Saturday, 25 August 2018

Golden River (Subarnarekha) (1965)

Yet again we are back in India. Given how big and influential Indian movies are today I suppose it is only reasonable that they get some space on the list. Every time however, I am reminded that I am not Indian and that Indian culture is distinctly different from western culture. I sense I am missing entire aspects of these movies and I get confused a lot.

“Subarnarekha” is no different in that respect. It is interesting enough and well made, but I am not in a position to actually understand it nor the themes it refers to and so my review of it will be awkward.

Iswar (Abhi Bhattacharya) is a Hindu refugee in 1947, escaping from Bangladesh during the partition of India. He brings with him a girl, Sita (Indrani Chakrabarty, Madhabi Mukherjee) who is either his sister or daughter. This is fairly important, I think, but I honestly cannot tell. Age-wise she must be his daughter, but they call each other brother and sister. In the refugee camp he picks up a lonely boy, Abhiram (Sriman Tarun, Satindra Bhattacharya) and take him in. Abhiram is also addressed as brother. Iswar gets a job from a rich friend as second in command of a factory.

Years later Iswar is now wealthy and the children have grown up and fallen in love with each other. This is a problem. Especially when it turns out that Abhiram is actually low-caste. Iswar’s boss is a religious man and it is important to him that Iswar does not associate with low-caste. So, Sita must be married off to someone else, which does not turn out so well. In the middle of the ceremony she and Abhiram run away together.

Fast forward another few years and Iswar is going crazy and Sita and Abhiram are poor together in the city with a small child. It is not really getting better from this point.

It is a grim tale, but also a bit strange. A lot hinges on what the actual status of the children are. Are they now legally brother and sister, then of course they cannot marry, and their eloping seems rather reckless. Biologically of course they are not brother and sister, so what is the big deal for Iswar? And this thing with low-caste, how weird and stupid is that? Iswar is giving him an education and has raised him. He is not some simple boy from the gutter.

Iswar’s life is getting massively ruined because of all this and that is both understandable, both his children (?) are gone, and somewhat excessive. The climax of the movie, which I will not reveal here, is of course intensely traumatic, but Iswar was already dissolving up to that point.

In traditional Indian style much of the movie takes place on dismal locations and is peppered with songs. These are very… Indian. Normally not my cup of tea, but I must admit they were haunting and added exactly the right ambience to the movie. The dismal locations, well, it is India. Dismal locations is the standard.

This movie is very much in line with the other Indian movies on the list so far. Bleak and political and quite far from the style normally associated with Bollywood. These were likely the ones that made an impact outside India. In India Subarnarekha apparently tanked. The audience did not care much for its misery.

In the final analysis I was okay with this one. It is really okay, but just difficult for me to fully understand. It seems unnecessarily dismal, but hey, this is India.


  1. This is one of those films where I feel like if I understood the culture more, I'd appreciate the movie more.

    1. Exactly, my point indeed. The caste issue is so weird that I am sure I lost a significant part of it.