On a stormy night, Devendra (Dilip Kumar), an engineer, drives down a hill road with his friend to fetch his wife and child from the railway station. A landslide blocks their path and the friends take shelter in an old mansion off the road. Devendra finds the house uncannily familiar. In the large front room, he finds an old portrait which he recognizes. His friend and the old caretaker join him, and Devendra, amidst flashes of memory from another life, sits down to tell his story while the storm rages outside.
Anand (also played by Dilip Kumar) had come to Shyamnagar Timber Estate as its new manager. An artist in his spare time, he roamed the hills and fell in love with Madhumati (Vyjayantimala), a tribal girl whose songs have haunted him from a distance. Anand's employer, Ugranarayan (Pran), is a ruthless and arrogant man, and as Anand refuses to bend down to him like the others,, he incurs his wrath. Anand also has enemies among his staff. Sent away on an errand, he returns to find that Madhumati has disappeared. He learns that Madhumati had been taken to Ugranarayan, and confronts him but is beaten unconscious by Ugranarayan's men. While Ugranarayan's men are taking Anand's body out of the palace, his men meets with Madhumati's dad (Jayant), who had to fight for her own daughter's death. He does it, and wins but dies laying down in the road, while Charandas (Johnny Walker) is hides then takes Anand's body to the hospital.
Anand's life is saved, but his mind wanders. One day, he meets a girl who looks exactly like Madhumati. She says she is Madhavi (also played by Vyjayantimala), but Anand refuses to believe her and is beaten up by her companions when he tries to plead with her. Madhavi finds a sketch of Madhumati and realizes he was speaking the truth. She takes the sketch and learns his story. Meanwhile, Anand is haunted by the spirit of Madhumati, who tells him that Ugranarayan is her killer. He appeals to Madhavi to pose as Madhumati before Ugranarayan and help him get a confession out of him and she agrees.
Returning to Ugranarayan's palace, Anand begs permission to do a portrait of him. Next evening, with a storm brewing outside, Anand paints Ugranarayan. At the stroke of eight, Ugranarayan sees the pretend-Madhumati in front of him. Shaken, he confesses the truth. The police waiting outside the room come and take him away. Anand suddenly realizes that the questions Madhavi asked Ugranarayan were things she could not have known, as even Anand did not know, such as where Madhumati was buried. "Madhavi" just smiles and moves towards the stairs. The real Madhavi, dressed as Madhumati, then rushes into the room. She is late, for the car failed on the way. Anand realizes it was Madhumati's ghost he had seen, not Madhavi. He runs up to the terrace, where the ghost beckons to him. Madhumati had fallen from the same terrace, trying to escape Ugranarayan. Anand follows the ghost, falling to his own death.
Devendra's story is over. "But," he says "I finally did have Madhumati as my wife. In this life — Radha." Just then, news arrives that the train in which his wife was traveling has met with an accident. The road is cleared, and they rush to the station. Devendra's wife, Radha (Vyjayantimala) appears, unhurt with her baby.
- Genre: Thriller
- Runtime: 179 Minutes
- Awards: National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi, Filmfare Award for Best Film, Indian submission for Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film
Madhumati is a 1958 Hindi drama film produced and directed by Bimal Roy, and written by Ritwik Ghatak and Rajinder Singh Bedi. The music for the film was composed by Salil Choudhury with lyrics written by Shailendra. The film stars Dilip Kumar and Vyjayantimala in the lead roles along with Pran and Johnny Walker. It was one of the earliest films to deal with reincarnation and had a gothic noir feel to it. The first and only collaboration between Roy and Ghatak, it was one of their most commercially successful and influential films. The film won the National Film Awards for Best Feature Film in Hindi and nine Filmfare Awards, including Best Film, Best Director, Best Music Director, Best Female Playback Singer, Best Dialogue, Best Art Direction, and Best Cinematographer.
Janam Janam, the 1988 Hindi film starring Rishi Kapoor is a remake of Madhumati. In 2007, Farah Khan and Shahrukh Khan made a new film, Om Shanti Om, that uses some plot elements from Madhumati, but did not credit the earlier film.