Kaala Patthar, 1979

‘Black stone’ is what the title in Hindi means, which is another way to say coal.  This is a story of the coal miners and their impossibly hard lives in the eastern part of India.  One of Amitabh Bachhan’s classic movies, it is a fine example of his ‘angry young man’ acting prowess that he honed over the 70s and 80s which resulted in the cult-like following of his work. 

This was most likely not his first or last romantic pairing with Rakhee who plays a doctor who– dare we think it– actually falls in love with a coal miner.  But such is life, and Mr. Bachhan alongside Shashi Kapoor and a host of other well-known Bollywood stars of the time, take us on this grand ride of a story. 

It is likely that this movie went a long way in raising public awareness to the dismal and dangerous condition of the coal mining industry and the heartless corporate treatment meted out to the workers by way of low wages, no benefits, and poor living conditions.  Crafted in the old Bollywood style of the day where cinematography was less sophisticated, and the dialogue deliberately belabored, Kaala Patthar weaves a large web of a story that incorporates everything from the machinations of corporate greed to the circumspect workings of an honest mining engineer, to disgrace and redemption as experienced by a miner who finds more than what he bargained for and comes out the better for it.

Prepare to set aside a solid three hours to take the movie in its entirety, or prepare to pause and play as and how your time permits.  Either way, you’ll get an appreciation for old-world Bollywood, and Mr. Bachhan in particular!


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