Bhumika tells the life story of an actress, Usha (Smita Patil), who is the granddaughter of a famous female singer of the old tradition from Devadasi community of Goa. Usha's mother is married to an abusive and alcoholic Brahmin. Following his early death, and over her mother’s objections, Usha is taken to Bombay by family hanger-on Keshav Dalvi (Amol Palekar) to audition successfully as a singer in a Bombay studio: the first step in a process, watched approvingly by Usha's doting grandmother and with horror by her mother, that will eventually carry her to on-camera adolescent stardom, and to an ill-starred love marriage with Keshav. Usha’s motives for stubbornly pursuing this relationship (culminating in a pre-marital pregnancy) with the unattractive and much older Keshav — who appears to have lusted after her since childhood — are not spelled out. Presumably she feels indebted to him for his loyalty to her family (of which he frequently reminds her) and for her own worldly success; she is also a headstrong girl who clearly enjoys her acting career and is bent on challenging her uptight mother (who opposes the match because Keshav does not belong to their caste, just as she opposes cinema itself because of its presumed un-respectability).
Once the two are wed, Usha is shocked to find Keshav continuing to act as her “business manager”, (After effects) arranging starring roles for her opposite heartthrob Rajan (Anant Nag), who is himself in (unrequited) love with her. Since Keshav’s other business ventures are unsuccessful, the family remains entirely dependent on Usha’s earnings — a fact that Keshav clearly resents. He thus becomes both a jealous husband with a fragile ego and nasty temper, as well as (in effect) a greedy pimp who compels his wife to take risqué work despite her dislike of her co-star and her protests that she “only wants to be a housewife” now that their daughter has been born. Not surprisingly, the relationship becomes increasingly poisoned, particularly by Keshav’s suspicion (fed by star-magazine gossip) that she is having an affair with Rajan. Verbally and physically abused by her husband and periodically obliged to live in a hotel, separated from her daughter and mother, the desperately unhappy actress eventually does instigate two unsatisfying liaisons: with the nihilistic and self-centered director Sunil Verma (Naseeruddin Shah), with whom she plots a double-suicide (which he foils), and then with the wealthy businessman Vinayak Kale (Amrish Puri), who keeps her as a pampered mistress on his palatial estate. Here Usha briefly finds a kind of “respectability” as a de facto second wife, earning a measure of love and admiration from Kale’s mother, son, and bedridden first wife —but (as she learns one day when she tries to take the boy to a nearby fair) at the cost of even the most rudimentary freedom. Unable to abide by Kale’s hypocritical domestic rules, she finds her only hope of escape in the intervention of the hated Keshav, who promptly brings her back to a Bombay festooned with billboards of her own face, and to the same drab hotel and lonely prospects. As Kale’s bitter wife remarks to Usha as the latter prepares to leave, “The beds change, the kitchens change. Men’s masks change, but men don’t change.”
The movie does not clarify the reason why Usha likes, and then dislikes Rajan. The climax of the movie is gloomy, and the viewers are left on their own to seek its message.
- Genre: Thriller
- Runtime: 142 Minutes
- Awards: 1977 - Smita Patil National Film Award for Best Actress, Satyadev Dubey, Shyam Benegal, Girish Karnad National Film Award for Best Screenplay, Lalit M. Bijlani, Freni Variava Filmfare Award for Best Film
Bhumika (English: The Role) is a 1977 Indian film directed by Shyam Benegal. The movie stars Smita Patil, Amol Palekar, Anant Nag, Naseeruddin Shah and Amrish Puri.
This film is broadly based on the Marathi-language memoirs, Sangtye Aika of the well-known Marathi stage and screen actress of the 1940s 'Hansa Wadkar', who led a flamboyant and unconventional life, and focuses on an individual's search for identity and self-fulfilment. Smita Patil gives a strong performance of transforming from a vivacious teenager to a wiser but deeply wounded middle-aged woman.
The film won two National Film Awards and Filmfare Best Movie Award. It was invited to Carthage Film Festival 1978, Chicago Film Festival, where it was awarded the Golden Plaque 1978, and in 1986 it was invited to Festival of Images, Algeria.