The film is adapted from a story called Hungry Stones by Rabindranath Tagore. A tax collector posted to a small town puts up at a mansion feared by the locals because it is haunted. As time passes he grows more consumed by the mansion and its air of romance, and the spirits that haunt it, especially a beautiful woman.
Sinha continues his adaptations of Tagore (Kabuliwala, 1956) with this ghost story shot in Bhopal, Bikaner and in the hills of MP although the story is set in the village of Barich in Hyderabad. A young tax collector (S. Chatterjee) decides to live in a deserted 250- year-old palace on the banks of the Susta river. An obsessive old man in the village (Bhattacharya) warns the prosaic taxman not to spend a single night in the palace because it is haunted. The old man’s narration then gives way to that of the taxman as he gradually falls under the spell of the place. Its hallucinatory world takes him over, in the form of a beautiful female apparition (A. Devi). His obsession gets to the point where his everyday life appears unreal as he vividly relives episodes from the fantasised history. In the fantasy, he is the trader Imtiaz Ali who gave the slave girl to the emperor but then fell in love with her. The palace used to be Emperor Mahmud Shah II’s pleasure den and its stones seem to have absorbed the untold anguish suffered by the aristocratic potentate’s female victims, a suffering so intense that it overwhelms those who dwell there. The film and its lyrical imagery can be read as metaphors for the renants of feudal oppression still active in contemporary society. Alternatively, the feudal palace can be seen as triggering the eroticised fantasies of power of modern middle-class men.
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