Released in Bombay on Friday, December 24, at the Swastik Cinema, Ashok Kumar Productions' second picture, "Samaj," produced by him and directed by Vasant Joglekar, is a memorable film, powerful in its indictment of social inequities and yet scrammed to the brim with just the things that make a film fine entertainment.
Based on a story by Sailajananda Mukherjee, with a theme solidly moored to life itself, "Samaj" stars Ashok Kumar, Usha Kiran, Shashikala and Anoop Kumar, with Nazir Hussain topping a distinguished supporting cast in which Dhumal and S N Banerjee (who also wrote the screenplay) make brief but arresting appearances as guest artistes.
"Samaj" is a turbulent story of two children apart by chance and accident, and reared in different homes. With this as the basis, there is unfolded a tale which portrays how life in the raw makes of one of the waifs a neighbourhood tough who becomes known as Dada. But in spite of his rough exterior and fearsome reputation, he is the living embodiment of virtue who dares to defy the cruel conventions of society.
His sister, on the other hand, is brought up by a poor but loving foster-parent who lavishes on her all his affection. By a queer quirk of fate they are thrown together, but until the climax of the story in which the long-parted father and children are re-united, misunderstandings cleared, lovers paired and the loose ends of the plot tied up, they remain in ignorance of their relationship, thus adding to the suspense and drama of the film.
Though many of the incidents in the story are coincidental and highly contrived, and in places a trifle confusing, the general treatment, design and direction display the same social intent and atmosphere of the Company's earlier picture, "Parineeta," and overshadow these minor flaws.
The resulting photoplay is a powerful social document which, in spite of its serious import, is filled with entertainment cleverly introduced and presented with good taste. In fact, meticulous craftsmanship is visible in every minute detail of the film and every department from script to screen.
Another notable feature of it is the fact that the message is put over without any attempt to sermonize. Driving its purpose with illustration rather than precept, with action more than words, the film at no place loses track of audience increase. Love and romance, songs and dances, humour and pathos, intrigue and melodrama-in short, everything that adds appeal-are presented and used with a lively appreciation of their worth which never forgets to keep treatment within the bounds of reality.
Another notable feature of it is the fact that the message is put over without any attempt to sermonize.
Almost all the performers have identified themselves with the cleverly-defined characters they portray, with Ashok Kumar distinguishing himself as an impeccable artist.
Ashok has a meaty role in this picture and he does not halt or fumble even in sequences which fall far outside the field in which he has already made a mark.
As Dada the hoodlum-saint up against the dictates of an orthodox "samaj," he lives the role and makes it one of his finest portrayals to date. The role itself has been written with care and a rare understanding of human nature and life as it is to be found in the city's slums which throw up such characters.
Tossed as much by Fate, Usha Kiran as Dada's long-lost young sister has a well-written role and puts over a performance of consummate artistry and flawless expression which brings fresh laurels to this much-honoured artist.
as the boisterous girl of the slums who loves Dada and finally marries him, and Amirbanoo, the veteran trouper, as her crippled but dauntless mother make these characters really come alive on the screen. Shashikala's scenes with Ashok Kumar
, in which the dialogue-writer proves his mettle, keep the house roaring.
Anoop Kumar is adequate as a wealthy playboy in love with the star-crossed waif. Nazir Hussain
, Leela Misra
, Sumati Gupte
, newcomers Jamal
and Heera Sawant
, and the juveniles are others who distinguish themselves in the excellent supporting cast.
While all these players do justice to the roles allotted to them, the one exception is Agha
who is generally a dependable artist. As Rukmini Seth, the right-fisted father of a spendthrift son, his efforts to make people laugh fail miserably, and he hams and clowns to make the character he set out to portray an insipid caricature.
Coming to the music score of "Samaj", it is good in parts. The lyrics are well written and the rendering is superb, but the background music is mediocre.
Skillfully photographed, the film excels in appropriate sets, decor and costumes.
This article was published in Filmfare magazine’s 7 January, 1955 edition as a part of 'Filmfare Reviews' of the film "Samaj" (1954).