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Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Breaking free (Anupama)

Hrishikesh Mukherjee's Anupama has a choking effect on me. But, I enjoy that. I shed happy tears and bask in the warmth of the lovable characters. I clap when Uma breaks the shackles of her guilt and emerges a stronger and emancipated individual. I smile when Mohan redeems himself by liberating his wronged daughter. My heart brims with joy when I witness the goodness in Anita, in Moses, in Ashok and his mother, in Arun and in Gauri. Anupama, made in 1966, strengthens my faith in good wholesome cinema that looks simple but has hidden in its layers a multitude of emotions. Most importantly, it establishes my belief in Mukherjee's films. Subtle, simple yet so strong...
Mohan marries Aruna late in life. Understandably, he is head-over-heels in love with this lovely woman.
Distracted at work all the time, he cannot wait to get back to her everyday. You cannot blame him. Aruna is adorable. She sings, is exuberant, quite pretty and dotes on her husband. When Aruna sings Dheerey dheerey machal for Mohan (lovely music by Hemant Kumar), you can see how smitten this 40-year-old is. It is as if she is his lifebreath. But, soon fate strikes a cruel blow to Mohan's halcyon life; Aruna dies during childbirth.
Mohan's world comes crashing down. Unable to move on from his sorrows, Mohan, the wealthy businessman, drowns himself in work. That bit is acceptable. But, the sad part is, he holds his newborn Uma responsible for his wife's death. A helpless baby, who needs love, care and nurture, has to depend on Sarla, the maid. For, her father despises her sight and shuns her. Yes, Uma is brought up in luxury, replete with all material comforts. But, this unfortunate girl never receives a caring word or even an iota of love from her father. With an abnormal upbringing, Uma grows up to be shy and reticent and traumatised by the guilt of killing her mother. Imagine the pain of this helpless girl.
Mohan can only face Uma and offer kind words when he is inebriated. The scene when Mohan kisses Uma's head (when she is pretending to sleep) is so stark. Petrified of her father, she is forced to submit to her misfortune and accept this loving gesture only because he is not in his senses. When he is back to his normal self, Uma will be hated again. What a stifled and pained existence for our protagonist.
So, is this alcoholism an avenue of escape. Yes. Mohan admits that Aruna's death is not Uma's fault. But, his mind shuts out the words of his heart. Whenever, he sees Uma, he is reminded of Aruna. And, back comes the negative thoughts of Uma, as a child, murdering the only person who captured Mohan's heart. A baby, a killer? Yes, for Mohan, that looks possible. But, for the alcoholic Mohan, Uma becomes the innocent daughter who deserves love. This muddled-up Mohan is not able to segregate his thoughts on Uma and Aruna. He is most happy showering his stigmatised daughter with gifts. What a dichotomy depicted by Mukherjee...And, what a performance by Tarun Bose!!
Uma blames herself for the distance between herself and her father. Her mind numbed with the trauma, she grows up to be a painfully shy person who enjoys the company of birds, flowers and fishes. Kuchh dil ne kahaan (an awesome song by Lata Mangeshkar) bears testimony to that. Perhaps, because these creatures will not blame her, or ask her any questions or point a finger towards her. She will be able to express her feelings towards them. She will not be reprimanded for little things. She can sing with them, dance with them and most importantly talk to them. Something she never had the priviledge of doing with her father...
When Uma's teacher tells her that she is plain ill-behaved because of being pampered by her parents, you can see the shock in her eyes. Pampered? Uma? The girl, who didn't know what parental love was?
I can see why Hrishikesh Mukherjee dedicated this brilliant film to Bimal Roy. I see Sujata in Uma. Both are stigmatised, both are wrought with pain. Both have aching hearts. While Sujata pined for love from her foster mother, Uma craves for love and acceptance from her father. While Sujata bore the brunt of a caste-ridden society, Uma has to shoulder the burden of her mother's death. And, like Sujata, Uma too, fights against all prejudices to shine forth. With a bit of help from Lady Luck, both women emerge stronger. If I might say that Adhir, and Ashok, is that stroke of luck that is...
