Do Aankhen Barah Haath

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Do Aankhen Barah Haath

Dinesh Raheja

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In-between the floridly multicoloured song-and-dance emotional extravaganzas Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje (1955) and Navrang (1959), V Shantaram helmed the stark and sedate black-and-white film Do Aankhen Barah Haath (1957). Incredibly, this gifted director made a success of all three variegated films.

Do Aankhen Barah Haath harks back to the social-awareness sensibilities of the filmmaker's earlier theme-based films like Duniya Na Mane (May-December marriages and their impact on young wives), Aadmi (prostitution), Padosi (communal harmony) and Dahej (dowry).

Producer Director Music Director Stars
V Shantaram  V Shantaram  Vasant Desai  V Shantaram, Sandhya

Expertly juggling reformist zeal with gut-wrenching drama, Do Aankhen Barah Haath is an inspirational film which endorses prison reform and propounds the philosophy that even the most hardened, seemingly soul dead criminal can be brought in contact with his higher self.

Fighting fit at 57, V Shantaram makes that rare departure from just donning the filmmaker's hat and essays the central character too. He plays an idealistic, humane jailor. His idealism is not just wooly-headedness. Alert enough to grapple with a prisoner wanting to kill him, the jailor is also pointedly compassionate enough to reach for a bell and not a stick as a means to overpower his assailant.

The jailor has a singularly innovative plan. Putting his own property, freedom and career at stake and taking his superior's scoffings in his stride, he takes six criminals out of the jail and reforms them into socially productive human beings. The jailor opts for six hard-bitten burly men serving sentences for ruthless murder.

With just a "Mujhe tumpe bharosa hai," the jailor makes the rowdy men responsible for the fate of the experiment. Egging them on with sympathy and with freedom coupled with responsibility, he takes them to an isolated, barren farm which they try to convert into a lush Eden.

But going from 'fiend' to 'refined' is not an easy journey. When a toy seller (Sandhya) passes by the farm, there is much raucous eve-teasing from the jailbirds. After eating a pungent meal, the six have a noisy gargling competition.

Jealousies erupt when the jailor compassionately allows one of the prisoners' helpless kids to stay with them. It leads to the resentful mounting of an attempt on the jailor's life which is abandoned at the last minute. The six flee only to return --- their 12 hands feel the jailor's benign yet binding eyes constantly upon them. A comparison is made to the all-seeing eyes of God.

The introduction of the two children further helps humanise the prisoners, as does the kids' relationship with the maternal toy seller. When the farm yields a rich produce, their little Eden has to contend with a devious vegetable merchant and the prisoners' promise to abstain from violence is sorely tested but all six men finally complete their rocky passage to redemption.

Famous songs from Do Aankhen Barah Haath
  Song  Singers
  Aye maalik tere bande hum  Lata Mangeshkar
  Aye maalik tere bande hum  Chorus
  Tak tak dhoom dhoom  Lata Mangeshkar
  Umad ghumad kar aayi re ghata  Lata Mangeshkar, Manna Dey
  Saiyaan jhooton ka bada  Lata Mangeshkar
  Main jaagoon tu soja  Lata Mangeshkar

Do Aankhen Barah Haath makes you want to believe in the innate decency of all human beings. And for how many films can one say that? Despite being a message film, it doesn't lapse into dull didacticism but remains cinematically alive throughout.

The scene where one of the prisoner's aged, bedraggled and half-blind mother comes to meet him with his sons is heart-breaking in the abjectness of her poverty and helplessness. Yet, when the mother gives the jailor a simple sweet as her token of appreciation for arranging the meeting, the survival of the human spirit can't fail to move.

There is wry humour as well --- when the farm's caretaker, frightened by the sight of the six menacing prisoners, is asked to identify himself, he quavers, 'Bahadur!'

Shantaram also handles the gradual awakening of the prisoner's soul with their lapses into their habitual 'sinning', making it all the more believable. Also well-tackled psychologically is the scene where the unused-to-liberation men willingly shackle themselves in the night to fall asleep.

As the sole young female, Sandhya is very welcome. Her mannerisms add a touch of colour to the stark look of the film. Shantaram imparts a suitable aura of gravity to his character.

Director Shantaram uses black-and-white cinematography to enhance the mood of the film. The filmmaker expertly accentuates the atmosphere with shadowy light play recalling German expressionism. Witness the way the jailor's eyes are lit.

Shantaram's prisoner reform theme has found echoes in many a subsequent blockbuster like Dushman, Mera Gaon Mera Desh and even Sholay.

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* Ironically, in a film which drew attention to his eyes, Shantaram was grievously injured when he shot for the bull fight sequence in the climax and was feared to have damaged his eyesight. Luckily, his sight survived.

* Shantaram had been an actor since the silent 1920s. After successfully playing the lead in Dr Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani in the 1940s, he did not cast himself in his next film. Similarly, after Do Aankhen Barah Haath's success, he did not include his name in the cast of his next Navrang.

* Do Aankhen Barah Haath won the Silver Bear at Berlin film festival and was commended by the Hollywood Press Association too. In India, the film also won the President's Gold Medal in 1957.


* Vasant Desai joined hands with lyricist Bharat Vyas to create the immortal Aye maalik tere bande hum with its eternal message of love and compassion.

* Even in a subject that does not lend itself to music, the score is delightfully rich. Saiyaan joothon ka bada may not really have a situation befitting the lyrics but Tak tak dhoom dhoom and Ghumad ghumad kar are surefire woe-dispensers.

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