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Janmabhoomi (1936)

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A nationalist rural drama. The plot has Ajau and his girl friend Protima working on behalf of Indian villagers, incurring the enmity of the local zamindar and the villainous Sanatan. Ajay's... See full summary »

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Cast

Cast overview:
Devika Rani ...
Ashok Kumar ...
Ajay
Pramila
Khosla
Chandraprabha
N.M. Joshi
Kamta Prasad
H.S. Naik
Jhaverbai Kaiser ...
The Zamindar
P.F. Pithawala ...
Sanatan
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A nationalist rural drama. The plot has Ajau and his girl friend Protima working on behalf of Indian villagers, incurring the enmity of the local zamindar and the villainous Sanatan. Ajay's relentless goodness eventually persuades the zamindar to bequeath his property to the hero, and general well-being reigns as class conflict is transmuted into class collaboration. The film includes the nationalist song 'Jai jai janani janmabhoomi' and other choruses with a similar thrust. Written by Sujit R. Varma

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1.37 : 1
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Perhaps the first ever patriotic Hindi movie
29 August 2014 | by (United Arab Emirates) – See all my reviews

Dr. Ajoy Kumar Ghosh (Ashok Kumar) follows in the footsteps of a deceased friend and renounces all worldly pleasures in service of the village (a metaphor for the motherland). Joined by his lover Protima (Devika Rani), Ajay sets out to improve the lives of the people, educating them against age-old superstitions and encouraging them to stand up to the unfairness of the rural caste system. The attempts at social reform bring them in direct conflict with vested interests keen to preserve the old order.

Ashok Kumar, acting in only his third movie (both his earlier movies being from the same year), is visibly at sea. His inexperience is in contrast with Devika Rani, who's assured as ever. She looks every bit the star of that era. The surprise package however, is P.F. Pithawala as the villainous Sanathan. Despite the stagy dialogue delivery, he's supremely convincing as the scheming, vicious assistant to the reactionary zamindar.

What is remarkable is the manner in which the patriotism undertones have been concealed. The British Raj was still going strong in 1936 and so openly patriotic overtones would have been a recipe for disaster. The dialogue and lyrics writer Jamuna Swarup Casshyap did an amazing job of slipping in perfectly innocuous sounding words carrying patriotic undertones beneath the surface, which no doubt helped the movie get past the British era censors. Frankly, I gave two extra marks just for Casshyap's brilliant play with words.

The acting is typically stagy and the dialogue delivery stilted and unnatural- as is the case with early talkies pretty much anywhere in the world. The dialogue delivery frequently grates, distracting from the other merits of the movie. Janmabhoomi is best seen as a piece of cinematic history. It was perhaps the first ever patriotic movie in the history of Hindi cinema.


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