Do Bigha Zamin (Hindi: दो बीघा ज़मीन) is a 1953 Hindi film, directed by Bengali film director Bimal Roy and starring Balraj Sahni and Nirupa Roy in lead roles. The film is known for its socialist theme, and is an important film in the early parallel cinema of India and is considered a trend setter. A bigha is a measure of land area but is not same as an acre, though translating the title as such serves the purpose.
Inspired by Italian neo-realistic cinema, Bimal Roy made Do Bigha Zameen after watching Vittorio De Sica's Bicycle Thieves (1948). Like most of Bimal Roy's movies, art and commercial cinema merge to create a movie that is still viewed as a benchmark. It has paved the way for future cinema makers in the Indian neo-realist movement and the Indian New Wave, which began in the 1950s.
A moderate commercial success, it was awarded the All India Certificate of Merit for Best Feature Film, it became the first film to win the Filmfare Best Movie Award and the first Indian film to win the International Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, after Neecha Nagar (1946), which won the Palme d'Or (Grand Prize). It was also winner of the Social Progress Award at Karlovy Vary. In 2005, Indiatimes Movies ranked the movie amongst the Top 25 Must See Bollywood Films.
Meena Kumari makes a special appearance in the film with the lullaby, Aa ja ri aa.
The story revolves around a farmer Shambu Mahato (Balraj Sahni), who lives with his wife Parvati 'Paro' (Nirupa Roy) and son Kanhaiya (Rattan Kumar) in a small village that has been hit badly by a famine. After years of drought, the region finally gets rain, leading the farmers to rejoice. Shambu owns two bighas (two-thirds of an acre of land) of land, which is the only means of livelihood for the whole family. The local zamindar (landlord) Thakur Harnam Singh (Murad) partners with some city business men to construct a mill on his large parcel of land, which in return would profit them and bring prosperity to the village. The only problem is that in the middle of Harnam singh's land lie Shambu's meager two bighas of land.
Harnam Singh is very confident that he can buy Shambu's land. Shambu has borrowed money from Harnam Singh several times in the past and has not paid his debt. Harnam Singh calls for Shambu and proposes Shambu to sell his land to him in exchange for his debt. Shambu disagrees to sell his only means of livelihood. Angered by the refusal, Harnam Singh orders him to repay his debt by the next day or risk auctioning his land.
Shambu returns home to discuss the issue with his father, and with the help of his son, they figure out that the debt amounts to 65 rupees. Shambu wants to save his land by all means and sells all his household items including his wife's gold earrings. When Shambu meets Harman Singh's accountant to pay back his debt of 65 rupees, he's shocked to know that he actually owes 235 rupees. The accountant had forged the accounts and now refuses to consider the labour provided by Shambu's father Gangu as portion of debt payoff. The case goes to court and Shambu, being an illiterate, has a tough time explaining to the judge how the accountant forged the numbers and how he took to the accountant's word of mouth and did not demand any receipt. Shambu loses the case and the judge orders Shambu to pay 235 rupees to Harnam Singh in three months. If Shambu is not able to clear the debt, then his land would be auctioned off and the proceeds would go to pay off his debts.
Shambu now struggles to get the money and he is unable to get a loan because he has no collateral. One of his friends gives him an idea to go to Calcutta (now Kolkata) and try to get a job to earn enough money to pay off his debt. Shambu likes this idea, but faces resistance from his wife as she's pregnant and does not want to live away from him. Shambu persuades her that he'll be gone for three months only and it would benefit his family and the soon-to-be-born baby. Kanhaiya wants to join his father too, but Shambu refuses and scolds him. On the train to Calcutta, Shambu finds Kanhaiya hiding and hitchhiking with him and after a brief confrontation agrees to take Kanhaiya with him.
