Sunday, January 4, 2009
When the audience cried with Anand
Music Director:-Salil Chowdhary
Stars:-Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan
Release Date:-1 January 1971
Frank Capra's immortal observation: tragedy is not when the actor cries; tragedy is when the audience cries, perfectly fits Anand. It is a film that keeps its protagonists dry-eyed but makes the stoniest blink with emotion.
In 1971, the year of Anand, another film about a bravely dying protagonist Love Story (Ryan O'Neal, Ali McGraw), stormed the world. Perhaps it was just cosmically ordained that at that time the world would be in the mood for a
collective, cathartic cry.
Hrishikesh Mukherjee's Anand, of course, famously laced the tears with laughter. Anand is memorable not only for affording us the chance to see two superstars Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan strike sparks off each other, but also because it presented, in the form of Anand (played by Khanna), an unforgettable character who can laugh in the face of death. Who, in his dying, imparts rare insights into the art of living.
Sure, as a character, Anand feels somewhat overidealised, but who can resist him? The first time we see Anand, he storms into Dr Bhasker Banerjee's (Amitabh Bachchan) life with the energy of a rap star on speed. Chatterbox Anand is aware he is suffering from a terminal disease lymphosarcoma ("Aadmi Vivid Bharati par announce kar sakta hai," he jokes about the long-winded name), that has left him only a few months to live, but he is still determined to eschew tears and spread love and good cheer for the rest of his life.
This is saved from being melodramatic or corny by the conviction with which Anand abides by his personal philosophy of life -- Zindagi badi honi chahiye, lambi nahin (life should be grand rather than long).
Anand with his ceaseless banter lightens up the doc. The good doctor is a committed professional who leads a comfortable bourgeois Babu existence (which includes lounging in dhotis when at home), but is troubled by the poverty he has to encounter while treating his patients. Anand is the guest-cum-patient of their common friend Dr Prakash (Ramesh Deo), but decides to move in with Banerjee, whom he fondly calls Babu Moshai.
The extrovert-introvert push and pull results in Banerjee unfastening his pent-up emotions and finding true friendship as well the love of his life Renu (Sumita Sanyal).
Besides Babu Moshai, the endearing Anand's sunny temperament touches the lives of Dr Prakash, his wife (Seema, who starts considering him her brother), the hospital matron (Lalita Pawar, who treats him like a son) and Renu. In fact, Anand's affection is new age and universal which leads him to repeatedly strike up friendships with strangers on the road.
All these interactions are played out under the looming shadow of death. When his sister asks for blessings, a hapless Anand says, "Tujhe kya ashirwad doon, bahen? Yeh bhi toh nahin keh sakta meri umar tujhe lag jaaye [How do I bless you? I can't even pledge that my life span should be added to yours]."
Mukherjee balances Anand's bursts of positivity by affording us glimpses into his inner anguish. But Banerjee decides that Anand's live-for-the-moment determination is his strength and does not probe deep.
The film moves towards Anand's death, and the character's last scene is one of the most lump-in-the-throat
evoking scenes ever filmed in Hindi cinema. Anand has already tape-recorded some theatrical lines from one of his many jocular sojourns after Banerjee had recorded a poem. On Anand's deathbed, Banerjee runs to get some desperate last-minute remedy. Anand asks for the spool to be played and passes away to the sound of his friend's voice.
When a distraught Banerjee returns, he is greeted by his friend's death but his voice eerily floats through the tape recorder: "Zindagi aur maut uparwale ke haath mein hai, Jahanpanah. Hum sab rangmanch ki kathputliyan hain jinki dor uparwale ki ungliyon se bandhi hui hai. Kab kaun uthega koi nahin bata sakta. Ha ha ha." (We are all puppets in the hands of the supreme being who holds the strings of our lives. We will never know which string he will pull next).
These rather stagy, portentous lines leave a tremendous impact because they are interwoven into the screenplay with striking intelligence.
Watching Anand leaves you nostalgic for Hrishikesh Mukherjee's typically literate, realm of moviemaking. Characters recite poetry and live in hermetically-sealed genially civilized worlds.
Mukherji is ably aided by Gulzar who writes some deathless dialogue. The songs are picturised with a pleasantly unhurried rhythm. The crown jewel is indubitably Zindagi kaisi hai paheli shot next to a seemingly horizonless sea and a limitless sky into which a bunch of balloons disappear in tandem with the lines: Ek din sapno ka rahi chala jaaye sapno ke aage kahan.
Kahin door jab din dhal jaaye
Of course, there are minor quibbles -- Anand seems surrounded by an inexhaustible supply of exceedingly nice people. There is no major attention paid to creating carefully calibrated images. I guess Mukherjee's strength is in his simplicity and directness.
The Bachchan versus Khanna debate, of course, is a minefield whenever their two films together are discussed. While Bachchan was better in Namak Haram and though he is heartwarmingly effective here, it is Rajesh Khanna who has the definite edge in Anand.
*Rajesh Khanna was at the giddy height of his superstardom and Anand added tremendous respect as an actor to his profile. He won Filmfare's Best Actor Award for the film.
*Amitabh won Best Supporting Actor Award but lost Mukherjee's next, Guddi because he had become a known face and the director wanted an unknown actor opposite newcomer Jaya Bhaduri.
*Bengali actress Sumita Sanyal had done Mukherji's Aashirwad before and went on to play the bhabhi in Guddi.
*Mukherjee intermittently but rewardingly continued mentor Bimal Roy's relationship with Salil Chowdhury.
*Salil's favourite Mukesh made an unusual choice for Rajesh Khanna (another rare Khanna song for Mukesh was Kati Patang's Jis gali mein).
*The often undervalued lyricist Yogesh deserves credit for penning the metaphorical beauty, Kahin door and the
Famous songs from Anand
Kahin door jab din dhal jaaye/ Mukesh
Maine tere liye hi/Mukesh
Zindagi kaisi hai paheli/Manna Dey
Na jiya laage na/Lata Mangeshkar
By Dinesh Raheja
Posted by Mustafa Sarkar at 2:21 AM