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Theatrical poster
Directed by Bimal Roy
Screenplay by Ritwik Ghatak
Story byRitwik Ghatak
Produced byBimal Roy Productions
Starring Dilip Kumar
Johnny Walker
CinematographyDilip Gupta
Edited by Hrishikesh Mukherjee
Music by Salil Chowdhury
Bimal Roy Productions
Release date
  • September 12, 1958 (1958-09-12)
Running time
166 minutes [1]
Budgetest. 8.1 million
Box officeest. 40 million

Madhumati is a 1958 Indian Hindi-language paranormal romance film directed and produced by Bimal Roy, and written by Ritwik Ghatak and Rajinder Singh Bedi. The film stars Dilip Kumar and Vyjayanthimala in the lead roles, with Pran and Johnny Walker in supporting roles. The plot focuses on Anand, a modern man who falls in love with a tribal woman named Madhumati. But they face challenges in their relationship finally leading to a paranormal consequence. It was ranked 11th in the Outlook Magazine's 25 leading Indian directors' poll of Bollywood's greatest films in 2003. [2]


Madhumati was filmed in various Indian locations, including Ranikhet, Ghorakhal, Vaitarna Dam and Aarey Milk Colony. The soundtrack album was composed by Salil Chowdhury and the lyrics were written by Shailendra. The film was released on 12 September 1958. It earned ₹40 million in India and became the highest-grossing Indian film of the year, and one of the most commercially successful and influential Indian films of all time. It received overwhelming reviews from critics, who praised the techniquality, soundtrack and the performance of the cast.

Madhumati was one of the earliest films to deal with reincarnation, and was described by analysts as a potboiler that has a gothic and noir feel to it. It inspired later regional and international films that have reincarnation-based themes. It won 9 Filmfare Awards; including Best Film, Best Director, Best Music Director, Best Female Playback Singer, Best Dialogue, Best Art Direction and Best Cinematographer—the most awards for a film at that time—a record that it maintained for record 37 years. It also won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi.


On a stormy night, engineer Devinder drives down a hill road with his friend to fetch his wife and child from a railway station. A landslide blocks their path and the friends take shelter in an old mansion. Devinder finds the house uncannily familiar. In the large front room, he finds an old portrait, which he recognises. His friend and the old caretaker join him and Devinder, amid flashes of memory from another life, sits down to tell his story while the storm rages outside.

Anand is the new manager of Shyamnagar Timber Estate. An artist in his spare time, he roamed the hills and fell in love with Madhumati, a tribal woman whose songs have haunted him from a distance. Anand's employer, Raja Ugra Narain is a ruthless, arrogant man; Anand, who refuses to bend down to him like others, incurs his wrath. Anand has enemies among his staff; he is sent away on an errand and returns to find that Madhumati has disappeared. He learns that she has been taken to Ugra Narain and confronts him, but Ugra Narain's men beat him unconscious. While the men are taking Anand's body out of the palace, they meet Madhumati's father, who had to fight to stop his own daughter's death. He had won, but died on the road, while Charandas hides and takes Anand's body to a hospital.

Anand's life is saved but his mind wanders. One day, he meets a woman who looks exactly like Madhumati. She says she is Madhvi but Anand refuses to believe her; her companions beat him when he tries to plead with her. Madhvi finds a sketch of Madhumati and realises he was speaking the truth. She takes the sketch and learns his story. Meanwhile, Anand is haunted by the spirit of Madhumati, who tells him Ugra Narain is responsible for her death. He appeals to Madhvi, who agrees to pose as Madhumati before Ugra Narain and make him confess to being responsible for her death.

Returning to Ugra Narain's palace, Anand asks permission to paint a portrait of him, which he does the next evening. At the stroke of eight, Ugra Narain sees Madhvi posing as Madhumati in front of him. Ugra Narain is shaken; he confesses his part in her death and is arrested by police waiting outside the room. Anand realises the questions Madhvi asked Ugra Narain, such as Madhumati 's burial place, were things she could not have known; even Anand did not know. Madhvi smiles and moves towards the stairs. The real Madhvi, dressed as Madhumati, then rushes into the room. She is late because her car broke down on the way. Anand realises he saw Madhumati's ghost, not Madhvi. He runs to the terrace, where the ghost beckons to him. Madhumati had fallen from the same terrace, trying to escape Ugra Narain. Anand follows the ghost and falls to his death.

