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10 things you didn’t know about Bimal Roy’s Madhumati

To celebrate the film’s release in Mumbai on 19 September 1958, we go through some amazing trivia from the book Bimal Roy’s Madhumati: Untold Stories from Behind the Scenes.

Sonal Pandya

Bimal Roy’s daughter, Rinki Roy Bhattacharya, wrote Bimal Roy’s Madhumati: Untold Stories from Behind the Scenes, to commemorate 50 years of the film. She went on a journey to locate where Madhumati (1958) was shot and try to find those who witnessed the shooting of the film in the 1950s.

I’m continuously discovering stuff about dad: Bimal Roy's daughter Rinki

Her book also shared interesting trivia about the making of the film and the people behind and in front of the camera. Here are few things you may not have known about Madhumati.

1. Madhumati is the first Indian film to be launched internationally. The film’s mahurat was performed in front of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival Theatre in the then Czechoslovakia. The Russian actress Tatjana Konjuchova turned on the camera while the Polish actress Barbara Polonska stood in as the clapper person, while Dilip Kumar performed for the camera.

2. 80% of the film was re-shot in Maharashtra and the film went over budget by about Rs8-10 lakh. Kumar arranged a special lunch and early screening of Madhumati for the distributors. He spoke to them after and said he was giving up Rs70,000 to help out Bimal Roy and asked the distributors if they would do the same. The deficit was met with everyone’s contribution and later when the film was a hit, they all recovered their costs.

3. The film’s ending at the train station was not present in the original version written by Ritwick Ghatak.

4. Madhumati ran for 24 weeks at the Roxy Cinema in Mumbai, starting 19 September. Just before it was to hit the all important silver jubilee, it was removed from theatres, even though the film was running housefull. The reason behind this unfair treatment was the theatres' financial commitment. Theatre owners had to give their staff a bonus if a film completed 25 weeks. Therefore, Madhumati was denied a silver jubilee at the Roxy.

5. It was associate editor Gurudas (Das) Dhaimade, not Hrishikesh Mukherjee who edited the majority of the film. Mukherjee’s directorial debut Musafir (1957) and Madhumati (1958) were edited at the same time, and it was Das who made sure the film was completed on time for the premiere.

6. Madhumati held the record of most Filmfare awards, 9 in total (Best Feature Film in Hindi, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Music Director, Best Female Playback Singer, Best Dialogue, Best Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction) until 1996, when it was broken by Aditya Chopra’s Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995) with 10 wins.

8. Cinematographer, Dilip Gupta who won the Filmfare trophy for best cinematography, had studied his craft abroad. He went to the New York Institute of Photography and worked at Paramount Studios with the greats of Hollywood, from Greta Garbo to Clark Gable. Gupta even got a primer in animation at Walt Disney Studios.

9. Vyjayanthimala’s costumes in Madhumati were designed for her by her grandmother Yadugiri Devi. They were approved by art director Sudhendu Roy, who made sketches and got them stitched by the tailors working for Bimal Roy Production. The actress also used silver jewellery from her own collection in the film.

9. Salil Chowdhury’s music struck a chord with listeners and viewers. Reportedly, one of the livelier numbers, ‘Daiya Re Daiya Chadh Gayo Paapi Bichua’ featured a young Saroj Khan. The book mentions actress Vyjayanthimala too remembering the dancer-turned-choreographer on the sets.

10. ‘Suhana Safar’, written by Shailendra and picturized on Dilip Kumar, was actually supposed to be sung by Talat Mehmood. The singer knew his contemporary Mukesh was going through some financial difficulties and requested that he sing the song instead.