“Subah” made as Umbartha in Marathi, by Jabbar Patel, starring Smita Patil, Girish Karnad among others and story by Vijay Tendulkar – what a magnificent movie on a socially relevant theme.
Savitri (Smita Patil) is a housewife in a traditional family with her husband Subhash (Girish Karnad) and a kid. Her mother in law is a stubborn old cranky woman. Her husband is supporting her when she receives a job offer as a Superintendent in a Girls Reformatory home far away from her house. She is a gold medalist in social welfare from TISS and so wants to do something for the women.
When she arrives at the reformatory home, she finds it like a hell home, with no discipline amongst the women, a rude & abrasive Chairman, an impotent managing committee and all kinds of fraud, theft, abuse taking place in the home. The woman are sent on nightly duties to the local MLA house. There is corruption in supplies, thefts taking place from the kitchen. Savitri sets about reforming one task after another against stiff opposition from all including the Chairman and the managing committee.
In between two girls are found in a lesbian pose, of which one girl has hot food poured on her lap deliberately. The women there are cases of abusive husband, & families which do not want to take them back. There are young mothers, raped mothers, women married to elder women, women married off as 4th wife etc. Its a terrible story of misery and sadness which the reformatory school is supposed to rectify and send them back to the society and somebody who can stand on their feet on their own.
Savitri tries all possible trick in the book to bring about changes in the system, including starting courses for the women. Two girls are lured to a glitzy world out there and run away only to be used and abused by men outside and brought back to the home. They do not want to stay there, saying what has the home to offer to us. Both these girls commit suicide.
That breaks the back of Savitri who decides to resign and get back to her family. But all things are not the same at the family front also. Shades of Bhumika in this movie where Smita Patil plays the role of a fiercely independent woman out to live the world entirely on her own terms.
Smita Patil is magnificent in the movie as usual displaying her entire range of emotions fully. She is brilliant, absolutely brilliant. She is undoubtedly one of the best movie stars to come out from India in the 70s and 80s. It was unfortunate that she died so early robbing us of one of the greatest movie stars ever seen on Indian cinema.
Story by Vijay Tendulkar is beautiful as usual and that Jabbar Patel made such a beautiful socially relevant movie is a tribute to his craft.