Bimal Roy – The Silent Master (1909 – 1966)
Bimal Roy, the Silent Master, was born into an old landholding family in former East Bengal, (Bangladesh). After his father’s death, Roy was thrown out of the Zamindari by the estate manager. Young, penniless, he moved to Calcutta with his widowed mother and infant brothers.
As he struggled for work, Promothesh Barua engaged Roy as a publicity photographer. Soon, Roy was engaged as an assistant cameraman to Nitin Bose at Calcutta’s reputed New Theatres Studios. His fine sense of lighting and composition won him accolades from every quarter. New Theatres classics like ‘Mukti’ and ‘Devdas’ bear his distinguished mark. Few know that Bimal Roy made two outstanding documentaries for the British Government. There is no trace of these early masterpieces. His 1956 documentary, ‘Gotama the Buddha’, received high praise for its plastic and moral beauty at the Cannes festival.
Roy’s directorial debut, Udayer Pathey (1944), took a strong position against class discrimination. The film is a celluloid masterpiece for Bengali viewers, having broken new ground in sophisticated camerawork/ treatment, non-theatrical acting and box office records.
By late 40’s several Bengali directors were forced to shift to Bombay. World War II and Partition spelt ruin for Bengali cinema. Roy too moved to the city and in 1952-53 launched Bimal Roy Productions with ‘Do Bigha Zamin’. The film made a strong universal impact for its humane portrayal of Indian peasantry. It is considered one of the 10 best Indian films of all time.
‘Do Bigha Zamin’ has the additional distinction of being one of the first Indian films to win awards and accolades: in China, UK, Karlovi Vary, Cannes, USSR, Venice and Melbourne.
With each film he made – Sarat Chandra’s charming ‘Parineeta‘, the poignant ‘Devdas‘, the lyrical ‘Sujata‘, or the stunning ‘Madhumati‘ – Bimal Roy became a name synonymous with great cinema craft, accepted not only in the cities, but in the rural districts around the country. He was a legend in his lifetime.
Bimal Roy, the ‘Silent Master of Indian Cinema’, ushered in the golden age of Indian Cinema in the 1940’s. A socially committed director, his films had the power to inspire and move audiences. ‘Do Bigha Zameen’ made 50 years ago is an eloquent portrait of displaced peasants, while ‘Sujata’ took up the ever-burning issue of caste struggle.
Two important projects : ‘Amrit Kumbh’ and ‘The Mahabharata’ remain incomplete.
Bimal Roy passed away at the age of 55, leaving behind an unmatched and unequalled cinematic legacy that is India’s proud, National heritage.
The saga continues with Bimal Roy Memorial events.