Duniya Na Mane – 1937
If there is one classic of the Indian Cinema tackling a burning social problem, that has left an everlasting mark on the pages of film history as well as on the minds of the moviegoers of that generation, it is easily the 1937 film ‘Duniya Na Mane’ directed by V. Shantararam for Prabhat.
Though it was the first social subject to be tried by Shantaram after nearly a decade’s work as a director, (the first of the trilogy, others being Aadmi and Padosi), he boldly took up famous Marathi author N. H. Apte’s daringly progressive Marathi novel Na Patnari Goshta about a young woman’s determined fight against the cruel system of young maidens being married off to aged men.
The original Marathi version titled ‘Kunku’ was made into the Hindi as ‘Duniya Na Mane’ bearing an equally meaningful English title namely ‘The Unexpected’. This film did come as an unexpected shock in many ways. No Indian film before had ever come to grips in such a straight forward and vehement manner with an existing social evil that was being fed by the orthodox, rich and powerful. No film before had even given such a rebellious role to the Indian screen heroine. No film had challenged accepted traditions so strongly and instigated the helpless victims themselves to rebel and find their own salvation.
“Duniya Na Mane” did all this and became a big success in the bargain. Its most remarkable and often overlooked aspect is that the girl Nirmala conducted her crusade by depriving her old husband of his conjugal rights. Then his son’s (by an earlier marriage) behavior drives him to suicide and his last wish was that his young wife should remarry.
Through the heroine played to perfection by the fiery star Shanta Apte, Shantaram wanted to show that if the tradition-bound Indian woman just raised her head, she could herself remove the forces that condemned her to decades of suffering and subjugation.
Keshavrao Date superbly played the old man, while other characters in the family were played by Vasanti, Vimlabai Vashishta and Raja Nene. For the role of the old man’s daughter, who is older than her step-mother and ironically enough a social reformer, Shantaram introduced a real-life social worker, Shakuntala Paranjpe (Director Sai Paranjpe’s mother).
Songs were used in the film to reflect the emotional condition of the characters, like “Man saaf tera hai ya nahin” and LongfeIlow‘s English poem “Let us then be up and doing”, with tunes composed by K. Bhole. But this was the first Indian film that did not use any background music, relying only on the natural sound effects of the surroundings.
The film also proved a landmark in its highly cinematic and technically brilliant form, its remarkable use of symbolism done through common objects like a clock, umbrella, ‘sindoor’, etc., its stark realism of milieu and background, done through some life-like sets (by S. Fatehlal) and the effects of different periods and seasons (cinematography by V. Avdhut). Is it not amazing that more than seven decades after ‘Duniya Na Mane’, one is still waiting to see something on the Hindi screen, that is as revolutionary, as genuine, as sincerely acted and as beautifully made’?
Here’s the full movie from Youtube for your viewing pleasure.