Gurudev’ Rabindranath Tagore’s contribution to Indian literature was immense. Some of his works were filmed in various Indian languages. Bengali cinema drew heavily on Tagore’s stories and music, especially directors like Satyajit Ray, Madhu Bose, Tapan Sinha, Naresh Mitra etc. The bilingual film Nauka Dubi (Bengali)/ Milan
(Hindi) produced by Bombay Talkies in 1947, directed by Nitin Bose, was based on the Bengali novel Nauka Dubi written by Tagore in 1916. Ramanand Sagar’s Hindi film Ghunghat (1960) was remake of the same story and was a hit. In 1968, the same story was filmed in Malayalam asAgnipareeksha and this too turned a hit. In 2011, the story was remade in Bengali as Nauka Dubi . Directed by Rituparno Ghosh, the Hindi version of this film, Kashma Kash and English version, The Boat Wreck , also did well at the box office.
Agnipareeksha was produced by Mohammed Azeem under the banner of Deepak Combines and was directed by M Krishnan Nair. A multi-starrer, the film had Sathyan, Prem Nazir, K. P. Ummer, G. K. Pillai, T. S. Muthiah, Adoor Bhasi, Sarada, Sheela in key roles. The dialogues were by Thoppil Bhasi.
Doctor Mohan (Sathyan) who comes to attend the marriage of his friend Gopalan’s (K. P. Ummer) sister Hemalatha (Sarada) decides to marry the bride after the bridegroom, an epileptic patient, faints on the auspicious occasion. Mohan does this to save his friend’s sister from disgrace. Mohan marries her when Hemalatha is unconscious following the shock of the unexpected incident. Mohan travels back to his home town with his bride.
Ramesh (Prem Nazir), who is in love with Hema (Sheela) is coaxed by his father to marry another girl whom he has never seen. Ramesh marries the girl not even bothering to take a serious look at her. He travels with his wife on the same train in which Mohan and Hemalatha return after their wedding. An accident occurs; several passengers lose their lives and many seriously injured.
Ramesh is hospitalised. When he opens his eyes he sees a girl dressed in bridal attire taking care of him. He assumes this to be the girl whom he had married, when in fact the girl was Hemalatha. To add to the confusion Hemalatha believed that Ramesh was the man who had married her, for when the wedding took place she was unconscious and had not seen his face of the man.
Later Ramesh came to know that Hemalatha was not his wife, but was unable to reveal the fact because he thought the girl may not be able to withstand another emotional shock. Ramesh writes a letter to his lover Hema explaining the story of his marriage and the train accident. Hemalatha happens to read the letter and comes to know that Ramesh is not her husband. She leaves him and reaches a nursing home where she is treated by Mohan though she does not know this. She is appointed as a servant by Mohan, who also does not know that Hemalatha is the girl he had married.
Now the untying of the knots. Hema is admitted to Mohan’s nursing home. Ramesh reaches the nursing home in search of Hema. Gopalan is admitted to Mohan’s newly opened eye hospital for treatment. From Gopalan, Hemalatha comes to know that Mohan is her husband. Hema realises the situation that forced Ramesh into marrying another girl who had died in the train accident. The couples, Hemalatha and Mohan; Ramesh and Hema unite.
The songs written by Vayalar Rama Varma and tuned by Devarajan, like Kairali Kairali kavya Kairali …, (P. Susheela- B. Vasantha), Muthu vaaraan poyavare …. (K. J. Yesudas), Urangi kidanna hrudayame … (Yesudas) and Thinkalum kathiroliyum …. (Susheela) turned hits.
Will be remembered: As a successful Malayalam adaptation of Rabindranath Tagore’s novel and for its excellent music.