A film by Shyam Benegal
with Smita Patil,Amol Palekar,Anant Nag,
Naseeruddin Shah,Amrish Puri
1975/Hindi/ B&W and Colour/142 mins
28th Oct 2012; 5.45pm
Perks Mini Theater
Loosely based on the life of the Marathi stage and screen actress Hansa Wadkar, Shyam Benegal’s Bhumika (1977) deals with a woman’s search for identity and fulfillment. Usha grows up in a near destitute family of performers. She learns music from her singer grandmother but is constantly berated by her mother Shanta (Sulabha Deshpande), who has found some respectability in marriage.. She does not want the performer stigma for her daughter and keeps telling her that marriage is the way to respectability.
Keshav Dalvi (Amol Palekar) helps Usha join the field of Cinema. She grows up (Smita Patil) to become the most desired actress of her time. Her mother continues to restrict her life and in a bold bid for freedom, Usha marries Dalvi. She dreams of giving up cinema to become a full time wife and mother, but forced to continue as an actress. Her life gets entangled with other men she comes across in her life.
The film boasts of an A-list of actors who deliver top-notch performances. The men are led by Amol Palekar who excels as the oily, self-serving Dalvi. He bullies and beats Usha and uses every trick in the book to keep her subjugated so she can keep earning money for him.
Benegal creates a complex character in Usha – a woman who at the same times wants conventionality and yet is willing to defy every convention. She will be wife/mother/provider but on her own terms. She wants love but again on her own terms.
This is not a Madame Bovary like search for romantic fulfillment, but rather a search for a complete life, an ideal life where she can be mother, wife, lover, yet never bound.
Smita performs the role of a lifetime wherein she grows from a vivacious teenager who sets the screen on fire, to an embittered middle-aged woman with a grown daughter. She drifts from man to man in her search, because in that era a woman could try to be what she wanted to be, but still needed a man to achieve that goal.(Source: http://pakhipakhi.wordpress.com/)
Contemporary Indian filmmaker Shyam Benegal has been an important figure in the new wave of Indian directors. Benegal originated what has come to be called "middle cinema". He was initially involved in the advertising industry and produced over 900 advertisements before his interest turned to films.
Shyam Benegal was born on 14 December 1934 at Aliwal, Hyderabad, British India (now Andhra Pradesh, India). The son of a still photographer and one of 10 children, Benegal's love affair with motion pictures began when he made his first home-movie using a hand-cranked camera at age 12. He is nephew of the famous Indian Actor Director Guru Dutt.
As a young man, he went on to found a film society and get involved in acting while studying at Osmania University where he earned an MA in economics. After graduating, Benegal found a job as a copywriter at a large ad agency in Bombay. Soon he was promoted to writing scripts and directing advertising shorts and commercials. He remained there for over a decade.
His film directorial debut was Gher Betha Ganga in 1962. Benegal shot to fame with Ankur 1973, which introduced Shabana Azmi, who also starred in Nishant 1975. The success that New India Cinema enjoyed in the 1970s and early 1980s could largely be attributed to Shyam Benegal's quartet Ankur (1973), Nishant (1975), Manthan (1976) and Bhumika (1977), which were artistically superior yet commercially viable films. Tapping fresh talent mainly from the FTII and NSD, Benegal has made several sensitive and stimulating films.
He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1976 and the Padma Bhushan in 1991. On 8th August 2007, he was awarded the highest award in Indian cinema for lifetime achievement, the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for the year 2005. He is only director to have won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi five times.