Marathi film “Saamna” analysed by artists and critics even after completion of 40 years

Pune: The landmark Marathi movie “Saamna”(1947) which broached the topic of political corruption with a penetrating insight by playwright Vijay Tendulkar and made an acclaimed entry at Berlin film festival, is being analysed again by artistes and critics on completion of its 40 years.

The black and white movie, the release of which coincided with the Emergency, featured eminent actors Nilu Phule and Shriram Lagoo. It marked a watershed moment in Marathi film history exposing the grass-root level sugar lobby politics and exploitation of the deprived.

Recalling his debut as film director, the ‘Ghashiram Kotwal’ fame Jabbar Patel, at a public seminar ‘Saamna not out 40’ said, “The novel story of Tendulkar, which showed confrontation between a sugar lobby chairman, representing a corrupt network that propelled politicians in state corridors of power, and an idealist but helpless teacher who tried to take him on, had initially failed to sink in with the audience.”

A German film delegation that visited Mumbai and happened to see the movie, however, was immensely impressed with the plot and Phule’s performance, the dhoti and Gandhi cap clad rural politician (Hindurao), and Lagoo, the teacher (Mastar), who naggingly probes his psyche to shame him.

It was a pleasant surprise for the unit when legendary actress Nargis came to their help to complete formalities at the event when they got the invitation to screen the just over Rs one lakh budget movie with German subtitles at the Berlin international festival.

The film, which later won accolades and became a box office hit for the portrayal of corrupt politicians four decades ago, is regarded as beginning of the rot that started eroding the system.

“I was a drawing teacher with a salary of Rs 378 per month in a village when appalled by the happenings in rural Maharashtra, I decided to bring this to the fore through the medium of film,” said film’s producer Ramdas Phutane.
“Initially, Tendulkar, who was an established playwright, was reluctant as he was worried about my possible financial losses since I had taken a loan of Rs 1.5 lakh to make the film. The same thought came to Jabbhar’s mind as it was going to be his debut as a director. But they all came together and with Phule and Lagoo agreeing to act, my dream project took off,” Phutane said.

Considered as an eye-opener on cooperative sugar lobby politics and merciless exploitation of dalits in rural areas, the film carved a niche for itself with powerful dialogues written by Tendulkar and delivered by Phule and Lagoo in a “jugalbandi” of sorts.

Lagoo, going down the memory lane, said, “The role played by the late Phule gave a timeless dimension to the movie and evoked spontaneous response from the audience all over, including the Germans. I acted in many movies, but this was a milestone film for me. I do not think I could do justice to my role but am glad people accepted and lauded it.”