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Saturday, 18 September 2010

Saga of sacrifice (Anuradha)

Anuradha is much ahead of its times. At least in its stark representation of the wrongs doled out to a woman who innocently believed in the enormity of love. The director had the gall to show that not everything is achieved when you marry for love. There is certainly much to life for a wife than silently suffering under the shadow of an idealistic husband. In that Hrishikesh Mukherjee is bang on target. His 1960 President's Gold medal winner deals with such oft-forgotten issues in a subtle yet strong manner.

When Anuradha Roy, an eminent radio singer, puts her musical career and aspirations in the backburner because she is keen on marrying Dr Nirmal Chaudhury for love, little did she guess that one day this firmness of her mind would cost her, her happiness. Her endless wait for her husband who is more eager to spend his days, and sometimes even nights, with ailing villagers, soon turns into a grueling exercise that eats into her very existence. Not being credited for her mute service, she fast becomes the woman who suffers silently, and occasionally smirking at her misfortune. But, her sighs are never heard. Her husband never gets to know the extent of her grudges, till of course she's pulled the last stop.
One scene is remarkable. Anuradha wears the saree that is a reminder of her first meeting with her husband. She is all decked up because her doctor husband has promised to take her to the fair. But he returns late and sinks into some laboratory work. Anuradha walks in and inquires whether they would go to the fair. Dr Chaudhury brushes her aside saying that the success of a certain test he is performing would save many lives. Hearing this Anuradha, for the nth time, buries her desires and lets her husband be. Just then Anuradha smiles and longingly tells her husband to take a look at her. "Aapko yeh saree yaad hain," she says, expecting him to reply excitedly and share a sweet thought or two about their first meeting. But that is not to be. For the doctor is too immersed in his medicines and illnesses to care for his wife's feelings. Hurt, Anuradha quips that some hawker, who is gone forever, sweet-talked her into buying the saree. She walks away resigned that the man who she fell hopelessly in love with, is lost.
Mukherjee's earlier films are laden with imagery. And Anuradha is no different. Just after the aforesaid scene the wife opens the window to glance at the beautiful moon. In comes the sound of music being played by the villagers nearby. She enjoys the sights and the sounds. But her husband will have none of it. It's awesome how Mukherjee juxtaposes the moon with the round vision of the microbes. When Dr Chaudhury orders Anuradha to shut the window the music is disturbing him, you can feel how there is no place for her music in his life.
And, come to think of it, this is the same woman who this doctor wooed so passionately. Earlier witnessing the relentless pursuit of this charming woman, a strong love for her music and determined promises to care for her, it is quite strange to find the doctor's sea-change after marriage. You almost feel like cursing him for being so nonchalant and indifferent. On one hand he admonishes a villager for not taking enough care of his wife, and on the other hand he is not even bothered about whether his own wife is happy or not. True, Anuradha does not suffer from physical illness. But what about her mental peace and prosperity? Does being a doctor really mean that you owe nothing to your wife, who is as much your responsibility as your patients? I guess there is a need to show your love sometimes. For, even though it is evident that the doctor still loves his wife, he becomes to busy to show it.
The storm rises when Deepak walks into Anuradha's home by default. He is everything that Anuradha would perhaps wish for in her husband. She is alarmed when Deepak tells her that he actually remembers the exact words of her old songs. Isn't that her husband's job? But, what would she do if Dr Chaudhury does even remember that his wife used to be an accomplished singer once upon a time. Before she chose to relinquish everything for the sake of this man who is now too busy to even look at her.
I love it when Mukherjee makes Anuradha strong enough to question her husband. In her own sensitive yet determined way, she makes it a point to tell him that she would now want to live life in her own terms and carry on with her music, an entity that is as important to her as her family. She rebukes him for making her false promises. And she musters up the courage to leave Dr Chaudhury for good. This is definitely the high point of the film.
The other high point is the music by Pandit Ravi Shankar. Marvellous. Lata Mangeshkar breathes life into Sawre sawre, Jaaney kaise sapno mein, Kaise din beetey and hai rey woh din kyun na aye. Another exciting part of the film is the sudden appearance of Nazir Hussain as the senior surgeon. His role has a dual purpose. He is instrumental in showing that Dr Chaudhury is not only a brilliant doctor but also a selfless one at that. But his most important job is to point out Anuradha's enormous contribution towards her husband's success. He lauds the brave woman who has never been appreciated so far for what she has done. And, he tells her that no matter what she should live her life, not just exist as a mere human. He echoes what Deepak (Abhi Bhattacharya) tells her. To nurture her talent, because that is really a God-gifted one.
Performance-wise, Balraj Sahni was incomparable. Controlled and dexterous. It's awesome how he handles the twin shades of his complex role. You start having a love-hate feeling for him soon. On one hand he is serving the villagers whole-heartedly and on the other hand he is shying away from his responsibilities towards his wife. Sahni looks quite good as Dr Nirmal Chaudhury. The last few sequences show what a brilliant actor he was. As he faces the storm in his home, he gradually realises his folly. And the turmoil is fabulously emoted by Sahni.
Ranu Mukherjee (Hemant Kumar's daughter) plays Ranu, Anuradha and Dr Chaudhury's little daughter. Her part is too entertaining to not be mentioned. Abhi Bhattacharya is adequate as usual.
Here we come to Leela Naidu, the beauty who was one of the main reason why I was keen on watching Anuradha. I've nothing to say about how she looks in her debut flick. She is of course, extremely beautiful, with an air of charm and elegance hanging heavy around her. But, I was quite dissatisfied by her performance (and I read that she was tutored by the famous Jean Renoir). Though her pretty face displayed certain emotions well, it was her diction and dialogue delivery that left much to be desired. Too soft to be true, Naidu's antics could hardly match up to her fellow actors. Even when she is romancing the young Nirmal, her voice hardly sounds enthused or happy. She is almost parroting her lines and that too, in a very placid way. She makes it too obvious that she is trying too hard. There are occasions more than one when I wished Nutan as this Anuradha. She would have worked her melancholic charm to make this character credibly unforgettable...


