The debate over the merits of the Deep Jele Jai remake Khamoshi has been settled for good by contributor Karan Bali. He writes, “Deep Jele Jai versus Khamoshi is a typical case study of a remake losing its rootedness and specific milieu when retold for a larger Indian audience.”

Asit Sen remade his 1959 Bengali feature Deep Jele Jai as the Hindi-language Khamoshi a decade later. The original movie is especially superior to the Hindi version in the manner in which it uses the power of songs to contain and evoke memories. Its three tracks, composed by Hemant Kumar, are placed in the narrative at the right moments, cueing in viewers to the mental state of the characters.

Deep Jele Jai is a study of amour fou via a questionable interpretation of Freudian psychoanalysis. The chief doctor of a mental institution is running a bizarre rehabilitation programme: nurses are encouraged to elicit the affections of male patients whose minds have collapsed on account of heartbreak. The clinic’s most luminous nurse is Radha – literally so. A ring of light surrounds her at all times, and when she walks through the hospital’s lonely corridors, she is Florence Nightingale with a touch of Grace Kelly.

Radha, played marvellously by Suchitra Sen and framed in classic Hollywood backlighting style by cinematographer Anil Gupta, has previously cured a patient of his malady, but has been wounded in the process. She clings to his memories, which are triggered by aural cues – a ghostly whistling and then a quiet, lullaby-like song about a night that only lovers can know.

As Ei Raat Tomar Amar begins, Radha walks trance-like towards the imagined source of its sound. The camera is transfixed by her beauty and pathos, and ravishes her face with close-ups. The song comes and goes in fragments, providing an apt sonic metaphor for Radha’s obsessive love. She is going to repeat the mistake with Tapash (Basanta Choudhury), another young man turned insane by love. Ei Raat Tomar Amar also functions as a warning that Radha and her obdurate boss refuse to heed.

Suchitra Sen in Deep Jele Jai (1959).

If the tune seems familiar to Hindi film fans, it’s because Hemant Kumar had retooled it before Khamoshi as Yeh Nayan Dare Dare in Bees Saal Baad (1962). Perhaps that is why he designed a new song for Khamoshi, the equally haunting Tum Pukar Lo.

The only conventionally filmed lip-sync song in Deep Jele Jai is Emon Bandhu Aar Ker Aache, sung by the mental institution’s inmates. The third song is also rendered in fragments, and has the same mnemonic power as Ei Raat Tomar Amar. Aaj Jeno Nei Kono Bhabna is Tapash’s Ei Raat Tomar Amar. It’s the song sung by his former lover, and it rings incessantly between his ears. When Radha goes to meet the ex-lover to persuade her to help in Tapash’s treatment, the song is being played on a piano at the woman’s home. Asit Sen doesn’t dwell on the tune and lets it drift away.

In Khamoshi, Aaj Jeno Nei Kono Bhabna is replaced by Humne Dekhi Hai, rendered in a recording studio. Khamoshi also has the astounding Woh Shaam Kuch Ajeeb Thi, sung by Radha’s new patient (played by Rajesh Khanna). In Khamoshi, Radha (Waheeda Rehman) is pained by the song’s lyrics, since she fears a second round of heartache. The evening ends, but the night never does.

Ei Raat Tomar Amar from Deep Jele Jai (1959).