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Modern Masterpieces: Dadar Kirti, the rare film that is better than the book

4 June, 2022 18:02:35
Modern Masterpieces: Dadar Kirti, the rare film that is better than the book

Dadar Kirti (1980)
Cast: Anup Kumar, Tapas Paul, Mahua Roychoudhury, Sandhya Roy, Debashree Roy, Ayan Banerjee, Kali Banerjee, Ruma Guhathakurta
Director: Tarun Majumdar

Most dedicated readers are extremely wary when it comes to cinematic adaptations of the written word. With reason. Many beloved works of literature have been ruined on the big screen by inept adaptations that change the very nature of the original. Thankfully, the same cannot be said of Dadar Kirti. Based on one of Saradindu Bandyopadhyay’s unusually weaker novels in terms of narrative tightness and characterisation, Tarun Majumdar’s lighthearted romantic comedy, a genre he particularly excelled at, offers a perfectly rounded and far more complete version of Saradindu’s work.

Wealthy advocate Nibaran Chatterjee (Satya Bandyopadhyay) lives in an unnamed small town in Bihar with his wife and two sons. Elder son (Samit Bhanja) is married and lives away from home for work while his wife (Sandhya) lives with her in-laws, and younger son Santu (Ayan) is a popular youth who excels at both academic and extracurricular activities. Santu is engaged to childhood sweetheart Bini (Debashree), whose elder sister Saraswati (Mahua) is a stern, no-nonsense but attractive young woman who spurns male attention and seems destined for singlehood. 

Into this mix is introduced Santu’s older cousin Kedar (Paul), a simpleton from Kolkata whose miserable academic record drives his furious father to banish him to his uncle’s. Kedar’s gullible, meek nature makes him the butt of several heartless pranks played mainly by Bhombol (Anup Kumar), who senses that Kedar is attracted to Saraswati and introduces him to her family as an outstanding student, athlete, singer, and general all-round genius. How Kedar negotiates Bhombol’s minefield and eventually emerges unscathed, winning Saraswati’s heart in the process, is the mainstay of the plot. 

The ‘dada’ or elder brother in the film’s title is obviously Kedar, who Santu calls ‘Phulda’, and the film ought to revolve around him. It does so to an extent, but he is a passive fulcrum. As anyone who has seen Dadar Kirti will agree, the action is driven by Bhombol, who is clearly the leader and mentor to the group of younger men which includes Santu. Anup Kumar is typically brilliant as the boisterous, worldly, sharp-witted friend, constantly on the lookout for ways to spice up a placid small-town existence. And since he too is addressed as ‘dada’, who is to say that the title does not slyly and partially refer to him?


Tarun Majumdar, who will rightfully be remembered in the history of Bengali cinema as one of those rare directors who managed to draw both critical acclaim and major box-office success, uses Anup Kumar’s under-utilised acting abilities to the hilt in Dadar Kirti. The actor, known in Bengali cinema primarily as a somewhat loud comic genius, is pitch perfect as he portrays Bhombol’s journey from insensitive prankster to penitent apologist, thanks to his remarkable screen presence and uninhibited acting style. Bhombol and Saraswati are the only two characters who undergo any kind of transformation, and these are probably the film’s best written roles.

Dadar Kirti is also remembered for its music by Hemanta Mukherjee, apart from the virtuoso use of Tagore songs, which was something of a Tarun Majumdar hallmark. One of the most memorable songs from the film is ‘Saat Suron Ki’, a cheerful, melodious, bilingual affair which celebrates the joys of Holi as much as the harmonious coexistence of two disparate communities of people, Bengali and Bihari. 

Majumdar was instrumental in introducing Moushumi Chatterjee, Mahua Roychoudhury, Ayan Banerjee and Tapas Paul to the silver screen. Of these, Moushumi went on to become one of the highest paid actresses in Bollywood of the 1970s, while Paul became a superstar in Bengali cinema. Had it not been for her tragically mysterious death at 26 in 1985, Mahua seemed destined for mega stardom too. When you watch her in Dadar Kirti, you will perhaps realise why.

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