Dharti Ke Lal is a 1946 Hindi film and the first directorial venture of the noted film director Khwaja Ahmad Abbas. In 1949, Dharti Ke Lal became the first Indian film to receive widespread distribution in the USSR.
Dharti Ke Lal was critically acclaimed for its scathing view of notorious Bengal famine of 1943 in which over 1.5 million people died. It is considered an important political film as it gives a realistic portrayal of the changing social and economic climate during the World War II. Abbas produced it in 1945 and it preceded Satyajit Ray’s first epoch film ‘Pather Panchali’ by more than a decade. It is kept in the French Film Archives among the 100 best feature films made anywhere in the world.
The film uses the plight of a single family caught in the Bengal famine of 1943, and tells the story of human devastation, and the loss of humanity during the struggle to survive. It was the first and perhaps the only film produced by IPTA (Indian People's Theater Association) and remains one of the important Hindi films of that decade. The film marked the screen debut of Zohra Sehgal and also gave actor Balraj Sahni his first important on screen role.
The New York Times called it "...a gritty realistic drama."
It proved to be tremendously influential not only to future filmmakers who admired its neorealist-like qualities—but also to intellectuals of India's left-wing.