By Sarathi Guha(03 Apr 2008)
An adapation from Sarat chandra chatopodhya's classic novel "Shreekanta", this movie begins with Shreekanta, lying in his bed, reading a letter about Rajalakshmi. He becomes nostalgic about his old days when he used to spend every night in Dr.Satya Bose's chamber, with his gang. The doctor's love & affection to this youngman often makes the villages jealous, specially the orthodox sections. The brahmins of the village often complains against this boy & his gang. But Shreekanta doesn`t care a damn. This bohemian inborn, suddenly gets an invitation from his school-life friend Mahendra Rao, successor of a landlord, for a hunting party to celebrate his coronation in the throne. Shreekanta accepts & starts to meet his friend. He gets a warm reception from him & enters his tent. Here, he meets Pyaribai, a famous baiji of Patna in a mehfil'. He fails to recognise her but she knows everything about Shreekanta. Mahendra arranges drugs & alcohols, mehfil & mujrahs - everything for his friend, but Shreekanta finds the girl, a little mysertious. She seduces & embarrases him, though Shreekanta can`t remember her name. Later, in a challenge between him & Mahendra's sadhu saint, Shreekanta decides to spend a night in the mahasmashar (the burning ghat). Pyaribai`s servant Ratan takes him in Pyaribais tent who is waiting for him. Surprisingly, the girl prays to him not to visit there. She is afraid & worried about his life. She looks a little possessive about him. Shreekanta doesn`t listen to her, and there, the girl finally reveals herself - she is Rajlakshmi, the childhood friend and lover of him. Shreekanta remains astonished, but cant postpone his plan to visit the shreshan ?. He leaves the tent with a rifle and spends the night in the place & finally wins the challenge. But he doesn`t forget Pyaribai`s advise, to leave the tent as early as possible. In fact, the ambience is quiet embarrasing for him. The next evening, he is missing from the tent. Pyaribai, with Ratan search in Mahashashan & Calcutta, and Lakshmi gives her ring to him. Lakshmi decides to leave the tent & return to her home in Patna, and Shreekanta promises to meet her again. Again, we find this unmindful boy in Satya bose's dispensary, but the Pyaribai effect has utterly changed him. Her emotions, care & love make him think about the girl twice. He sets for his journey to meet her in her Patna house, changes his mind on the way, gets down at the previous rail station, and visits the nearby villages. A new destination - unknow people, forests & hills - he celeberates his journey in his own style. Finally he meets a sadhubaba named Bharawaj & his company. Shreekanta prays on his feet for a dikshya & wants to be his disciple. He joins them and experiences bhargs & marijanas, spends cheerful moments with them. They reach the nearest village and is ordered to beg tea from the locality. Shreekanta dressed as a sage, enters the locality & meets a bird who is the daughter of Gowri Tewari, from Bengal. She has been tortured by her in laws for several times, and she cries for his help. The evil of our social customs seems to be opened in Shreekanta's eyes. Here, he comes to know that this girl's elder sister has also hanged herself due to her inlaws' torture. He returns empty handed, finds his guruji leaving for the next village due to fear of an epidemic which have spread throughout. The villagers who left are searching to settle elsewhere.Fortunately, Shreekanta gets a shelter in a middle class family but after a few days, he is down with high fever. The family leaves him outside, closes the door & leaves the village. Shreekanta is rescued by a few locals & the railway guard. He has been able to give them Lakshmi`s address & hearing the news, Lakshmi rushes from her Patna house. With lakshmi`s care & nursing, he begins to recover soon. Lakshmi has taken him to the city where he meets Barka, a Patna college student, foster son of Lakshmi. Ttheir relation is a strange thing for this boy, though Shreekanta & Lakshmi, both are concerned about the conservative hidden society. Returning home, Shreekanta gets a letter from Tenpi's mother who was the close friend (gangajal) of Shreekanta`s late mother. In the letter, she reminds him the promises of his late mother to marry Tenpi. She claimed the boy as her son-in-law. Shreekanta meets the mother, confesses about himself & when she hears that the boy doesn`t earn a single penny, she can`t resist her temper. She suggests the boy to take a job in Burma & earn something. Burma is a land of jobs & money. Finally, Shreekanta decides to visit Burma. But before leaving, he comes to Lakshmi's Patna residence.This time uninformed. She was in her mujrah for purnias landlord, and doesn`t know the reason behind his bohemion lover's arrival. After hearing the news, she prays to take her along; she promises to leave everything for her love. But Shreekanta disagrees, he even doesn`t know how an innocent girl Rajlakshmi turns into Pyaribai, the famous baiji of Patna. This time Shreekanta loses. It is Lakshmi's turn to speak out the truth. The little girl whom she knew since childhood, was nine years old when her kulin father married again & kicked her along with her mother & sister. Homeless, foodless, mother & daughters take shelter in their maternal uncle's home. Humiliations & abuses were waiting for them. Due to a few brahmins threatenings, she & her elder sister Shivalakshmi were forced to marry an old kulin brahmin. This social curse named koulinya comes as biggest evil in her life. On her marriage night, due to 25 rupees, the old groom named Pranakeshto leaves the place and the marriage remains incomplete. Her sister, ashamed commits suicide, while she remains there with her mother. She was brought up with abuses from her maternal aunt. After a few years they were forced to leave the house & finally she, along with her mother came to Varanasi (kashi). But the disgraceful life remained the same for her. She took a job of a maid servant for a living but her beauty was now the biggest enemy of her. Several people tried to get closer and one of them, the lord's brother tried to molest her. She slapped him& escaped, and as a result, lost her job. After a few months, she even started begging in the streets of Varanasi but no one stood beside her. Finally she got a shelter in landlord Sher Singh's mansion but later she came to know that her mother had sold her to them. She escaped from there and ran away to the big house of Motibai - the famous baiji of Varanasi. She was a lady with a heart. She became sympathetic about this young girl's disgraceful life, gave her shelter & decided to bring her up. She taught her how to dance, and her father taught her to sing. Lakshmi was promising enough to learn the skills of mujrahs & vocals. Thus, the shy Rajlakshmi became the famous baiji of Varanasi named Pyaribai. Later after her marriage, she shifted to Patna. Shreekanta, after hearing the unfortunate story of his lover, remains silent. He can`t believe the experience but he knows that she never lies. He consoles the girl, shows her the letter of Tenpi's Ma, and marry anybody will remain for her,? forever. Now, it`s time to leave for Burma. Lakshmi stares at him as she knows, Shreekanta's journey never stops.