Mantrashakti (1958)

Average–

This is an inane family drama, with highly predictable plot and nothing special to talk of.  Quite interesting to see Uttam in this as well as quite a few of these types of movies when he was already an established superstar.

We have a village, after the demise of the teacher in the village Pathshala, a new one is appointed, by the Guru. This is the Sanskrit Scholar’s training ground, not a normal school, and hence should be headed by a Pandit. There was one applicant from the village, however his application was turned down by the supreme commander and someone not in top billing had been appointed, as per his last wish.

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The original contender was a young man, the senior-most student. Had the selection been of a grey hair, maybe he won’t have minded. But the new man, Amber (Uttam) too was his age, and that obviously can’t be taken in a sporting way. Some of Amber’s interpretation of the scriptures were grabbed by these opponents. These opponents encompassed whole of the school, may be except only one, who remained loyal to him. A complaint was lodged with the landlord (Zamindaar). However that really didn’t help much, since the Landlord expressed his helplessness, the affairs of the school was kept out of his jurisdiction.

This Zamindar had a daughter, Bani (Sandhya Rani), marriageable age but not married. She was a devotee of the family deity, RadhaBallav (Sri Krishna) al la Meera Bai, and hence couldn’t think of a human husband, her husband being Radha Ballabh. She didn’t wan a live-husband doesn’t mean others didn’t want her as wife. The prime contender here was then failed teacher. He had a sister in law (Manju Dey) who was a close friend of Bani. But she steadfastedly refused to take up his cause with her, as it could affect her friendship, if Bani refused.   

Being the chief of the school, Amber was also the priest of the Radha Ballabh temple. Amber however didn’t know much of  Puja and even worse, had a habit of staring at Bani. She tried to make him focus on the bird in hand (his job) even scolding him. But that didn’t help and he did a major error, by trying to offer the flowers to the deity that shouldn’t be. She naturally was furious and strongly rebuked and insulted him, asking him to first learn and then only take a job.

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Humiliated Amber resigned from teaching (necessary for the resignation from priesthood) and decided to leave this all and move to Assam, where his Guru too wanted him to go. “It is forever, never to return here”, he told the Zamindar, when he asked. This was of course assisted by Bani’s bosom friend (Manju Dey), whose brother in law was not only the main contender for the position, but also for Bani’s hand.

Since Amber can’t simply disappear forever leaving the heroine hero-less, hence complications were to be created, and they were. The current Zamindar’s father wanted Bani to be wedded to one of close relatives (Zamindar’s nephew, sister’s son), Mriganka, and that too a child or may be infant marriage. When his order was overruled, then he ensured it happens at least in future. It was simple, his will was, when Bani attains 18, then within a fixed period, she must marry. The boy should be a close relative or Gotra. If she doesn’t the whole property will go to Mriganka, the nephew. And of that fixed period only days were left.

This nephew Mriganka (Asit Baran) was immediately called, from a Baiji’s house, where he was watching Mujra and enjoying. But when he is back at home, there is a sister and a wife too (Anubha Gupta). His escapades, drink and Baiji, were known to Bani family too but they didn’t have much choice. It was a political marriage, to retain the property, not a marriage of love or wish. But they didn’t know the wife factor.

Mriganka landed up, was apprised of all the facts. However he had almost as much detest for the property (which would come automatically to him if Bani couldn’t be married) as Bani & Co had attraction for it. He even suggests bribing the lawyer, “Who will ever know, if I, the affected party, do not complain?”.Finally after a long talk, alone with Bani, things get gelled.

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First Since Bani didn’t want to marry, she was calmed by the information that Mriganka too can’t since he is already. Then Mriganka convinces Bani to marry, at least like him “Though we are married, but we call each other friends and behave like them”.

His history was that, once his sister, very sick, wanted him to have a wife. At that time Anubha’s father on deathbead, wanted a son in law to take care of Anubha. This father was very close and respected by Mriganka. So he married Anubha under this condition that they were married but not so. They slept in separate rooms. She wasn’t to interfere in his any act, whether drink or Baiji. Whether he would or not wasn’t known, since in that age, for women it would have been a rarity. “Make a friend of the man, and clarify that as Pre-nuptial agreement” was his advice. He even takes it on his shoulder to get a man like this.

His choice was of course rejected by all. Amber, whom he suddenly bumped in, was his classmate in the pathshala. Amber continued, but Mriganka didn’t. Amber was one whom not only Bani had insulted extremely harshly, but so had her father, even when he came with resignation letter. But despite all, they had to grudgingly agree upon, with no other choice, it was the devil vs the life of penury.

