned color to portray flashback. Watch the shooting scene of child Usha when she visited the studio first time, Benegal created totally an authentic atmosphere of 40s Indian Film Industry in all minute detailing. He also took much pain to get monochrome colors in the image in the initial years of cinema; another technically sound example of Benegal’s genius. Opinions may differ but its my personal belief that Benegal was kind of director who made some finest artistic films without being too didactic or too harsh to create parallel cinema and that’s the reason why even today he can gift us fine film like ‘Welcome to Sajjanpur’.
It was really difficult Screenplay to accomplish on screen such naturally and so artistically and that’s the reason why it won National Award for Best Screenplay along with Best Actress. It also won Filmfare for the Best Film.
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