Ashok, the idealistic writer and teacher, brings to Uma's life a gust of the morning breeze. This breeze takes away with it all the gloom. First love, from Ashok, livens up the quiet Uma. She learns to question, to think, to want. She starts to smile, to talk, to love... As Ashok says, "Pehle ke Uma aur is Uma mein bahut parivartan hain." When Mohan lambasts her for going to Ashok's house, she does not tremble with fear anymore, she does not retreat to her cocoon. She smiles. It is the faith in her convictions, the trust in her love, that escapes through her soft smile. Though she breaks down when Ashok offers her his love and support, something she aught to have got from her father, she knows that this will egg her on towards liberation. With Ashok's love she will be able to emerge out of her father's shadow. She will be Ashok's Anupama, the one who is incomparable...
The film is a poignant coming-of age story, shouldered by fascinating performances by the star cast. I shall not say anything about Sharmila Tagore. She does not require that. The only thing I can say is that as Uma she not only stole Ashok's heart, but mine too. She does not have to speak. Her eyes are enough to tell you what's going on inside her. She is breathtakingly beautiful (she was just 20 then). There is dignity in her woes. You feel like crying with her when she weeps and giving her a peck when she flashes those deadly dimples. (Isn't it amazing that in the film she would go on to become Durga Khote's daughter-in-law? Both share those absolutely cute dimples!!!)
Uma is a revelation. And, so is Ashok (Dharmendra is drop-dead handsome). A film believer in being happy no matter what, Ashok never forces his opinions on Uma. He just teaches her how to listen to her heart, helps her negate her guilt, makes her smile, understands her and completely loves her. But that does not mean he does not realise her pain. Just hours after he strengthens her with his kind words, he sings Ya dil ki suno duniya walo . A thorough reminder of the fact that no matter what people say, personal grief is excruciating and it just is a gargantuan task trying to camouflage it (Awesome lyrics by Kaifi Azmi). Isn't it what Uma has been trying? But, he also believes that his love will triumph over all sorrows in the end...
Anupama does not have any wickedness. Even though Mohan's mind is clouded by pretention and false pride at a point of time, he is cut to size by Ashok. Mohan insults Ashok because he is a struggler and thinks Arun is not good-enough for Uma because he has not maximised on his foreign education. But, he is the poorer man after all. Devoid of love and happiness, Mohan is lonely and desolate. Ashok, in this, is so right...
If Uma doesn't talk, Anita prattles. But, this gregarious girl is not irksome (only her hideous wig is!). Never. She is a livewire, a rich girl with a heart of gold. In fact, the strains between Uma and her father become even more apparent when Anita is shown bonding with her father. This bond is natural, full of love and childish altercations. How come I never hear anything about Shashikala's performance in Anupama? She is simply fabulous. A motor mouth to say the least, she is the quintessential moodlifter, a spunky girl with a zest for life. Taking care of everyone's needs, she has no qualms in admitting that she talks too much. She chides her lover Arun (Deven Varma looks quite good) for not being brave enough to decline Uma's hand in marriage and at the same time comforts him when he is worried over other issues. Anita is a dear friend, a loving daughter and a bouncy sweetheart. In Bheegi bheegi faza she sets the mood for the picnic. She instantly makes her place in Arun's heart. She also feels blessed for her good fortune and acknowledges that in Kyun mujhey itni khushi de di (lovely Asha Bhonsle numbers). But, she also has a serious side to her. She senses the love between Ashok and Uma and is a catalyst in their love story. She is a good soul who deserves happiness, The best part is, Anita is not scared to laugh at herself. And, hence she is adorable...
Then there is David, as the amicable uncle Moses, who refuses to grow old. Spreading cheer wherever he goes, he is the cynosure of attention in all circuits with his jokes and stories. Whatever happened to these characters in our Hindi films???
Anupama is a strong tale with a happy ending. Not just for the union of the protagonists. The smile is spread seeing the transformation of Mohan. Realising how wrong he was, he redeems himself by setting Uma free. His pride is shattered, his soul is purged. His tears wash his sins away...


