DO BIGHA ZAMIN
(Two Acres of Land)
Director: Bimal Roy
Production: Black and white, 35mm; running time: 138 minutes. Released 1953. Filmed in India.
Producer: Bimal Roy; screenplay: Hrishikesh Mukerjee, from a story by Salil Chaudhury; photography: Kamal Bose; editor: Hrishikesh Mukerjee; music: Salil Chaudhury.
Cast: Balraj Sahni ( Sambhu ); Nirum Roy; Rattan Kumar.
Awards: Prize for Social Progress, Karlovy Vary Film Festival, 1954; received one of the 10 international awards at the Cannes Film Festival, 1954.
Barnouw, Erik, and S. Krishnaswamy, Indian Film , New York, 1963; revised edition, 1980.
Willemen, Paul, and Behroze Gandhy, Indian Cinema , London, 1982.
Ramachandran, T. M., 70 Years of Indian Cinema ( 1913–1983 ), Bombay, 1985.
Bhattacharya, R., Bimal Roy: A Man of Silence , Indus Publishing, 1994.
Ray, S. K., "New Indian Directors," in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Fall 1960.
Sarha, Kolita, "Discovering India," in Films and Filming (London), December 1960.
Roy, Manobina, "The Bimal Roy Only I Knew," in Illustrated Weekly of India , 3 August 1980.
"Film India: Indian Film Festival, Part 2: Historical Perspective," in Museum of Modern Art Department of Film (New York), Summer 1981.
Tesson, Charles, "Le rêve indien," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), March 1985.
Seton, Marie, "The Indian Film," in Film (London), March 1985.
Binford, Mira Reym, and others, "Indian Cinema," in Quarterly Review of Film and Video (Reading), October 1989.
Garda, B.D., "The Great Romantics," in Cinema in India (Bombay), no. 10, 1991.
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Into a cinema devoted chiefly to gaiety and adventure, Bimal Roy's Do bigha zamin introduced an element of seriousness and naturalism. Roy did not break with tradition in his film: Do bigha zamin includes songs and dances and the usual patterned dialogue. But Roy enlarged the operatic scope of popular films to include location shots of an ordinary, undramatic character (e.g., the look of trees and fields as the peasant leaves the country for Calcutta); well-observed natural actions (e.g., the habitual manner in which the peasant's wife puts out a pan to catch fresh rainwater); and grave subject matter (e.g., the stacking of legal justice against those unskilled in legalities). Roy's use of the familiar musical and melodramatic style enabled audiences to comprehend his films; at the same time the new naturalistic elements prepared the ground for the more uncompromising and formally innovative political cinema of the 1970s.
Do bigha zamin tells the story of a peasant whose meager two acres come in the way of the landlord's scheme to sell a large parcel of the village land to speculators. The landlord fabricates evidence of an unpaid debt and the peasant must leave for the city to earn the cash the landlord requires. The acting in the film veers between the rapid responsiveness of performers in a melodrama and the slow surfacing of responses characteristic of naturalism. At the landlord's, the peasant (played by the deeply intelligent actor Balraj Sahni) acts by formula, but his leave-taking from his wife is simple; his fears for her emerge into natural, unemphatic expression on his face and in his bearing. The lighting, too, varies between the full lighting characteristic of Bombay sets and the chiaroscuro of available light cinematography. The landlord's house is amply lit, but the rickshaw-puller's quarters in Calcutta retain a natural look of charcoal dilapidation.
In sum, an important, earnest, transitional film, which bespeaks the influence of Italian neorealism on Hindi cinema. It won the Prix Internationale at the 1954 Cannes film festival and the Prize for Social Progress at the Karlovy Vary film festival.