Estate of Riyad Wadia
Release Date: 1949 (black and white)
Director/s: Homi Wadia
Producer: J.B.H. Wadia
Music Director: Husnlal - Bhagatram
Songs/Lyrics: Qamar Jalalabadi
Cast: Suraiya, Wasti, Nigar, Jayant, Jankidas
Plot:After the phenomenal success of Mela in 1948, J.B.H. Wadia produced “Balam”, another star-studded musical-social. Suraiya, Nigar Sultana, Wasti, and the villain Jayant shine in this pot-boiler about social injustice arising from ignorance and petty politics. WIth Husnlal-Bhagatram’s memorable music (the duo at the peak of their career) “Balam” allowed Suraiya her first dramatic role and launched her career as a full-fledged superstar.
Basant (Wasti) the elder son of an orthodox landowner returns to his village after studies in the city. As the farmers of the village are unable to pay their dues to his father, he decides to investigate and disguises himself as a poor farmhand. He befriends two sisters, Kamla (Suraiya) and Tara (Nigar), who take him to their father, the Choudhary, where he comes upon the evil genius of the village, Gangoo (Jayant). When his father’s Muninmi (Jankidas) unwittingly unmasks Basant’s guise, confusion ensues.
The plot twists and turns with dramatic appeal replete with Kamla having a child out of wedlock and Gangoo committing murder and implicating the Choudhary. In the end, things get resolved but not before tragedy strikes Kamla, who dies in one of the most powerfully charged screen deaths ever filmed. “Balam”’s expressionist B/W photography and neo-realism was much praised by critics of the time and it is a classic drama from the late forties.