indian cinema heritage foundation

Subodh Mitra


National Film award-winning director, editor and writer Subodh Mitra is known for films such as Dui Purush (1945), Manzoor (1949), Raikamal (1955), and Grihadaha (1967). He primarily worked with New Theatres Ltd., directing films with strong social messages targeting evils such as the caste system and religious dogma that were the hallmark of the studio. 

In 1940, he co-directed—along with Phani Majumdar—the drama genre film Doctor which starred Pankaj Mullick, Ahindra Choudhury and Jyoti Prakash.  This New Theatres film, made in Bengali and Hindi, was written by Sailajanand Mukherji and A H Shore. It followed the personal and professional challenges that a village doctor encounters. An early example of social realism, the film was intended as a critique of social practices such as superstitions, religious dogma and discrimination on the basis of caste. A review of the film notes, “… However, that would be a far too simplistic reading of the multiple thematic elements that tie together the narrative of Doctor. The idea of caste-based discrimination, violence and upper-caste hypocrisy is placed alongside the notions of generational conflict in a father-son relationship and the idea of an ever-widening generation gap especially in the historical and socio-political context of the film.”

In 1945, he directed Dui Purush, a Bengali language epic family drama, which won the National Film award for best film, besides other major awards. Written by Tarashankar Banerjee and Binoy Chatterjee, it starred Sunanda Banerjee, Chhabi Biswas, and Amita Bose. Produced by New Theatres, it was adapted from Tarashankar Bandyopadhyay’s novel and popular stage play, with a screenplay by Binoy Chatterjee. One of the last existing films of New Theatres, Dui Purush ironically charted the beginning of the end of the studio itself. It was also one of the early films of Chhabi Biswas featuring him as a leading man, before he came to be associated with the dominating patriarch roles iconic in Bengali cinema. A tale of the love, relationships and ideals of two generations, the film revolved around Nutubihari (Biswas), an idealist who has given up his love for Kalyani (Sunanda Banerjee) for the sake of his beliefs. He marries Bimala (Chandrabati Debi) and becomes a lawyer, fighting for the rights of the poor against the feudal lords. Meanwhile, Kalyani seeks refuge after she becomes a widow and is warmly accepted by Bimala. In time, Kalyani's daughter Mamata (Latika) and Nutubihari's oldest son Arun (Debkumar) fall in love and wish to marry. However, Nutubihari has undergone a change brought about by his new-found fame and fortune. He now begins to mimic the very ideals and vices that he had always despised. In another twist of irony, his son Arun comes to occupy the position once held by his father, highlighting the conflict of ideals between the generations. The film would be remade in 1978 by Sushil Mukherjee with Uttam Kumar, Supriya Choudhury and Lily Chakraborty

Manzoor, Mitra’s Hindi language directorial of 1949, was a romantic drama written by Binoy Chatterjee and starring Asitbaran, Chhabi Biswas, and Asita Bose. New Theatres’ Nabin Yatra (1953), the Bengali-Hindi bilingual also known as Naya Safar, saw him direct Tulsi Chakraborty, Vasant Choudhury and Devbala

In 1955, he directed the drama film Raikamal, starring Kaberi Bose, Savitri Chatterjee, and Uttam Kumar, and written by Tarashankar Banerjee and Binoy Chatterjee. It narrated the story of Rai Kamal, a devotee of Lord Krishna, and Ranjan, who are childhood sweethearts. When Ranjan grows up, he wishes to marry Rai but his parents are against the match as they are Brahmins and Rai Kamal is a low caste Vaishnav. 

The year 1967 marked the release of his directorial Grihadaha, a drama film based on the novel of the same name by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay. It starred Suchitra Sen, Uttam Kumar and Pradeep Kumar. It released under the banner of Uttam Kumar Films. The plot is a piercing analysis of human love and faith and the so-called integrity of the social institution of marriage. Mitra is also credited with writing the screenplay for the film.

He also edited some of his directorials including Dui Purush (1945), Manzoor (1949), and Raikamal (1955), as well as films like Pujarin (1936), Hatey Bazarey (1967) and Kie Kahara (1968). 

  • Filmography (2)