In Calcutta, Shambu and Kanhaiya face a harsh welcome. Nobody is willing to talk with them, let alone help them. Kanhaiya befriends a street side shoe shiner named Lalu 'Ustad' (Jagdeep). They even lose their last possessions while they are asleep on the footpath. Kanhaiya falls ill, and Shambu ends up renting a small room in the slums with the help of a tea vendor and the landlady's adopted grandchild, Rani. To pay the rent, Shambu works as a coolie. Shambu befriends an old rickshaw-puller (Nazir Hussain), who helps him to get a license as a rickshaw-puller. Kanhaiya tries to help his family by taking up shoe shining with the help of old rickshaw-puller and Lalu. Back in the village, Parvati and Gangu survive on eating water chestnuts picked up from the local river. She seeks help from Bahu (Meena Kumari) to write letters to Shambu and stay in touch.
Near the end of the third month, Shambu becomes aggressive about earning and saving more money. One day, a man asks Shambu to chase another rickshaw that is carrying his girlfriend. Shambu is asked to pull the rickshaw very fast for more money. The rickshaw loses a wheel and Shambu meets with an accident. Looking at the condition of his father, Kanhaiya joins a pick pocketer to earn quick money. Shambu gets angry upon learning this and beats Kanhaiya. Meanwhile, Parvati gets worried since she receives no letters or money from Shambu and the Zamindar's accountant accuses Shambu of forgetting his family. She ends up working at a local construction site and is devastated when she receives the news of Shambu's accident. Finally, Parvati decides to visit Shambu in the city even though Gangu is bed stricken and has high fever.
Parvati arrives in Calcutta, and is taken by a strange man, who claims he knows Shambu and will take her to him. He takes her to his shed and tries to steal and force himself on her. She flees from him, but comes under a car. A crowd gathers around her and they call for a rickshaw to take her to the hospital. Shambu who was passing by offers a ride, and is shocked to see his injured wife. Meanwhile, Kanhaiya, unable to withstand his father's condition, steals money from a lady and runs back to the slum. He comes to know about his mother's condition and rushes to the hospital. He cries after seeing his injured mother and claims that God has punished them because he started stealing money. He rips the money into pieces. The doctors tell Shambu that he has to spend money on medicine and blood to save his wife. Poor Shambu has no choice but to spend all his earnings to save his wife.
Back in the village the land is auctioned because Shambu could not pay back the debt and Gangu develops a mental disorder. The land is now owned by Harman Singh and the mill construction has begun. Shambu and his family return to the village only to see their land sold and a factory being constructed on it. He then tries to get a handful of dirt from his land, but is stopped by a security guard. The film ends as Shambu and his family walk away from their land.Balraj Sahni as Shambu Maheto
Nirupa Roy as Parvati (Paro) Maheto
Rattan Kumar as Kanhaiya Maheto
Murad as Thakur Harnam Singh
Rajyalakshmi as Nayabji (as Rajlakshmi)
Nana Palsikar as Dhangu Maheto (Shambu's dad)
Noor Jehan as Rani
Nazir Hussain as Rickshaw puller
Jagdeep as Laloo Ustad, shoeshine boy
Meena Kumari as Thakurain
1st Filmfare Awards (1954)
Winner – Best Film
Winner – Best Director – Bimal Roy
1st National Film Awards (India)
Winner – All India Certificate of Merit for Best Feature Film
7th Cannes Film Festival (1954)
Winner – Prix International (International Prize)
Nominated – Grand Prize (Best Film)
Karlovy Vary International Film Festival
Winner – Prize for Social Progress
The movie got the name from a famous poem by Rabindranath Tagore, called "Dui Bigha Jomi". Bimal Roy distributed the film abroad with the name "Calcutta – The Cruel City". The measurement of Bigha varies from state to state. In Bengal, where the movie is based, 3 bigha is one acre (4,000 m²). Therefore, Shambhu owns only 2,700 m².
To better prepare for the role, Balraj Sahni actually rehearsed for the role by pulling a rickshaw on the streets of Calcutta. He interacted with many rickshaw pullers and some of them were facing the same situation as portrayed in the movie."Aaja ri aa nindiya tu aa" – Performed by Lata Mangeshkar
"Ajab tori duniya ho mere raaja" – Performed by Mohammed Rafi
"Dharti kahe pukaar ke" – Performed by Manna Dey, Lata Mangeshkar & chorus
"Hariyaala saawan dhol bajaata aaya" – Performed by Manna Dey, Lata Mangeshkar & chorus