Highly inspired by De Sica’s Italian Neo-Realist film ‘Bicycle Thieves’, Bimal Roy made up his mind to make such a piece of unconventional realistic cinema rooted in Indian milieu. His loyal assistant and editor Hrishikesh Mukherjee came with brilliant script focusing the challenging threat of urbanization and industrialization in immediate Post Independent India guided by Nehruvian socialism. Director Bimal Roy made the whole film maintaining same Neo Realistic treatment of De Sica. That’s the reason why it bagged so much recognition and appreciation in International Film Festivals around the world during its time and still considered as one of the finest realistic film made much before Ray or Ghatak's classics. Though having different background and different parts, the film retained lot of similarity with ‘Bicycle Thieves’ especially portraying struggling father-son duo in the time of crisis. One can call it India’s first Neo Realist film which ends with unexpected sad ending.
After severe draught of several years poor farmer Shambhu and his family consist of aged father, wife and a son witnessed the joy of rain but soon joy turned into crisis as the Zamindar wants his two acres of land to establish a factory. Zamindar manipulates Shambhu by bribing the local official put him in crisis. In order to save his land, he has to earn hefty amount to return Zamindar’s debt. Shambhu and his son goes to Calcutta and struggle hard to earn money but accidentally lose all their hard earned money. Despite their hard struggle they can’t save their ancestral land which transforms into factory by the time the film reaches its climax. While its making, the producers desperately wanted to change this heartbreaking ending scene as audience of that time wasn’t ready to accept such a tragic realistic end but Roy remained adamant and the rest is the history. The scene is absolutely the moment which made the audience think hard about the future of poor Shambhu & his son and so many struggling peasant families like them.
Counting on performances Balraj Sahni gave possibly the best performance of his lifetime as poor struggling peasant pulling a hand rickshaw in the streets of Calcutta. His natural act still regarded as one of the finest act of his entire career along with 'Garm Hawa'. Nirupa Roy and Nana Palsikar are average but Child actor Rattan Kumar remained scene stealer just like Bruno in ‘Bicycle Thieves’. Apart of lead actors there are several surprising actors in the film who played small but noticeable roles. Comedian Jagdeep played the role of Boot polish Boy as a child actor here. May be it’s his first Hindi film as an actor. If I am not mistaking Mehmood also appears surprisingly in one of the scene of the film. Meena Kumari played a cameo role of a helping literate neighbor.
Bimal Roy bagged his first Filmfare Award as Best Director and continues winning Seven Filmfare awards as Best Director, must be a record unbroken! And along with this film, Roy made his own mark by setting a realistic social reformist Bengali cinema contrast with Mumbai’s pure entertainment oriented happy ending films of early 50s.