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                50 years of a Shantaram classic

                MUMBAI: Close on the heels of the success of Lage Raho Munna Bhai, comes the 50th anniversary of V Shantaram's Do Ankhein Bara Haath which resonates with the Mahatma's philosophy of love and compassion.

                Rajkamal Kala Mandir, V Shantaram's production house, has planned several events to commemorate the Bollywood classic that mirrored the Nehruvian innocence of the '50s.

                On Tuesday, Kiran Shantaram, former Mumbai sheriff and son of the late filmmaker, presided over a function at Kolhapur, where a chunk of the film was shot and unspooled memories of the bygone era of Hindi cinema.

                "We will have more such programmes in Mumbai, Thane and Pune in collaboration with local film societies," said Chandrakant Patil of Rajkamal Kala Mandir.

                Do Ankhein Bara Haath was inspired by the 'open-prison' experiment in the princely state of Oundh near Pune. The progressive rulers carried out prison reforms, along with an Irish psychiatrist, it is said.

                Litterateur-lyricist G D Madgulkar recounted the story to Shantaram. Seized with the idea, the film-maker weathered opposition from his colleagues and Madgulkar and decided to go ahead with the film.

                However, Do Ankhein ...' lacked the colour and grandeur of Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje , Shantaram's earlier venture, a smashing hit.

                In his autobiography, Shantaram recalls the cold response from Bollywood bigwigs after a pre-release screening at Rajkamal studios.

                "None of them stayed behind to congratulate me. Only Vijaybhai Bhatt (of Prakash Pictures) said I had offered 'something new' to the film industry".

                After a dull start, the film picked up tempo and cash registers at Mumbai's Opera House were jingling for 65 weeks. Aye maalik tere bande hum , Lata Mangeshkar's prayer song, blazed across the country, and in neighbouring Pakistan too.

                " Do Ankhein Bara Haath touched the nation's chord as it revolved round the universal concepts of love and brotherhood," said Usha Prabhatkumar, Shantaram's daughter-in-law.

                Moreover, the film meshed with the lyrical humanism and deep idealism which marked the works of stalwarts such as Bimal Roy, Mehboob Khan and Guru Dutt.

                Commercial success was followed by critical acclaim. Do Ankhein Bara Haath bagged the Golden Bear at the 1957 Berlin film festival (for its "profound and poetic symbolism and strong human appeal") and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's Samuel Goldwyn award.

                In India, V Shantaram won a clutch of awards, including best national film and best director. In a classic example of life imitating art, the film triggered reforms in many prisons across the country.
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