After telling the story of Anand and Madhumati, Devinder receives news that the train in which his wife was travelling has met with an accident. The road is cleared and they rush to the station. Devinder walks through the station fearing the worst, but then is relieved to see his wife Radha, emerging from the train unhurt. Radha is clearly the reincarnation of Madhumati, and Devinder tells her, with the benefit of his recent recollections, that they have been partners through several births.



The Ghorakhal mountain range, one of the filming locations. View of mountain range from Ghorakhal.jpg
The Ghorakhal mountain range, one of the filming locations.

Bengali filmmaker Bimal Roy's 1955 film Devdas was commercially unsuccessful, jeopardising his company Bimal Roy Productions; he needed a commercial success to survive. [3] The story of Madhumati was written by the Bengali filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak. He shared the story with Roy, who immediately liked it and started developing the film with Debu Sen as the assistant director. [4] The dialogues were written by Rajinder Singh Bedi in the Urdu script. [5] [6] [7] Manohari Singh was selected for composing the film's music after Roy heard him playing in Kolkata. [4]

Roy had previously signed Vyjayanthimala and Dilip Kumar for two films. The first, Devdas, based on the eponymous novel, [4] received much critical acclaim and a National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi despite being commercially unsuccessful. [3] Kumar and Vyjayanthimala were selected to play the lead roles in Madhumati. The former was eager to work again with Roy after their previous film Devdas and accepted the role. [8] Vyjayanthimala agreed to work on the film after learning that Pran was a part of the cast. [9]

Unlike other films noir, which were mostly filmed indoors, Roy decided to film Madhumati outdoors and at a hill station. It had a six-week schedule at a location in Ranikhet, Nainital. [4] Some scenes were filmed in Ghorakhal near Nainital. [8] When the negatives were developed, most of the footage was found to be fogged. Since a reshoot in far-away Uttarakhand was not possible, sets were created near Vaitarna Dam, Igatpuri. [4] [10] The art direction team, led by Sudhendu Roy, created fake pine trees, which were planted to match the location in Nainital. [4] A large part of the film was filmed in Aarey Milk Colony, a small forested area in Mumbai. A scene in which Dilip Kumar looks for Vyjayanthimala in the woods was filmed in Igatpuri. [4] The foggy effect was recreated using gas bombs. [4] The costumes of the film were designed by Yadugiri Devi, Vyjayanthimala's grandmother; these were later approved by the art director Sudhendu Roy. Vyjayanthimala wore silver jewellery from her personal collection in the film. [11] The actress had also hurt her foot while dancing. [12] [13]

Due to Madhumati's extensive outdoor shooting, the film went over budget by 8.1 million, [3] [11] adding to the troubles of Bimal Roy Productions, which organised a film preview and lunch for the distributors. Roy told them about the company's financial problems and that he had decided to forego 70,000 of his director's fee to make up for the loss. All of the distributors pitched in with money and made up for the deficit. [3] [11]


Film critics and academics have analysed Madhumati in several ways. In the book The Woman Who Pretended to Be Who She Was: Myths of Self-Imitation, Indologist Wendy Doniger said reviewers of the late 1950s had described the film's theme as "a conventional plot, a typical Hindi [f]ilm [p]otboiler, in which the hero experiences a sense of déjà vu leading to his flashback of a former life". [14] In the book Bollywood Cinema: Temples of Desire, Vijay Mishra states that the film has a "gothic noir" feel. According to Mishra, there is a more direct relationship between rebirth, spirits and ghosts, which naturalises the Indian gothic. [15]

Analysts from the University of Iowa compare the initial meeting of the main characters, stating that it resembles the meeting in Raj Kapoor's film Ram Teri Ganga Maili (1984), where the woman "stands in for nature and unspoiled folk tradition and the villain for exploitative (capitalist) culture, with the hero as intermediary". [6] They also write, "Anand's own egalitarian progressivism, coupled with his sympathy for Madhumati and her family, soon sets him on a collision course with the Raja, who takes revenge through a malevolent scheme". [6]

According to Jayson Beaster-Jones and Natalie Sarrazin, Madhumati was one of the first Hindi films to use the now-common "narrative of the plain-based hero entering the mountains and being seduced by a tribal girl." [16] Rajadhyaksha said the imagery is similar to that of the film Ajantrik (1957), writing that Madhumati links "the beautiful Madhumati with nature and tribal cultures beyond the grasp of capitalist appropriation". [17] Film critic Bharati Pradhan said Madhumati stepped away from "the standard Roy themes of social realism as seen in his Do Bigha Zameen (1953), Biraj Bahu (1954) and Devdas (1955)". [18]


