"The Italian neorealist classic, Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves (1948) was subtly retitled The Bicycle Thief in the US – “perhaps it was just an American idea that the man in a film has to be its hero,” says (David) Thomson. Producer David Selznick’s reaction to the film was a wish to cast Cary Grant in the lead role. The Americans missed the wider implications of De Sica’s heart-wrenching story, adds Thomson, and failed to acknowledge how the original title’s plural focused attention on systemic failure rather than individual culpability: “And so the country, horrified at the thought of Communist influence, suppressed the gently Marxist interpretation of the title.”..."
(Financial Times, October 19 2012)
On May 1 2013, Balraj Sahni would have turned 100.
For me, he remains the greatest Indian actor I have seen and one of the best in the world. Multiple posts on this blog refer to him. (By the way he occasionally reminds me of Humphrey Bogart. Both died before they turned 60.)
How come he never worked with Satyajit Ray?
Sandip Ray, Mr. Ray's son:
"...In fact, he (Balraj Sahni) was one of the favourite actors of the Ray family and my father (Satyajit Ray) really wanted to have him act in his movie. He was toying with the idea of making Rajsingha (a historical novel by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay) in the 1960s with Balraj Sahni, but it’s a pity that it kind of fizzled out. He was a real admirer of Balrajji and the feeling was mutual..."
Balraj Sahni and Ratan Kumar in Bimal Roy's 'Do Bigha Zamin', 1953
Shyam Benegal on DBZ:
"In the last 100 years, Indian cinema has seen several marvelous films. It is very difficult to choose one over the other another — should I choose from recent films or go back into the past? And also, why am I choosing one over the other? But if there is one film which simply has to be here, it is Do Bigha Zamin. Here, Bimal Roy took the camera out of the studio and to the streets and fields, shooting on location. Before this you didn’t quite get to see the real world. It was mainly make-believe, extraordinarily done but created in a particular place. Bimal Roy introduced realism with this movie. He showed that you didn’t need to follow the same conventions. And Balraj Sahni, with his exceptional performance, did the rest."
Balraj Sahni in Hrishikesh Mukherjee's 'Anuradha', 1960