Movie Review: Do Aankhen Barah Haath

The 1957 Hindi film "Do Aankhen Barah Haath" is constructed on the basis of the saying by Mahatma Gandhi: "An eye for an eye will make the world" and is based on Gandhian philosophy. The film is a fine example of middle cinema. It begins with 12 blood-stained hands being pasted on the prison walls. The film follows the tale of 12 prisoners and one jail superintendent Adinath (V. Shantaram). The jail superintendent Adinath is in the process of reforming the 12 criminals. These criminals are charged with brutal crimes and this film focusses on the human aspect of the criminals who feel they are nothing less than born jailors.

The twelve jailors are taken to a dilapidated country farm where they are assigned the task of converting barren land into a piece of cultivable land in order to rehabilitate themselves through hardwork and kindly guidance. He is faced with lot of opposition from senior employees but it is his faith in the human spirit that encourages him to rehabilitate them. A majority of his mission is accomplished when the criminals become successful in converting a barren patch of land into cultivable land by growing fruits and vegetables. 

The movie has a very serious tone to it and hence the only female lead is Champa (Sandhya). Sandhya is a toy-seller and when she appears on the screen, there is music or dance providing some respite from the serious tone prevailing through the film. Considering that the film has 12 male characters, she is often a victim of eve-teasing by the criminals. Despite the general practice of having a love interest, Sandhya is not depicted as having any emotions for Adinath. The film does not have any dull moments due to its intense and deep storytelling structure. 

The film focusses extensively on the two eyes of Adinath which are taken in long shots. The symbolism of the two eyes and twelve hands is brought out wonderfully. It is the superintendent's eyes that the twelve hands fear the most. There is this exceptional scene in the movie when the criminals run away but they return back only because of the fear of the two eyes of Adinath which bring them back. The faith that they place in him is so immense that they would dare not betray him. 

The film is a well-rounded classic despite the film lacking in technology and being in black-and-white. It is a very revolutionary film based on a premise and a message which it conveys through the course of the film which is hailed as modern even today. The message about reform of criminals and addressing the humanitarian side of criminals. "Do Aankhen Barah Haath" is a true epic though it addresses the conflict of good v/s bad. Its storytelling and the moralistic tone makes it pathbreaking. The film was inspired by Italian neo-realistic cinema movement and is a deeply dramatic, sensitive and artistic film. 


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