Director Bimal Roy had a unique knack of presenting socially conscious themes through eminently watchable, artistically stimulating and emotionally satisfying films. His 1959- film Sujata is perhaps best example of this quality. Sujata highlighted the burning issues of casteism and untouchability in Indian society through a touching and humane story.
Upendranath Choudhury (Tarun Bose) and his wife Charu (Sulochana) - is a typical middle-class upper caste couple. Taking pity on an orphan infant girl, they decide to give shelter to her in their family but the issue of that girl’s lower caste keeps bothering their conservative minds. The husband is more tolerant but the wife always remains skeptical about correctness of their humanitarian action. Throughout her childhood, Sujata is given a different treatment compared to Choudhury’s own daughter Rama and she never gets the same privileges. She is not even given proper school education. At every step, Sujata keeps realizing that even though her guardians (whom she has always thought of as her actual parents!) take good care of her, they don’t really love her as their own.
As the girls enter youth, this demarcation becomes even more apparent and Sujata is forced to ask her ‘mother’ why she is being treated so differently and unfairly. Charu then reveals the bitter truth to Sujata. Suddenly Sujata’s whole world collapses beneath her feet. Emotionally shattered, she even thinks of committing suicide but better sense prevails. A young man Adheer (Sunil Dutt) then comes into her life but once she comes to know that her foster-parents are thinking of marrying Rama (Shashikala) to him, she decides to sacrifice her own love. Once again, the happiness in Sujata’s life is going to be short-lived. Will she ever be accepted by her loved ones?
Sachindev Burman’s melodious music (Bachpan ke Din, Tum Jiyo Hazaron Saal, Kaali Ghata Chhaye and Jalte Hain Jiske Liye) is simply superb but the real beauty of this film is in the languid ease with which Bimal Roy tells this well-textured emotional tale. The characters are all well etched out and performances are natural and convincing. Nutan essays the complex title role brilliantly. In the sequences where Sujata realizes her plight of being an outcast in her own family, one can literally visualize each and every scar on her mind in Nutan’s eloquent eyes!
The social commentary on the dangers of the decrepit caste system in India subtly comes across this sensitive film, which strongly delivers a message that ‘Humanity is the only true relation between human beings’!