Sog.: da un racconto bengalese di Banaphool (Balai Chand Mukhopadhyay). Scen.: Balai Chand Mukhopadhyay. F.: K.K. Mahajan. Mus.: Vijay Raghav Rao. Int.: Utpal Dutt (Bhuvan Shome), Suhasini Mulay (Gauri), Sadhu Meher (Jadhav Patel), Amitabh Bachchan (voce narrante), Shekhar Chatterjee. Prod.: Mrinal Sen per Mrinal Sen Prod. DCP. Bn.
The ominous sound of a cymbal crashing is followed by a still image of an unidentified middle-aged man with a bewildered facial expression. Next we see two railway lines. But the camera placed innocuously at the front of the train does not look ahead, it looks down at the railway lines that rush by feverishly. The symbolism of the railway lines, signifying the duality of partition and modernity, is juxtaposed to the mechanical sounds of a steam engine and a classical Indian raga. The opening of Bhuvan Shome articulates an audiovisual index of rupture, a formative marker in the history of Indian film and the period of experimentation that characterised the foundational years of Parallel Cinema. Bhuvan Shome, a political satire, beckoned an ideological engagement with politics that Indian cinema had never seen before. It was the first of three films in 1969 to be granted a loan from the Film Finance Corporation, which was set up by Nehru to help provide support to filmmakers. Parallel Cinema’s connection with contemporary Indian literature was reflected in the freshness and immediacy of many of the stories adapted for the screen, including Bhuvan Shome.
The film is set in the late 1940s and focuses on a bureaucrat, Mr Shome (Utpal Dutt on stellar form), who works for the Indian Railway. One day Shome decides to take a break from the drudgery of his office job and travels to a village on a duck shooting expedition. In the village, Shome meets Gauri (the radiant Suhasini Mulay in her first role), a vivacious young bride with whom he strikes up a transformative relationship. Director Mrinal Sen says Bhuvan Shome was the consolidation of a new visual style that he had been developing over a series of films, eventually leading to a broad and oppositional political address that incorporated ideas from Latin American Third Cinema, Brechtian Theatre, Naxalite ideology and Marxism. Bhuvan Shome marked the beginning of something new and innovative: the rebirth of Indian cinema.