Kolkata, 18 Jul 2019 16:00 IST
The film, starring Uttam Kumar, subtly projects the victory of good over evil without getting preachy, through the organic transformation of the characters.
Prafulla Chakravarty’s Gali Thekey Rajpat adopts a humanistic approach throughout. On the 60th anniversary of the film's release (it hit the screens on 17 July 1959), it is worthwhile to look back at the simplistic approach with which the director infused the greater message of humanity. The film subtly projects the victory of good over evil without getting preachy, using the organic transformations of the characters instead.
The film is a celebration of the performances of some of Bengali cinema’s stalwarts. While Uttam Kumar and Anup Kumar make the audience smile with their striking screen presence and perfect timing in delivering adorable comical moments, Chhabi Biswas represents human psychology in a mature manner, oozing with affection and compassion for the unprivileged.
Mihir Sen’s writing is compact and beautifully captures the essence of all the characters. Some of the dialogues mouthed by Biswas are real gems and can easily be quoted in important discussions on the philosophy of life.
It is interesting to note the way Chakravarty has been able to infuse a journey of transformation in all the characters in such a simple yet entertaining story. In the beginning, all the characters seem to have control over their respective situations and are quite firm on their individual life objectives. However, each of them eventually reveals their true self that is rather vulnerable in the face of reality.
Small-time thief Raja (Uttam Kumar) gets released from jail and his dear friend and accomplice Bhola (Anup Kumar) welcomes him. Raja and Bhola have their own circle of thieves as well as a sardar (leader), who gives them assignments.
Raja is charming and the girls are quite eager to get his attention, while Bhola concentrates on picking pockets.
Mala (Sabitri Chatterjee) and her father (Tulsi Chakravarty) arrive in the neighbourhood. Raja and Bhola introduce themselves to their new neighbours in a way unique to them. The duo make their best effort to stay in the good books of Mala and her father. Her father is impressed by the apparently helpful and affable duo but Mala is suspicious and does not fall for their tactics.
Raja is not interested in getting his hands dirty in small-time thefts anymore and plans to trap big industrialists to earn recognition in the world of thieves.
Their journey collides with that of Mala, who is a struggling theatre actress and dancer, and the sole breadwinner of her family. Her father is affectionate yet hardly takes account of the plight she goes through while trying to retain her values in show business. But Raja and Bhola come to her rescue when she is in threatening situations and she eventually starts feeling grateful to them.
However, the most interesting episode in the film begins with the entry of business tycoon Kar saheb (Biswas). While Raja and Bhola set out to dupe the businessman, Kar saheb, while pretending to close a deal, secretly sends them on a journey of self-exploration.
Kar saheb is aware of the duo’s tendencies, but he cannot give up hope in humanity. He believes compassion and trust can transform the most evil streaks in human beings, and in the end he proves his point. The transformation majorly takes place in Raja. His budding romance with Mala contributes to the change.
Director Prafulla Chakravarty and writer Mihir Sen have both amplified the importance of virtues and of love in curing the evils in society. Neither Raja nor Bhola are projected as out-and-out negative characters. It appears that the director was aware of the limitations of his characters and hence prevented Raja and Bhola from turning into hardened criminals to project their transformation in a simplified yet convincing way.
Mala’s vulnerabilities and trust issues are the projection of all the adversities single women in show business continue to face till date in different forms. However, it is again her compassion and the ability to look through the superficial layers on human beings that forms the crux of her relationship with Raja.
Raja and Mala’s romance runs a predictable course. On the other hand, Raja and Bhola’s friendship is more endearing and relatable. Throughout the film, Bhola plays Raja's shadow. Inseparable from Raja, he finds no other way but to choose the right path at the end. Through the entire journey, Bhola appears to be more greedy and insensitive than Raja, but in the end the audience realizes that nothing holds more value for Bhola than Raja’s friendship.
It is hard to accept Uttam Kumar as a small-time thief with his stylish demeanour, charm and broad smile. However, Prafulla Chakravarty manages to justify his characteristics by making him the son of a well-off family who got separated from his kin at a young age and had to resort to stealing.
Mihir Sen and Prafulla Chakravarty also endow Raja with certain traits that are different from Bhola’s. For example, when Bhola steals Mala’s father’s wallet at their first meeting, Raja warns him not to go overboard. He is more intelligent than his accomplice and possesses farsightedness too.
Uttam Kumar is brilliant in projecting the street-smart attitude with a certain layer of sophistication. His exchanges with Anup Kumar are some of the more spontaneous moments in the film. His helplessness is palpable when he confesses all the mistakes he has made to Kar saheb. He is also quite convincingly nervous while romancing Chatterjee.
Biswas stands tall in his character of the businessman with a golden heart. His magnanimous appearance goes well with the magnanimity of his character. He owns some of the best lines in the film. His dialogue delivery in his moments of self-realization can push the audience to shed a few tears for the depth inherent in them.
Sabitri Chatterjee manages to turn all the moments. She is super strict with her father and funny with her restrained expressions around Raja and Bhola. She also portrays her vulnerabilities when threatened by a lecherous pursuer (Bikash Roy).
It is never easy to share and shine in every moment with Uttam Kumar on screen, but Anup Kumar manages to do just that with his brilliant timing. He maintains a naïve and innocent appearance throughout the film, with a deep love for his friend. He makes sure to present himself on the same page of life as Uttam Kumar. He also adds greatly to the ‘thief’ identity of Raja.
Tulsi Chakravarty also shines as the helpless father who finds joy in the little moments of life, without thinking much of reality. His expression of acute guilt when Chatterjee accuses him of enjoying with her hard-earned money and being selfish is one of the more memorable moments in the film.
Bikash Roy is pure evil and dramatic in his brief encounters with Chatterjee.
Dinen Gupta’s cinematography is simplistic yet poignant. His camerawork captures the urban essence in the duo’s neighbourhood, Mala’s theatre and Kar saheb’s palatial house in different flavours.
Baidyanath Chatterjee’s editing lends to the compact form of the film.
Gouriprasanna Majumdar’s background score retains a playful mood throughout while Sudhin Dasgupta’s compositions are aptly suited to the sequences.
Gali Thekey Rajpat is an entertaining film that makes sure the audience carries warmth in its heart after watching the film. Besides, it is always such a delight to watch a host of artistes do justice to their characters and, at the same time, complement the others. If not for the brilliant cast, the film could well have suffered from a severe lack of balance.
The title Gali Thekey Rajpat speaks of breaking into the broader sentiments of life from the narrow confines of one's situation and the storyline justifies it completely.
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