Dharti Ke Lal (1946)

Run Time - 125 min.  |   Countries - India  |  
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Bollywood master K.A. Abbas makes his directorial debut with this gritty realistic drama about the notorious 1943 Bengal famine. The film centers on the slow disintegration of a farming family -- the father Samaddar, his elder son Niranjan, and wife Binodini, along with his younger son Ramu and wife Radhika. Though with a bountiful harvest and high crop prices -- thanks to the war -- the family is kicked off their land, thanks to the evil machinations of a thieving landlord. Ramu, his wife, and his infant son venture to Calcutta to find work -- just like thousands of others in similar desperate straits. As Ramu struggles to find work, Radhika is eventually forced into prostitution to feed her family. Meanwhile, the dying Samaddar organizes his fellow farmers and creates a Soviet-style communal farm. This film proved to be tremendously influential not only to future filmmakers who admired its neorealist-like qualities -- but also to intellectuals of India's left-wing.