- Director: Abrar Alvi
- Year: 1962
- Cast: Guru Dutt, Meena Kumari, Waheeda Rehman, Rehman
A skeleton wrist, adorned by a bangle, dredged up in an after-scene. Jewellery on raw bone. A moment of elemental shock and recognition, where death, desire and memory get welded together. If anyone not privy to the visual universe of this masterpiece of Indian cinematic history retains any scepticism, the above photograph should cure that. The parched and beautiful eyes wetted by the wine glass, the muted-grey bling draping a body, the solitude—all of it screaming an unrequited sexuality. It may have been listed in Time magazine’s all-time best 100 movies, but one suspects only a mind soaked in Indian sensibilities could entirely absorb this take on strangled love and decadence. Based on a Bimal Mitra novel on British-era Bengal zamindars, the primary figure—a lonely woman descending into alcohol-laced, Geeta Dutt songs of repression (prefiguring Meena Kumari’s own life)—is still bold. It was sent for the Oscars, and urban legend says even the Academy found that lady too much to handle. For us, she still is.