Soundtrack album by
Released14 March 1958 (1958-03-14)
Genre Feature Film Soundtrack
Label Saregama
Producer Bimal Roy Productions

The Madhumati soundtrack features 11 songs composed by Salil Chowdhury. Shailendra wrote the lyrics and Mukesh, Lata Mangeshkar, Manna Dey, Mohammed Rafi, Mubarak Begum, Asha Bhosle, Sabita Chowdhury, Ghulam Mohammed and Dwijen Mukhopadhyay provided the vocals. [19] The music was composed before the lyrics were written. [20] Folk music sung in the tea gardens of Assam was used in the soundtrack and Hungarian folk music was used for the song "Dil Tadap Tadap Ke Keh Raha Hai", [21] [20] which was adapted from the 18th century Silesian song "Szla Dzieweczka do Gajeczka". [22] The song "Aaja Re Pardesi" was adapted from the background score of Jagte Raho (1956). [20] Dinesh Raheja, writing for , said, "The music and the tonal correctness of the performances hold us in thrall". [23]

The soundtrack of Madhumati became the best-selling Bollywood soundtrack of 1958. [24] Salil Chowdhury won his first Filmfare Award for Best Music Director. [25] Suhana Safar Aur Yeh Mausam Haseen is one of the most popular songs by recording artist Mukesh and is regularly played at dandiya functions. [23] [26] Filmfare started giving the best playback singer award in this year and Lata Mangeshkar won this award for the song "Aaja re Pardesi". She thus became the first singer ever to win the Filmfare award for a playback singer since, in the beginning, there was only one award given to a playback singer, male and female singers included.

All lyrics are written by Shailendra; all music is composed by Salil Chowdhury.

Original tracklist [19]
1."Dil Tadap Tadap Ke Kah Raha" Mukesh, Lata Mangeshkar 03:27
2."Suhana Safar Aur Yeh Mausam"Mukesh03:49
3."Aaja Re Pardesi"Lata Mangeshkar04:30
4."Chadh Gayo Papi Bichhua"Lata Mangeshkar, Manna Dey 05:54
5."Ghadi Ghadi Mera Dil Dhadke"Lata Mangeshkar03:12
6."Toote Huye Khwabon Ne" Mohammad Rafi 03:18
7."Zulmi Sang Ankh Ladi Re"Lata Mangeshkar03:27
8."Ham Haal E Dil Sunaenge" Mubarak Begum 03:25
9."Kancha Le Kanchi Lai Lajo" Asha Bhosle, Sabita Chowdhury, Ghulam Mohammad 03:24
10."Tan Jale Man Jalta Rahe" Dwijen Mukhopadhyay 03:22
11."Jangal Mein Mor Nacha"Mohammad Rafi03:08


Madhumati premiered at the Roxy Cinema near Opera House, Mumbai on 12 September 1958; the film was a huge commercial success and helped Bimal Roy Productions recover its losses. [3] [4] It became the first Indian film to be released abroad after its release in the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival Theatre in Czechoslovakia. [27] According to Gowri Ramnarayan of The Hindu , "Dilip Kumar faced the camera, while Soviet actress Tatyana Konjuchova, switched on the camera. Polish actress Barbara Połomska acted as clapper-boy." [27] On 18 April 2010, the film was screened at the South Indian Film Chamber Theatre for the Dignity Film Festival held in Chennai; other films also screened included Kadhalikka Neramillai (1964), Server Sundaram (1964), Anbe Vaa (1966) and Thillana Mohanambal (1968). [28] [29]

Madhumati was the highest-grossing Indian film of 1958. [30] It grossed 4 crore (US$560,000), [30] [31] including a nett of 2 crore. [30] Adjusted for inflation, its gross was equivalent to $75 million (478 crore) in 2016. [32] [33]

