This is my first film from this acclaimed director, and it is also the one which brought him into prominence. Bhuvan Shome (Utpal Dutt) is an officer in the Railways, notoriously strict in his official dealings, and a terror among his subordinates, specially since acceptance of small bribes is a time honored way of life and an economic compulsion. A widower, he is known to have dismissed his own son. And one fine day, overcome by enuii with the stale routines of life, he sets out on a one man hunting expedition in the countryside. Not lions, just birds, the narrator (Amitabh) tells us. Khaki clad, with a gun and thick belt of bullets, self conscious and embarrassed, this grotesque unwieldly Bengali Rambo rolls country-wards on a bullock cart in lively repartees with the rustic driver, till they are chased by a bull and rescued by it's owner, the beautiful and lively Suhasini Mulay, a country lass who will be his guide and scout on the bird hunting expedition for the bulk of the film. That should do for the story.
One of the best things about the film is the musical score by the wondrous Vijay Raghav Rao, which encapsulates with love and rapture the rhythms of the desert and it's impoverished hamlets and their kindly inhabitants. The desert photography is of the finest, inviting comparison to the Japanese Woman in the Dunes. The film is superficially a comedy, and has a light touch, but in essence is a deeply humane poem about two ways of life, town and country coming face to face in mutual recognition, and it touches what may be termed the ancient subcontinental heart. Shome is unable to consume of the simple food which the rustic hosts impose on him. Flights of water fowl separate and soar as the shots are fired from the inept marksman. And somewhere far off trains churn noisily across the great plain. And a heart melts. Bhuvan Shome dances exultantly, wrenching away his necktie as the official papers fly across his office in the Railways Department. Liberation!
Mrinal Sen is no Ray shadow, he is an authentic force in his own right.