Films that are 50

Films that are 50: ‘Mamta’ is the rare remake that works

Suchitra Sen reprises the role that won her plaudits in Asit Sen’s Bengali original ‘Uttar Falguni.’

Can a regional language film that is rooted in a particular milieu be successfully remade as a Hindi film for audiences across India? Some notable films have not survived this journey, and even some of the better reworkings have not matched up to their originals.

However, one film that checks all the right boxes is Asit Sen’s Mamta, starring Ashok Kumar, Suchitra Sen and Dharmendra. One of the more important releases of 1966, the hugely successful film proves that practice does indeed make perfect, best seen in its leading lady’s incredibly moving dual performances of a mother and daughter and in the composition of its most well-known song.

Play

Despite her iconic status in Bengali cinema, a cloud hangs over the luminous Suchitra Sen’s Hindi performances. There is a stiltedness in the dialogue delivery, perhaps because of her discomfort with Hindi, and an unease before the camera in her few forays into Hindi cinema. Sen looks radiant and even ethereal in films such as Devdas (1955) and Bambai Ka Babu (1960), but the magic of her Bengali performances is missing. A notable exception to the rule is Mamta. Unlike her other Hindi films, Mamta is the only one that is a remake of a film that she had been in before, thereby making her fully familiar with the story and her character.

Mamta is an opulent colour version of Sen’s black-and-white Bengali hit Uttar Falguni (1963). Starring Suchitra Sen, Bikash Roy and Dilip Mukherjee and produced by the legendary actor Uttam Kumar, Uttar Falguni is one of the landmark films in Suchitra Sen’s career.

Suchitra Sen in ‘Uttar Falguni’
Suchitra Sen in ‘Uttar Falguni’

Mamta sees the actress in the dual roles of Devyani and Suparna. Devyani is forced by circumstances to give up her love for Manish Roy (Ashok Kumar) and endure a hellish marriage, from which she escapes to become Pannabai, the famed courtesan of Lucknow. The film examines the sacrifices she makes to ensure her daughter, Suparna, is brought up in a respectable environment. Devyani distances herself from Suparna, admits her into a convent-run school in Kolkata, and gets Manish to looks after her. Years later, Suparna returns from London with a law degree. Life looks bright on the professional and personal front with her boyfriend, Indraneel (Dharmendra), who happens to be Manish’s assistant. Until Devyani’s wastrel husband (Kalipada Chakraborty) shows up and threatens Suprana’s future by threatening to expose her parentage.

Mamta is a standard women’s melodrama, and the story itself appears dated, but it actually holds up quite well. Asit Sen directs the film with restraint and maturity, though the original is a few notches higher on the scales of restraint and subtlety. A director who never believed in flashiness, Sen tells his story simply and effectively. But it is Suchitra Sen who is the heart and soul of Mamta. She is particularly brilliant as the older Devyani, lending the film some of its most poignant moments. Barring the occasional hiccup with her Hindi diction, she plays the self-sacrificing fallen women with tremendous grace and dignity. The gamut of emotions flirting across her face is incredible as Manish describes Suparna to her on the telephone from the airport, or when she observes her daughter from afar at a party. As Suparna, she is let down by a comparatively sketchier character, but comes into her own in the climax.

One of Mamta’s most memorable songs is a reworking of a wonderful tune composed by Roshan for BR Chopra’s flop Chandni Chowk (1954). Roshan rejigged “Tera Dil Kahan Hai”, sung by Asha Bhosle, in Mamta as “Rahen Na Rahen Hum.” The song appears twice in the movie – once as a solo by Lata Mangeshkar and performed by Sen and Ashok Kumar and later as a shorter, romantic duet sung by Mohammed Rafi and Suman Kalyanpur with Sen and Dharmendra. Instrumental snatches are also used in the background score to great effect, highlighting the unrequited love story between Manish and Devyani.

Play

In any other year, Mamta might have swept the Filmfare Awards for the four categories in which it was nominated – Best Film, Director, Story and Actress. However, it had the misfortune of being nominated in the same year as Vijay Anand’s Guide and ended up losing in all four categories to the Navketan classic.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Changing the conversation around mental health in rural India

Insights that emerged from discussions around mental health at a village this World Mental Health Day.

Questioning is the art of learning. For an illness as debilitating as depression, asking the right questions is an important step in social acceptance and understanding. How do I open-up about my depression to my parents? Can meditation be counted as a treatment for depression? Should heartbreak be considered as a trigger for deep depression? These were some of the questions addressed by a panel consisting of the trustees and the founder of The Live Love Lough Foundation (TLLLF), a platform that seeks to champion the cause of mental health. The panel discussion was a part of an event organised by TLLLF to commemorate World Mental Health Day.

According to a National Mental Health Survey of India 2015-16, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), common mental disorders including depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders affect nearly 10% of the population, with 1 in 20 people in India suffering from depression. The survey reported a huge treatment gap, a problem that is spread far and wide across urban and rural parts of the country.

On 10th of October, trustees of the foundation, Anna Chandy, Dr. Shyam Bhat and Nina Nair, along with its founder, Deepika Padukone, made a visit to a community health project centre in Devangere, Karnataka. The project, started by The Association of People with Disability (APD) in 2010, got a much-needed boost after partnering with TLLLF 2 years ago, helping them reach 819 people suffering from mental illnesses and spreading its program to 6 Taluks, making a difference at a larger scale.

Play

During the visit, the TLLLF team met patients and their families to gain insights into the program’s effectiveness and impact. Basavaraja, a beneficiary of the program, spoke about the issues he faced because of his illness. He shared how people used to call him mad and would threaten to beat him up. Other patients expressed their difficulty in getting access to medical aid for which they had to travel to the next biggest city, Shivmoga which is about 2 hours away from Davangere. A marked difference from when TLLLF joined the project two years ago was the level of openness and awareness present amongst the villagers. Individuals and families were more expressive about their issues and challenges leading to a more evolved and helpful conversation.

The process of de-stigmatizing mental illnesses in a community and providing treatment to those who are suffering requires a strong nexus of partners to make progress in a holistic manner. Initially, getting different stakeholders together was difficult because of the lack of awareness and resources in the field of mental healthcare. But the project found its footing once it established a network of support from NIMHANS doctors who treated the patients at health camps, Primary Healthcare Centre doctors and the ASHA workers. On their visit, the TLLLF team along with APD and the project partners discussed the impact that was made by the program. Were beneficiaries able to access the free psychiatric drugs? Did the program help in reducing the distance patients had to travel to get treatment? During these discussions, the TLLLF team observed that even amongst the partners, there was an increased sense of support and responsiveness towards mental health aid.

The next leg of the visit took the TLLLF team to the village of Bilichodu where they met a support group that included 15 patients and caregivers. Ujjala Padukone, Deepika Padukone’s mother, being a caregiver herself, was also present in the discussion to share her experiences with the group and encouraged others to share their stories and concerns about their family members. While the discussion revolved around the importance of opening up and seeking help, the team brought about a forward-looking attitude within the group by discussing future possibilities in employment and livelihood options available for the patients.

As the TLLLF team honoured World Mental Health day, 2017 by visiting families, engaging with support groups and reviewing the successes and the challenges in rural mental healthcare, they noticed how the conversation, that was once difficult to start, now had characteristics of support, openness and a positive outlook towards the future. To continue this momentum, the organisation charted out the next steps that will further enrich the dialogue surrounding mental health, in both urban and rural areas. The steps include increasing research on mental health, enhancing the role of social media to drive awareness and decrease stigma and expanding their current programs. To know more, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of The Live Love Laugh Foundation and not by the Scroll editorial team.