However before wedding the pre-nup was signed. In fact an oath was administered, before the deity, the he, after marriage will not have any relation with her. Not only that, he would neither ever try to meet her, see her, in fact he should get himself banished elsewhere, the farther off the better.

This was easily agreed upon. Amber didn’t have any interest in Bani. His looking at her, was more as an appreciation of the maker than the made. He initially was more than hesitant of the marriage itself, since he had vowed celibacy. Meeting at her, or being near her was anyway out of question, since he was going off the very next day to some remote part of Assam, where he was to open the school, and remain there forever.

In this whole plan, the only person not a party to, was Bani’s mother. She tells later “Had I known you were plotting such a heinous plan, I wouldn’t have let him go, and somehow or other would have seen that the sacred institution is not made a plaything

The marriage takes place, the vows were taken and the night is somehow spent, Ambar sitting on the ground and meditating. Despite his chaste act, irritated Bani sat on bed, and glared at him, for being the reason of this state of her. Early morning Ambar bids farewell to the elders, except to the wife who wasn’t, and goes off forever.

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Before wedding, Ambar had taught the meaning of the vows to Mriganka, who had married but without understanding where he was stepping into. Now that he knew, he had vows to be kept. He now goes around wooing his wife, trying to make a girlfriend out of one who was only a puritanical friend. He of course ultimately succeeds, since the wife, Anubha, didn’t have silly reasoning like him, and now only wanted to teach him a lesson, and succumbs to his advances after some resistance, and of course help from his sister, who might not have guessed all, but must have guessed a large extent, as seems from her talks.

With the married couples around Bani now starts missing her spouse, and more so, after her mother’s remonstrance, on her death bed. However again the ego comes in, he has gone, so he should come back. The other one too is a bit lovelorn, but for him, there was a sacred oath also in the way.

The father too now regretting his part, tries to bring them together. In one of the pilgrimage tour he manages to not only get Uttam to meet them, but also creates circumstances so that the two together are alone, in the same coupe of the train for some time.  But again the oath of the man, and the natural diffidence of the woman comes in the way to break the barrier. Interestingly the close friend, who would have preferred Bani to be in her family, now acts in opposite manner and divorces Bani for her this act of stupidity “of letting the man who had come into her grasp go offand alsoEven being in the company of a woman like you is a sinBut the converted (from friend) sister in law, Anubha is not so hard. In fact she was generous enough to spare her husband, Mriganka (of course only limited to search of Ambar and nothing more)

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Finally Bani gets clarification from a Sage, that the things that are gifted to God can still be shared with a proper person, and that the vow of marriage overrides all other vows.

But by the time she gets clarification, Ambar is on deathbed, with some mysterious fever. Aware that he doesn’t have much time, he wants to go and see her one last time, this time overriding the vow. He takes a train back, to Calcutta. Why isn’t too clear. He does say “To have a have a final look of her, after all I am a human”, despite a thunder warning from top, when he took the decision. But he took that decision a bit too late. In fact when he took the train, it was more probable that his destination would arrive before the train’s does.

Meanwhile Bani too had decided that if Ambar doesn’t come, she will go to him, and with Mriganka and her father in tow, takes a train to Assam. This cross connection has to reduce whatever faint hope there was to even meet the body. By the time they could come back, trace and claim, it would have been unclaimable, the unidentified corpse recovered from the compartment being consumed to flame by then.

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Of course being Mantrashakti, the power of hymns, all these, what should practically in real life, don’t happen in the movie. The minuscule window of opportunity, which would exist even in most adversarial condition, is utilized by the protagonists to live happily ever after.

What’s wrong? Almost most of the things,

  • The story is too cliché and predictable.
  • No one in Asit Baran (Mriganka)’s shoes could refuse to have those riches. He is one who is in wine and women. Though not totally, since he has an elder sister to whom he cares and respects. Still he seems to be too conscientious to refuse.
  • Bani seems to have quite easily fallen in love with her missing husband, and pines for her. This doesn’t have any explanation. She literally hated him, and it was a marriage on paper.

But still if one likes mushy romance, it could be watched. Since these are small logical flaws.

But unlike some other these mushy movies, it really doesn’t have anything which would make me advice for even single watch, except when one is bored and feeling especially romantic with nothing else in reach.