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Wednesday, 20 April 2011

A peek into domesticity (Abhinetri)

Wonder what kept me away from this Subodh Mukherjee film till now? I had heard about this film ever since they played the Sa Re Ga Ma Pa song in Chitrahaar when I used to be a little girl. By the time I was in my senses to retain it in my memory, I knew that Shashi Kapoor looked extremely attractive and Hema Malini looked uber-fetching in a film called Abhinetri. So then, why did I not make an effort to see this one? Beats me!

But now that I have made ammends, I am a happy woman. For this film is a sweet and sensitive take on a couple's marital life and the journey they undertake to understand each other in both happy as well as trying times. The story is good, the performances are really good and yes, the lead actors look way too good to explain. Moreover, they complement each other perfectly. Not that this 1970 film is devoid of flaws. But, since the goods outdo the bads, I give a thumbs up to it.
This is also a film where I found Hema Malini so spontaneous. If you ever felt (like me) that Hema in the 70s was mostly a very pretty face and a fabulous dancer but not much of an actor, you should see Abhinetri. Not that she squeezes every tear out of you or makes you feel sympathetic towards her. But here, she does play the carefree lover, the indulgent wife, the attention-grabbing individual with elan. When she argues with her husband over her career, you really want to support her. When she plays those naughty pranks on him, you feel like smacking her once yet forgiving her, especially because she sometimes proves to be quite a distraction when he is really busy. And you really like her for being such a spoilt spoilt girl sometimes, for cosying uo to the woman who she loves like a mother. Most importantly, you like her for wearing her heart on her sleeves. So, when in the end, when she actually realises that she loves her husband too much to stay away from him for her career, you know that she is emotional, in love and not ready to ruin her marriage. Just that, it's quite ambiguous whether she actually returns to the stage or not. But then, who is bothered, the film was good and that's what matters in the end.
Anjana (Hema Malini) is an established stage actor and dancer who has been enthralling the audience for some time. One day, she meet Shekhar (Shashi Kapoor), a scientist when he is forced to take refuge near her home when a mighty storm ensues. I loved this scene. I loved how Hema Malini starts laughing seeing that Shekhar's trousers were torn when he prises open her jammed door. It was so refreshing to see her natural laughter. This is one of the best encounters between two prospective lovers in Hindi films, I believe. 
Anjana and Shekhar keep meeting and both fall in love. Considering that a large part of the film delves upon the growth of relationship between these two persons, every tiny detail is taken care of. The director shows that Anjana is sensitive yet strong, Shekhar is goofy and too emotional. He is also a workaholic. But when it comes to romancing Anjana, he forgets his busy schedule. He also lacks the gift of the gab, something that Anjana is adept at. Actually the two complement the other perfectly.
The scenes where Shekhar is seen taking Anjana to his mother in his village is brilliantly done. Anjana falls for the serene ambience and for the simple old woman. She is an orphan and instantly takes to Shekhar's mother (Nirupa Roy), who herself is a nice woman and a sensible one at that (She leaves her son and daughter-in-law alone when it is required!)
So, the two get married and Anjana quits her career. The honeymoon phase is long, very long. Shekhar is absolutely smitten by his beautiful wife, who enjoys all the adulation. In fact, Shekhar is also reprimanded by his senior at work, the forgetful old scientist Das (Nazir Hussain) for being so distracted all the time. I loved the character of this old man, too.
Chided by his senior, Shekhar gets down to serious work. But Anjana, too used to getting all the attention from her husband all the time, will not settle for anything less. She constantly tries to distract him, by dressing up prettily, singing songs and pretending to be in danger et al. Shekhar too falls for all that. Here is where the problems start. Anjana is not able to draw the limits. Since she has been an orphan, even after marriage, she thinks that Shekhar will devote all his time to her. She does not even let him work, when it is really needed. Slowly, she starts getting irritated with his work schedule.
Then comes an opportunity for Anjana where she can return to the stage again. She is thrilled to bits, but Shekhar, now a senior scientist in an institute will have none of it. However, Anjana convinces Shekhar that this would be just once when she would dance on stage (as her masterji is in deep trouble). She dances like a dream with Deb Mukherjee (in a special appearance) and is over the moon with the thunderous applause from the audience. But, behind the rosy picture Shekhar encounters the leery remarks of some sick men who see Anjana as a hot item. This angers him and he crushes Anjana's enthusiasm by telling her that she will not perform on stage ever. Anjana is angry, hurt and thinks that Shekhar is jealous of her fame. She rebukes him for that and declares that she will never give up her career. The honeymoon period is over and the two start living separately...
Abhinetri is not a film about a woman and her fight to sustain herself in this big, bad world where she strives to live her dreams. This film is more about the ups and downs in the life of two individuals who overcome teething problems that crop up in their relationship. With a bit of help from Anjana's friend Ratna (Nazima) and Shekhar's mother of course. The script is very good and the execution superb. Much time is given to the growth of the characters in their own spaces. I'm particularly fond of the scene where Anjana clings on to Shekhar frightened after seeing a tiger. Then later, she shyly apologizes for it. Shekhar instantly admits that he loved what she did. These sweet nuggets enliven the film.
Shashi Kapoor is a good Shekhar. He is very good looking, a tad foolish as the scientist and appears totally in love with his gorgeous wife. He even pulls off his emotional and sentimental side with great aplomb. Nirupa Roy's character is immensely likeable. For once, she is not the wronged against woman or the soppy mother. She is pragmatic, sensible and prudent. She turns out to be the perfect mother-in-law... there when she is required and absent when privacy is of utmost importance. Wish all mothers-in-law learnt from her!!
The music from Laxmikant Pyarelal is pleasant. I believe it's the picturisation that livens up the songs. For, with Hema Malini dancing like a fairy and looking like a million bucks, one is sure to hear bells in the head! She is simply earth-shatteringly beautiful, wears lovely clothes, smiles the prettiest smile and plays to the gallery. In totally she makes the film such a pleasing proposition...


