Do Ankhen Barah Haath (1957)

May 20, 2009 at 9:59 pm 1 comment

Do Ankhen Barah Haath (1957)

Directed by: V. Shantaram

Starring: V. Shantaram (Rajaram Vankudre Shantaram), Sandhya, Ulhas, B.M. Vyas, Paul Sharma, S.K. Singh, Gajendra


I keep expecting huge disappointments from black-and-white Hindi classics, but time and again…I find a wonderful film that inspires me to find more such as them. Rather, I thought this was just going to be a moral lesson on the depth of humanity, and perhaps with a few repetitive self-indulgent speeches on the part of the writer. Fortunately, quite the contrary, I loved this film.

If the intro to Don was a perplexing nightmare with red negatives and blazing yellow texts, then the intro to DABH (Do Ankhen Barah Haath) was a work of art. A pair of eyes overlooking prisoners like some almighty being, against a gray wall…and then…like a flash of lightning, a group of arms appear on the wall, and one by one…hands are removed to reveal black prints of ink, with the credits printed over them. The text is a bit wavy, but that can be accredited to the available tools of the time.vlcsnap-179347

Adinath (V. Shantaram) is an optimistic young warden. He is introduced with his back to the audience, while a prisoner scrubs the floor and watches him intently. Adinath places his knife upon his desk and stands up to look at the bookshelf. The prisoner snatches the knife up, and tries to kill Adinath…but the warden is no light skirt, and wrestles the knife from his hands…when he has the guards grab the man, he tells them not to report this, and simply asks why the guy tried to kill him. It was because he wasn’t allowed to see his children, though he’s been begging time and again. That’s when Adinath indicates a slip of paper which proves that indeed, he was going to see his children soon. Adinath forgives him, and pretends it never happened.vlcsnap-179720

He’s been petitioning for an experiment for some time now, and finally has the go-ahead to take six prisoners, all murderers, and rehabilitate them by taking them to a small patch of land in pretty bad shape…and having them take care of it, eventually making the earth fertile and farming to survive.

His deed seems to be a very good one, though a bit overly-optimistic (some might say stupid, crazy, and ridiculous…) I applaud the job nonetheless, though it is a bit questionable why Adinath chose a child murderer to be part of the group…a man who dug his ax into two innocent kids while they slept…why should he deserve a new lease on life? This is where I believe the screenplay writer made a mistake, as it will be impossible to have any sympathy for this character especially.

Almost all of the prisoners first tasks involve the weapons with which they murdered. And, disturbingly enough…they have flashes of memories, then get down to work with more than healthy enthusiasm. One of them is angered by his task of fixing the fence, and claims that there were bars in prison…but there are barbed wire fences here…at which point, he should be slapped mercilessly, considering all of the freedom they’ve been given so far (the doors are not locked at night, they’ve just been handed weapons, the warden is the only person for miles…and could be easily overpowered by six men…) Adinath takes this remark to heart, gives the prisoner another job, and tears down the fence to everyone’s surprise.

As it turns out, there is someone near…a young village girl. She traverses the parched desert singing…the prisoners prop up a piece of the fence, and stand behind it…watching her. Adinath calls them to lunch, and they eagerly run inside. He manages even to persuade them to fold their hands in prayer before they eat. But that doesn’t stop them from criticizing his cooking (they didn’t realize he made it, as they were unaware the cook/servant fled after their first night there.) They decide it will be best if they all take turns cooking. At this point, one can’t help but sort of like them…they really aren’t that bad…except for the child murderer, he’s still pure evil.vlcsnap-187309

The next day, Adinath tells the others it’s time to work…and they go on sleeping. He goes out to work alone, because it isn’t jail…and therefore he won’t force them to do anything. Guilt gets the better of them though, and they rush outside to do their jobs. The day wears on, and the men catch a glimpse of the singing girl again…here we find she is bedecked with instruments. They call her, and she rushes over, surprised that someone is living there…she also asks if they’d like to buy any of her wares (apparently she’s a toy vendor…oh boy.)

They irritate her, and she realizes they don’t want to buy anything…so she walks away. One throws a rock at her, she turns back with her trusty shoe ready to thrash them…and they run inside, frightened of the woman’s wrath. As we all know, slippers are the most deadly weapons known to man.

Kishen, the man who had tried to kill Adinath in the beginning, is one of the prisoners…is greeted by his mother and two children, they have dropped by for a visit. He is overjoyed, though distraught when he finds out that his mother is losing her sight and having to work hard to take care of the children (the woman must be at least 80.) It’s a heart-breaking moment to watch them leave…but then Adinath stops Kishen’s mother and asks her to let the children stay there, he will take care of them…vlcsnap-192371

The other prisoners see this as a gesture that Kishen is Adinath’s favorite. The kids try to run away, but the singing toy vendor appears and bring them back to the house, where she sings a song for them…‘Tak Tak Dhum Dhum’. It’s a cute little ditty. The kids chime in. The prisoners rush to the window to watch. The prisoners join in…If you don’t want to watch this movie at all, at least look up this particular song.vlcsnap-203767

Everything seems to be going well. Too well? Perhaps. Perhaps not. You’ll have to find out for yourself.

This movie is lucky enough to win 9/10 bindis from me…there’s one counted off because of the child murderer…but there you go.


Entry filed under: 5 and more Bindis, Exceptionally good (8-10), Film Reviews, Hindi, Languages. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. bollywooddeewana  |  May 21, 2009 at 9:51 pm

    Great review, this has been on my to watch list but my dvd rental has been delaying it, i hope they send it to me real soon. I really love your blog and its my first time here, i’ve added you on my sidelink and i now follow you as well, so that i can get updates, keep up the good work and i hope you’ll familiarize yourself with the other bolly bloggers as well

    Lots of love


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