SANT TUKARAM (1936)
Directed by Vishnupant Govind Damle and Sheikh Fattelal
Featuring Vishnupant Pagnis, Gauri, B. Nandrekar
What it is: Biography
This tells the story of the beloved poet saint Tukaram and the efforts of a corrupt Brahmin priest to discredit him.
Those who follow my "ones that got away" list are most likely aware how rare it is to have such an early film from India as my viewing choice for the day; the vast amount of early Indian cinema is lost, and I suspect the survival of this one is probably due to the fact that it received some international acclaim and attention in its day. Tukaram is a devotee of the god Pandurang, and those who are wondering about the fantastic content of a biography should be aware that this god appears as a character in the film and engages in some miracles during the proceedings. As always with Indian films, there's plenty of music, and in this case, most of them are the devotional songs of Tukaram. The movie concentrates on his conflicts with the Brahmin Salomalo, a corrupt hypocrite who also engages in acts of plagiarism, but there's a secondary conflict between Tukaram and his own wife, a woman who mostly puts faith in her own god as well as in her own earthly needs; this last conflict has a bittersweet ending. Vishnupant Pagnis plays Tukaram, and he does a wonderful job; when he is ordered to destroy the songs he has written by drowning them in the river, the scene is heartbreaking. I really liked this one, and I did find it quite interesting that the primary aspect of the spirituality here (that all is done in the name of the god in question) does bear some resemblance to certain aspects of the Christian faith as well.