Before I make the post a discussion on Anand, let me take you to the opening scene of Bawarchi. The characters are introduced one by one and the simplicity of introduction makes each viewer amply versed with the characters he is going to deal with. This approach was a trademark of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s saga. A signature later seen in Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s movies, most noticeably Ellapthiyam. It is striking how the “simple” outplays the “complex”. The later ideology remains the core around which many film-makers weave their stories. Hrishikesh Da created a world where villains were not mortals with guns in hands but simple men with the lapse of humanity in their approach.
Taking the last point of my previous para forward, it is also imperative to note that the negativity, howsoever little it was in Bawarchi came from the mutual grievances and frictions that take place in any household. The differences in ideology towards life [an approach that made Anand immortal] and the effects of living in a joint household with the intent of gaining property allows an outsider like Khanna to gain entrance to the home and master them all. If one thinks quietly, no home that is built on mutual trust and admiration transfers the administrative rights into the hands of an “outsider”. An “outsider” is not allowed into the system, instead he is kept at periphery. Hrishikesh Da by mixing the two created a scenario where the chapters of life were left bare out in the open.
Ok,Now Let’s move to Anand. Imagine this: Again an “outsider” is allowed to invade the system, play with the strings, tighten them according to his own imagination and then leave it in the state of perfection. It quite resembles the effect of a catalyst that sped up the reaction but never could allow himself to become an integral part of the proceedings. The origin of the catalyst is never known except a few excerpts about his past where he is heard conversing with the love of his life in a recorded cassette. You know he is heartbroken by a glimpse of the preserved rose petals in the middle of a shayari book. [Note the perfection..the book is printed in Urdu and not Hindi. Hrishikesh Da was very particular about these stuffs.] You know he is not only fighting a battle for life but is also at constant war against the ghost of past. He is not only bidding goodbye to life but also to the pain he is suffering. Khanna essays a role that evokes sympathy like never before and that sympathy has been much less replicated thereafter. This single stroke makes Anand a vehicle of emotions that not only strikes your naked heart but also exposes its hollowness. Lymphosarcoma of the Intestine suddenly becomes an easy terminology because Hrishikesh Da merges it with the pathos of death immediately. It no longer remains, possibly, an out of reach terminology for the layman or an uninteresting one. Notice how it is made the crux of the film and the viewer is allowed an insight into the last days of a dying man. This is a herculean effort,it may seem miniscule but ask any recent film-maker to make a terminology like “Rhabdomysocracoma of Nose” as the principal tool of his film, he will give it some umpteen thoughts. Not to forget the layman is actually very well informed as of today.
What makes Anand special is the camaraderie between Khanna and Amitabh. They weave together an unusual friendship and forge a relationship that shreds any doubt,whatsoever regards the relationship being a momentary sympathy induced one. The fact is displayed in the climax of the film where Amitabh who is so in love with Khanna, is not able to see him breathe his last and Khanna dies with “Babu Moshai” on his lips. What can beat this display of love between two strangers? Possibly a “Thelma and Louise” but that is an entirely different concept. Nothing can beat this terrific commentary on times of our lives, it reflects on the mundane, makes it seem special and then teaches us a bit or two about it. Khanna is so naturally at ease in his portrayal that not once you feel he is overdoing it. The basic danger with this goody-goody role stuff is that you tend to overplay it, sometimes overact. Barring a few moments, Khanna is pitch perfect. And the one moment I felt he is bit overplaying it, the scene is recounted as one of the best scenes. I am referring to the dialogue–“Hum sab rangmanch ki…….”. Such is the impact of this film that the tone of emotional achieves a new dimension. Amitabh in his role of a Bengali doctor who is principled is a perfect complement to the class act of Khanna. I have always said,”Tom Cruise” in “A Few Good Men” was the reason why “Nicholsan” could look so wonderful. He aptly complemented him in the minimal minutes he had with him on-screen. The “complement” part is also a dangerous one. If the key is not of the lock,your mystery remains unraveled. Similarly the complement plays an important part in imparting the desired dimension to the main protagonist’s role. Amitabh in his brooding persona with gravity dropping from his face,holding myriad emotions within is akin to the anchor of the film. He safely provides a scaffold for the whole reaction to occur. It is such a striking stuff that you never see much changes in Amitabh’s expressions but he never allows you to be not able to interpret him! Khanna surpasses him in almost all dimensions of acting,thanks to the manner in which Amitabh holds the whole premise strongly. He is telling the story and he lets the vision flow and Khanna elevates the vision.
The “Murari Lal” sequence between Khanna,Amitabh and Johny Walker later inspired a similar sequence with Anupam Kher and Kader Khan in a film from 90’s. That sequence is amusing. The foolishness of patting any stranger on the roads and striking a conversation suddenly seems so inviting. It is a testimony to the master direction of the maestro who converted such inanimate stuffs to animate. Another terrific scene is the place where Durga Khote blesses Khanna with a long life, not knowing that her blessings as a mother will not have the desired impact. I always cry at the scene. Also the “aapne mujhe beta bulaya..” stuff was later copied in DDLJ between SRK and Farida Jalal to a good extent. Anand explores the various avenues that life opens up and pleads us to find such avenues and steal happiness. It is paradoxical that such avenues come up only when life is little left. But then again magically Anand provides you with solution– “Babu Moshai.. Zindagi badi honi chahiye, Lambi nahi”. When has a film been so poignant and ethereal in its approach. So subtle yet so effective in its impact!!! Anand laments at the loss of life by all its character apart from Khanna who becomes the reason for it but see the paradox again.. it leaves you with grief but a hope that “Anand mara nahi.. Anand mara nahi karte”. Never in history has any film been so hurting and comforting in the same scene. No one has ever managed to balance the two emotions so nicely. If Khanna becomes the messenger of God, If he becomes the Christ of Life… Amitabh becomes the example of a mango-man who must learn from the life of the “Christ”. Hrishikesh elevates Anand to an education tour but without a documentary effect. It reflects upon life from almost all angles, be it Khanna’s or Amitabh’s or Ramesh’s or Seema’s and derives at a conclusion but never lets the conclusion reach to you in words. Instead it shows a bunch of balloons flying high in the air, several colours in there… and makes you sit back and think over the immortal song– “Zindagi Kaisi hai Paheli Haaye”.
I don’t know whether Khanna was a superstar or nor or whether Amitabh was the next one or not.. what I know is that both never did a better film than this ever!
Milind/AnupamTags: Amitabh Bachchan Anand Bawarchi Exclusive Hrishikesh Mukherjee Rajesh Khanna