24 April 2011 | Chrysanthepop
The Roles Of A Lifetime
With 'Bhumika: The Role', Shyam Benegal has created one of the finest character studies of Indian cinema. Based on the life of 40's Marathi actress Hansa Wadkar, is a biopic but very different from the conventional one. The film follows the life of a troubled actress who yearns to live a life of freedom where she can live the way she chooses. However, she only finds little satisfaction in her roles and while she has played a variety of characters in her films, she's stuck with the same role in life trapped in a man's world.
'Bhumika: The Role' is an exceptionally well-made film. Benegal is clearly influenced by Satyajit Ray. The black and white flashback sequences echo scenes from Ray's 'Nayak' and 'Patther Panchali'. His attention to detail is excellent as he adds subtle layers to the films (for example, notice how time is depicted through the news on the radio). The absence of a background score make the scenes raw and gritty. The remarkable cinematography deserves special mention and the lighting is superb.
But what would 'Bhumika: The Role' be without Smita Patil's tour-de-force performance? Patil was only in her very early 20s when she shot for the film and yet she's incredibly convincing as a bubbly teenager, a grown-up actress and a mother of a mother-to-be. Urvashi is a complex and demanding character with many shades and that cannot be easy for an ordinary actor to play but Patil does it with sheer ease and intensity. She dazzles the screen with a restrained and natural performance.
Patil is effectively supported by a strong cast that includes Sulabha Deshpande (notice the parallels between her role and Urvashi which hints that Usha's daughter may also repeat the sad cycle), Amol Palekar, Amrish Puri, Anant Nag, Naseeruddin Shah and Dina Pathak.
This is easily one of Benegal's best and it should serve as a prototype character study, biopic and even a textbook of acting (for upcoming actors). On different levels, it works as a social commentary, a historically accurate period piece, a study of relationships, provides an insight into the filmworld and a piece of thought-provoking cinema that makes one question the various roles humans have to play in life.