Sujata a revolutionary film

Radhakanta Barik

Sujata film is a revolutionary film by Bimal Ray. The story carries the reforms worked out by three important thinkers Tagore, Gandhi and Vivekananda. All these thinkers’ photographs are behind the study table of Sunil Dutt who is the protagonist of the theme of reforms. He is doing Ph. D and with a vision of reforming a conservative society. He does not believe in caste system. It is interesting to note here that his grandmother who is a conservative lady while doing puja in her puja room Sunil Dutt has entered into the room and announced his decision of her marriage with Sujata an untouchable girl.  He goes to meet Sujata while she is working in the garden. The camera moves in the garden where she has put her labour to plant trees with flowers. She is a productive labour. Her sister claims that she works from the morning till the evening without any break which indicates the working day for an ordinary dalit person.  The story revolves around the girl Sujata who lives in the house of an established Brahmin family.  Sujata is the adopted child of the Brahmin family. She plays with a girl belongs to the Brahmin family. Both of the same age group but one goes to the school and then after finishing the school goes to the college. The other lives back in the house but both are very good friends without any discrimination among them.  This brings out three generations. Sunil Dutt belongs to the third generation and brought up by her grandmother. He lost his parents in his childhood. He has been brought up by his grandma who is fond of him. She belongs to the conservative Brahmin family who goes to the house of the Choudhuri where Sujata as a child was allowed to grow. She holds the child in her hands but the moment she knows the caste of the child. She throws the child which indicates the hatred of an ordinary Brahmin family against the untouchability. The Second generation belongs to Choudhuri family who are educated and well placed in the society and having a post of the chief engineer. His wife turns out to be conservative but liberal to the extent she allowed the untouchable child to grow in her house. She claims that Sujata is not her daughter but daughter like. This is a powerful observation by her as she is changing under the influence of her educated and enlightened husband.  The story of Sujata explains the social attitude of three generations of Brahmin families. The generation of the grandmother of Sunil Dutt and the generation of Choudhuri family is the second generation and his daughter and Sunil Dutt belong to third generation where they do not carry any social prejudices. Social change happens in a slow and steady manner. It is interesting part of the story is this that the first generation belongs to the grandmother’s generation who accepts the proposal of marriage by her grandson Sunil Dutt. She herself goes to the house of Choudhuri for announcing her own decision.  Here Sujata knows her story of as a daughter like of Choudhury family. If any guest comes to their house she goes back to her garden which is the favaourite place where she spends most of time. She does not prepare the tea if outsiders come to their house. Although she cooks food for the family of Choudhury but avoids making anything when the guests come in.

This is where society influences her behavior. Her spontaneity slowly disappears. For instance, when Choudhuri’s daughter has a home tutor who teaches her.  Sujata picks up a big book from the self and goes to the school teacher demands that she needs to be educated by the tutor. She realizes the social limitation imposed on her growing up in the family of Choudhuri. The camera moves in her picking up the book from the book self as a small child her intense desire to study. But she is not allowed to study further but she is educated in the house. Sujata is brilliant or more brilliant than Choudhuri’s daughter as without training she is able to sing. According Kaushik Basu a leading economist a study shows that if the caste is not told to the children of Dalit then they are as  meritorious as the other caste children but only telling them their caste reduced their merit.  In another occasion Choudhuri’s daughter goes for celebration of her birthday. The camera moves on the birthday function of her but Sujata demands her birthday needs to be celebrated. It is being refused by the Mrs Choudhuri.  She is liberal enough to claim Sujata as daughter like.  Here Sunil Dutt comes with his grand ma to attend the birthday function where he meets Sujata and falls in love with her. Their love scenes have not been choreographed in the scenic beauty but in the garden of the house and inside the house where she and Dutt sing in telephone. Here the telephone explains the logic of social distance between the Sujata’s cast and Sunil Dutt’s caste. The song is being beautifully choreographed in two houses explaining the social distance between Sujata and Sunil Dutt. The Director tries to tell the story in a cinematic manner where human behavior slowly changes and Sunil Dutt gets convinced of  the untouchability as a crime against humanism. He narrates the story of Gandhi’s movement on Harijan and the movement against the caste system.  In the end Mrs choudhuri falls sick where her blood group is the same as Sujata which saves her. Scientific basis of human being is this that every one carries the same colour of blood and caste system is a social arrangement and practice of untouchability is a crime against humanism.  The invisible hero is Ambedkar who is not shown here but his voice is clearly delineated as intercaste marriage happens between Sujata and Sunil Dutt which is the best way of annihilation of caste system in Hindu society. This is a powerful revolutionary story well directed by Ray after his revolutionary film of Do Bigha Jamin. The way Camera moves tells the story of Sujata in a cinematic manner without confusion. The camera moves while Sujata opens the window when her boy friend Sunil Dutt goes away which explains the new ideas are coming through the opening of  window.  He is film director who is a neo realistic in his approach like the Italian Director who directed the film Bicycle thief. The Bicycle Thief is a 1948 Italian neorealist drama film directed by Vittorio De Sica.

Prof Radhakanta Barik (retd), Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi

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Aug 24, 2020

Prof. Radhakanta Barik

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