Critical reception

Writing for, Dinesh Raheja noted how Madhumati "beguile[s] the senses" while describing it as "the grandmother of such famous reincarnation films Milan (1967), Mehbooba (1976), Karz (1980), Kudrat (1981), Janam Janam (1988) and Karan Arjun (1995)". [23] Writing for Filmfare , Meghna Gulzar calls Madhumati "poetry in black-and-white" and praises Roy, writing "the songs and their picturization – Bimal Da's mastery exudes in every frame". She described the song Aaja Re Pardesi as "mysterious and melancholic". [34] According to Philip Lutgendorf of The University of Iowa, the film sustains its suspense even with the flashback-within-the-flashback frame story, has socio-realistic themes, and is similar to the Alfred Hitchcock films Rebecca (1940) and Vertigo (1958). Lutgendorf praised the performances of Kumar and Vyjayanthimala, and said, "Kumar gives an appropriately haunted performance as the two incarnations of Devinder / Anand, and Vyjayanthimala is alternately earthy and ethereal in the various permutations of the title character". [6]

Vijay Lokapally from The Hindu praises Chowdhury's music, calling it the "soul of the movie" and "enchanting and timeless". [35] Writing for, Karan Bali commended Roy's ability to "recreate just the right mood and ambiance", especially praising few scenes as "luscious romantic interludes outdoors or the swinging chandeliers", "dark shadows within the haveli" and "several documentary like establishing shots". [36] Bali's view is shared by Manisha Lakhe of Daily News and Analysis , who wrote, "Bimal Roy's masterstrokes are evident when you watch the long shadows of trees falling on that stone with fascination". [37]


Madhumati led the 6th Filmfare Awards with 12 nominations and won 9 awards, a record it held for 37 years [18] Since its release, it had multiple screenings at the Tenth Bite - The Mango Film Festival (2004), the 4th Pune International Film Festival (2006) and the Toronto International Film Festival (2011). [38] [39] [40] [41]

Awards & Nominations for Madhumati
Academy Awards India's official submission for Best Foreign Language Film Bimal Roy Not Nominated [42]
6th National Film Awards Best Feature Film in Hindi Won [43]
6th Filmfare Awards Best Film [44]
Best Director
Best Actor Dilip Kumar Nominated [45]
Best Actress Vyjayanthimala
Best Supporting Actor Johnny Walker Won [44]
Best Music Director Salil Chowdhury
Best Female Playback Singer Lata Mangeshkar
Best Story Ritwik Ghatak Nominated [45]
Best Dialogue Rajinder Singh Bedi Won [44]
Best Art Direction Sudhendu Roy
Best Cinematographer Dilip Gupta
Best Editing Hrishikesh Mukherjee


Madhumati's intricate web of reincarnation, suspense and thrill against a traditional romantic setup between Dilip Saab and Vyjayanthimala, treated with gorgeous cinematography and exquisite songs, continues to inspire Bollywood to this date.

Sukanya Varma of on Madhumati [46]

Madhumati became a source of inspiration for many later works dealing with reincarnation in Indian cinema, Indian television, and perhaps world cinema. According to Javed Akhtar, Madhumati is one among the top three or four romantic films ever made in Hindi cinema. He was quoted by Akshay Manwani of Daily News and Analysis as saying, "Even after Bimal Roy's death, Madhumati's success provided for his family. The earning from this film continue[s] even today. It is a terrific film." [47] According to Vyjayanthimala, who played the film's titular character, Madhumati was one of the "most memorable films" of her career. [48]

Wendy Doniger believes that Madhumati may have inspired the American film The Reincarnation of Peter Proud (1975), [14] which in turn was remade into the Hindi film Karz (1980); [49] both of them dealt with reincarnation and have been influential in their respective cultures. [14] Karan Bali notes that the famous "crossing of paths" in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995), where Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol cross each other's paths without noticing the other until the end of the sequence, is present in Madhumati, which was produced 37 years earlier. [36] Parts of the Hindi film Om Shanti Om (2007) including the whole climax sequence were heavily inspired from Madhumati, which led to Bimal Roy's daughter Rinki Bhattacharya accusing the latter film's producers of plagiarism and threatening them with legal action. [50]

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the film, the Bimal Roy Foundation, headed by Roy's daughter Rinki Bhattacharya, hosted a screening of Madhumati at the Globus Cinema in Mumbai on 11 April 2008. The occasion saw the reunion of the film's cast, including Vyjayanthimala. [51] [52] Subsequently, Bhattacharya published a book about the making of the film, titled Bimal Roy's Madhumati: Untold Stories from Behind the Scenes. [8]

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Further reading