  1. I have seen this film in the seventies, I know for sure, but even your excellent review triggers no memories at all..and yet, fond as I was of Shashi Kapoor, I must have enjoyed it! It's interesting how some films stick in our minds forever and others are passing clouds... But you make it sound like a nice time-pass, I should see it again...So much to see, so little time to do it!

  2. @Suja: I totally agree with your last statement. We should have 48 hours in a day to pack so much more films. And yes, this one is a good-looking venture :)

  3. Hema Malini was sooo gorgeous in this! And one of my favourite rain songs - O ghata saanwari thodi-thodi baanwari - is in this film. :-)

  4. @Dustedoff: I know... Just can't take your eyes off her... why don't they make gorgeous heroines like this anymore?!!! All of them are so horrible, plastic and artificial today!!! Ohh i forgot the Botox!!

  5. And all of them look so much the same, don't they??! Madhubala and Sadhana and Asha Parekh and Hema Malini etc were all beautiful in their own way, but too many of today's actresses could be easily mistaken for each other if you weren't an avid cinema watcher. ;-)

  6. @Dustedoff: You couldn't be more right!! I hate all of them. Us mein I found Sonakshi a bit different but I'm sure she will start looking like all these tarts soon crumbling under the pressure of thin ness and all that.
    The last gorgeous actress we had, who also had an individualistic style of her own, was Madhuri Dixit. :)

  7. This one has such a high beauty quotient that it is impossible to hold it's flaws against it! Shashi is yummy, Hema is gorgeous and their romance is melt-into-a-puddle sweet. I wish Shekhar wasn't quite such an ass though - it kind of ruins the second half of the film for me. Still, there is much to love in here... :)

  8. @Bollyviewer: I knowwww. You are sort of awestruck by the beauty !!! Yummy !!

  9. Shashi Kapoor is so gorgeous!! Love him in this! He is so cute!! Cuddle!! <3 <3 <3

  10. @Aditi: Yes absolutely. And Hema was so pretty :)