  1. M watching Anuradha this noon, fr sure!

    P.S.- I remember reading in newspapers about a Leela-Shashi Kapoor film and took it to be Anuradha. Do you, by any chance, know any film of this pair?

  2. I agree with you, Sharmi. Leela Naidu looks beautiful, but I think her diction was inadequate. Her acting was fine otherwise - I think she portrayed the somewhat repressed and quiet woman effectively - but the stilted diction spoilt it for me.

    Punya: That's The Householder. Here's a review of it:

  3. @Punya: That would be The Householder, a Merchant Ivory Production. It is an English film and a very good one at that.

  4. @Dustedoff: Yes, That diction killed a lot of her performance. But the film was really good. I really want to see the Householder. Tried to buy the DVD but never found it. Have to go searching again :)

  5. All the songs are exceptional. I always feel a lump in my throat when I listen to "Kaise din beetey."

  6. @Nivedita: I love that song and also Jaaney kaisey ankhiyon mein kho gayi ankhiyan. Ravi Shankar's music is truly differently wonderful.

  7. In 'The Householder' Merchant-Ivory were clever enough to keep her dialogue to a minimum, and have her frolic around as a young, nubile bride. So she did work there, though even so she is not an actress, for sure. She came years before her time. In today's age, where almost all the heroines are only beautiful, and can barely speak Hindi, or act, she would not have been a misfit. :)

  8. @Banno: Well said Banno. She sure was all looks and hardly a performance. She would have fitted in quite well today.

  9. I love the fim for the songs and another reason is little Ranu.She was really delightful. What I liked was,she was not the precocious kid we usually see in Hindi films. She behaved and spoke just like children do obviously the credit goes to the director.

  10. @Shilpi Bose: I totally loved Ranu in the film and now I wonder why was she not used more often. She was actually the laughter-inducing factor in the film :)