  1. Lovely write up of a classic which i'm yet to see, this is the third/fourth time someone is doing a post on it, and everyone has had nothing but praise for it. As much as i love Shashikala, she more or less plays this kind of role in almost every film i see her in, which is perhaps why you never hear anyone praise her character in this

  2. @Bollywooddeewana: Thank you. I'm glad you liked it. If you still haven't seen this film, you really are missing something. Just add this to your shopping cart. Also, Shashikala was more known for her wicked and sly roles. But, here is such a refreshing change. She was also very good in Sujata. But here she is just remarkable :)

  3. Dustedoff had first recommended this film to me when I had done a Dharmendra special post and not included any song from this movie. Then I read bollyviewer's take on it and was completely smitten. I bought a dvd almost immediately and watched it and fell in love with it. Though I felt Shashikala was a little too loud and over talkative, I loved the movie. It's such a well-made movie. Dharmila look great and they have performed so well. This reminds me, I have to review this film as well. I have so many reviews pending. And you have written so beautifully, that it makes me want to see the movie again!
    And oh yes, Deven Verma looked quite striking here. In fact Devar has the same four-some : Dharmendra, Sharmila, Deven Verma and Shashikala. And I was surprised to see Deven Verma look so good in it!
    Totally adore Uncle Moses!!! He adds life to the story.

  4. Echoing bollywooddeewana - lovely post about my favorite film. I must admit that I found Shashikala remarkably annoying though - her cheerfulness was so loud! It's interesting you compare Uma to Sujata, because it's Shashikala's character that I find comparable in the two - though her acting is way better in Sujata. I think that Hrishikesh Mukherjee tended to let the cheerfulness of his characters get completely out of hand!

  5. Mmmm. Love this film. And that last scene is one of the very few in Hindi cinema that is actually poignant enough to bring tears to my eyes!

    BTW, loved that insight on the similarities between Uma and Sujata. Very well thought out!

  6. @Sunheriyaadein: Dharmila!!! Fabulous name!!! You know I too agree with you about Shashikala's loudness. But, what touched my heart was how she was making everyone her own. Like when she ran to Ashok's mother and Gauri and brought them to the Bakshi bungalow. Then she arranged for the picnic, then she sensed that Ashok would like to see Uma when he was ill. She is able to laugh at herself, and that's what I liked.
    Devar? Should be a nice film. Have to watch it soon. Thanks for telling me about this one :) And ya, would love to read your review on Anupama :)

  7. @Bollyviewer: I felt Hrishikesh Mukherjee used Shashikala a lot more in Anupama. In Sujata, her role was smaller and softer. Thank you for the comment and keep reading :)

  8. @Dustedoff: I totally totally love this film Madhulika. And yes, I too cry in the last scene.
    I think Sujata and Uma are very similar to each other. Apart from what I've written in the post, I also think both are timid due to the circumstances, both connect with nature (remember the scene where nature dances with Sujata when she feels the first brush of love?). Both films are so awesome :)
    Thank you for the comment :)

  9. I finally watched this movie on youtube after reading your post. So, Starting from the start:
    Sharmila Tagore is the SOUL of Anupama.. and she IS Anupama.. Bemisaal! I loved her intro shot. Those big, mascara-laden eyes reflected the fear so convincingly.. they never made you pity her.. all you want is to hold her in arms and reassure her. The lady has a maximum of 10 dialogues throughout the whole film and yet conveys her agony through her superb expressions. the scene where her teacher comments: "Maa baap ke laad pyaar ne bigaad ke rakh diya hai" and you get that fleeting expression of cynicism in Uma's eyes. Just.So.Brilliant!!!

    I also loved the phone scene b/w Uma and Gauri where Uma answers Gauri by nodding her head. so habitual is she of this mode of communication (head nodding) that she keeps forgetting that she is on phone. Lovely thinking on writer's part (Hrishi Da, you are a genius!)

