Vidyapati – 1937
Debaki Bose, one of the premier directors of New Theatres, Calcutta was a practitioner of what was fondly termed as true Indian cinema. And the finest specimen of this is New Theatres’ ‘Vidyapati,’ which Debaki Bose directed in addition to writing the screenplay and dialogue. The film, released in 1937, was at once hailed as a masterpiece among the early talkie films, as it overflowed with the classic charm of Indian philosophy and culture; while lyrically narrating the life and love of the Vaishnavite poet Vidyapati.
The semi-legendary tale of fifteenth-century India was given a type of treatment and form that were highly, unusual for those times though they might look dated now. Besides, Bose, through his directorial art and paperwork, evoked a true feeling of the period, making his actors adopt a limpid, intonated form of delivery that brought a melody to the speech and lyricism to the scenes.
The film sketched the major incidents of the poet’s life in a dramatized way, showing how he rose to become the great poet of ‘shringar rasa,’ whose love songs, devoted to the Lord are sung to this day by ardent devotees. The main drama pertained to the poet coming to Mithila, where its young king Shiva Singha was celebrating the spring festival. The king was delighted at the poet’s visit and introduced him to his consort, without imagining that the queen herself would become deeply attached to Vidyapati.
After being the court-poet, Vidyapati came to stay there, along with Anuradha, who had been another silent woworshiperf his, for years. The king’s ideal love for the queen could not embrace any petty envy or anger. But his long absence during a frontier battle made the queen all the more deeply attached to Vidyapati though she was as much conscious of her duty towards her king and master. Anuradha herself, totally immersed in the ideal concept of love, tried to console and guide the aggrieved king and the suffering queen. Political intrigues were also at work against the influence of Vidyapati and his teachings on the king. It led, at last, to a double tragedy of the king and queen both dying.
A young Prithviraj played the king, with Bengal’s famous Chhaya Devi as the queen. Vidyapati was played by Pahari Sanyal and Anuradha by Kanan Devi. Nemo, K. C. Dey, Kidar Sharma, K. N. Singh and Leela Desai did other roles. The film had evocative camera work by Yusuf Mulji. The music of R. C. Boral provided the right kind of aural support, so helpful to such themes and is hailed as one of the best soundtracks of the period. And there were artiste-singers like Pahari, Kanan and K. C. Dey to render the songs, from which ‘Main chaal chalun matwali’, ‘Dole hriday ki naiya’ and ‘Piya milan ko jaat hoon’ still continue to haunt.
“Vidyapati” is the film by which Debaki Bose has made an immortal place for himself in film history.