    Dharmender is convincing as Ashok, Deven Verma is looking so dashing. Durga Khote is lovable as always. The lady who played Gauri fits her role well. Shashikala is OTT at times, but it is heart warming to see her play a positive char. (only this and Sujata, I guess.) David as always is spot on with his expressions. I love him dancing! And now, coming to Tarun Bose.. if Sharmila is the soul, Mr. Bose is the Heart of Anupama. i liked him in Sujata and Bandini, but simply love him in this movie. Such a great actor, that's why he has always been in the core team of Bimal Da and Hrishi Da. And, it would be a crime not to mention the lovely lady who played his wife. What a beauty! Loved her in "Dheere dheere machal..." and the subsequent scenes.

    The most heartening fact about Hrishikesh Mukherji is that he developed the relationship b/w each and every char. tenderly, taking appropriate time.. neither overdoing the drama nor jumping through the caricatures. I loved the scene where Arun comes to meet Ashok and his family and the bickering b/w Arun and Gauri. No OTT acting or dialogues.. just everyday conversation done in a fun way.

    I guess that is the charm of Hrish Da's movies. Sublime yet strong, without being in-your-face-lectures.

    All-in-all, a CLASSIC! :D

  10. @Punya: Yes Punya, This film is just so heartwarming that sometimes I find my eyes moistening while watching it. Shashikala was a positive character iN Junglee, too. Remember?
    I guess you did like the film a lot and it shows from your comment! Thankd for the comment and keep reading :)

  11. Hey, Haven't seen Junglee yet. Somehow, I just couldn't bring my self to watch Saira Banu!! But would def. try for it.. Just to see Shashikala in one of those handful of Positive roles. :D

  12. @Punya: Watch Junglee for the songs and the charisma of Shammi Kapoor!! He is just so very lipsmacking!!!

  13. Thanks Sharmi for this sensitively written take on one of Indian cinema's most delicately written stories. I enjoyed everybit of it!

  14. @Yves: I'm glad Yves that you liked the write-up. Thank you for egging me on :)

  15. Sharmi,I arrived here obviously through memsaabstory. I was going through your blog and as a fellow Bengali was glad to see some Bengali film reviews. It is also quite heartening to see your generation reacting so positively to black and white films like Anupama. I know many who will not be caught dead seeing a black and white film. Well keep up the good work and all the best.

  16. @Shilpi Bose: It is a real honour to have you here Shilpi. My day is made :)
    Yes, I am a hardcore old films fan and can see them 24x7. I find them so much more enchanting than films of today that make no sense.
    Thank you for the comment and please do visit sometimes to see whether my work is really worth it. Take care :)

  17. Luv this soft Lata song , I fell in luv with this song after Lata stage performance for Hridayanath Mangeshkar shridhanjali few yrs back , with Amitabh as guest speaker , she herself liked this song & said " Dharmendra ji bhee edhar bethe hein " as song was picturised on him .I always carry this song with me wherever I travelled.
    I always liked Dharmendra in these classics , like Bandini , Satyakaam is sad that his performances were never recognized .
    Thanks for this post.
    Also blogged :

  18. @Cafe: You are most welcome and keep reading :)

  19. Would like to see this movie after reading this review. I love the song Kuch dil ne kaha...Sharmi have u seen the movie Bandini??

  20. What a lovely movie. I just finished watching it and my heart is filled with emotions. My heart goes out to Uma. And my heart swells with joy coming across all the good-hearted support characters. This film is indeed filled with goodness. A must watch!

  21. Very good review. Loved the movie, best part of the movie (spoiler) for me is when Uma talks to her father its not a confrontation or questioning him, she only asks him to bless her. That is a class act from writer/director.

  22. Another request :) - would like to see your post on Ghulami (1985) too. That is my among my Top 3 favorite hindi movies!

  23. lovely write up and well- written. I have seen the film several times and yours is the perfect review.