Hindi films have almost mythologised the mother-son bond. Hrishikesh Mukherji's Anupama is that rare film about a hopelessly fractured father-daughter relationship.
Mukherji's cinema appeals to me primarily because of its genteel, literate aura. Nowhere is it more apparent than Anupama, about the emotionally complicated lives of the rich, without brash colour or superficial gloss.
Anupama concentrates on making delicate observations on human pain and channelising them into a satisfyingly complex vision, lined with gentle mocking humour, courtesy David and Rajinder Singh Bedi's noteworthy dialogue.
| L B Lachman
|| Hrishikesh Mukherji
|| Hemant Kumar
|| Dharmendra, Sharmila Tagore, Shashikala
Sharmila Tagore plays Uma, a painfully shy girl leading a hermetically sealed existence with her rich and imperious father, Sharma (Tarun Bose). Uma has a troubled relationship with Sharma who can't disentangle the strands of love (implicit and unexpressed) and resentment (expressed and manifest) that bind him to his daughter.
Much against his better self (Tera kasoor kya hai? Main tumse kyon nafrat karta hoon? he tells her when she's a baby), Sharma holds Uma responsible for the death of his wife in childbirth. Sharma loved his wife dearly and the film opens with their love story. The hit song Dheere dheere machal is picturised on them before her death.
Guilt-laden Uma too blames herself for her mother's death and grows up with self-repression as her only defence against her father's transference of his anger on her. He can bear to look at her only when he's drunk. This drinking takes its toll on his health. Just when Uma's match is being fixed up with Arun (Deven Varma), he has to move to Mahableshwar for his health.
Arun also follows them to Mahableshwar. Along with Arun comes his poor-and-principled school teacher friend Ashok (Dharmendra) and his family. Sharma's friend's easygoing relationship with his full-of-beans daughter Annie (Shashikala) marks a stark contrast to Sharma's knotty relationship with his daughter.
Annie organises a picnic but Uma begs off. Ashok, sensitive writer that he is, insists. This is the first time you see Uma smile.
The first time one sees Uma utter a single word comes much later into the picture --- when she flowers under Ashok's mother's (Durga Khote's) encouragement. Back home, the association between the families continues.
Anupama is dedicated to Bimal Roy (who had passed away in the same year), as Hrishikesh Mukherji was once his assistant director and editor. His influence is evident in scenes like the one where Shashikala's buoyant birthday party is intercut with Ashok sitting with Uma and consoling her, reminiscent of Sujata's Tum jeeyo hazarom saal which is intercut with Sunil Dutt encouraging Nutan. But that is not to take away anything from this burnished little gem of a film.
Ashok who understands Uma perfectly has finished his novel Anupama, an eloquent word portrait of Uma's soul. Through Annie's matchmaking abilities, he finally tells her "Meri Anupama aap hai."
Swinging between self-effacement and self-assertion, Uma has to make the most important decision of her life. But reading Ashok's novel gives her the courage.
In an interestingly shot sequence, Uma switches off her bedroom light and wakes up to part the curtains and greet the sun. It's as though she has finally parted the mists of doubt clouding her mind. She defies her father and leaves home to meet Ashok at the railway station.
The film marks a coming to terms for not only Uma; but also for her father. The heartbreaking last shot of the film shows him at the station tearfully watching her leave from behind a pillar, finally having made peace with his demons.
What an inflection-rich film in the portrayal of its relationships! Anupama has scattered moments of lyricism. What is arresting in this psychodrama is the gradual development in every character's graph and the sheer convincing power of these shifts.
The thoughts are aided tremendously by words. When Annie implores Ashok to go to Uma and make her decision for her, even calling him a buzdil [coward], he says, "Main nahin chahta uske baap ki tarah apne khayalat, apne asool uspe thop doon. Ek insaan ki aazadi utni hi keemti hai jitni ek desh ki [I don't want to thrust my opinions on her like her father. A person's freedom is as important as a country's]."
Where are you Mukherji (story credit) and Bedi (dialogue credit) when we need you?
Though her painstakingly coiffed bouffant is an absolute no-no, Sharmila's eloquent, kohl-rimmed eyes are perfect for a largely silent role.
Dharmendra makes you wish he had done more such roles. His portrayal of sincerity does not strike a single false note and helps the film retain an emotional authenticity.
* 1966 was Dharmendra's breakthrough year. He hit the big time as a star with Phool Aur Patthar, Mamta and Aaye Din Bahar Ke while Anupama gave him the patina of an actor.
* So impressed was Dharmendra with the reaction to Anupama that he brought Hrishkesh, Sharmila and himself together again for his first home production, Satyakam (1969).
* Sari-clad Sharmila of the film created a tsunami of controversy when she posed in an itsy bitsy bikini for a film magazine in the same year.
|Famous songs from Anupama: |
| Dheere dheere machal
|| Lata Mangeshkar
| Kuch dil ne kaha
|| Lata Mangeshkar
| Bheegi bheegi faza
|| Asha Bhosle
| Kyon mujhe itni khushi de di
|| Asha Bhosle
| Ya dil ki suno duniyawalon
|| Hemant Kumar
* Hemant Kumar had left behind his Fifties' heyday, but had made a comeback with Bees Saal Baad (1962) when he was called to compose for Anupama. Hemant also scores as a singer here.
Though Dharmendra is said to have been apprehensive about Hemant Kumar's playback matching his voice for Ya dil ki suno, the song has become one of the most famous numbers picturised on the star.
* Lata Mangeshkar sang Kuch dil ne kaha at her concert recently and the song's appeal is timeless. Hemant Kumar uses minimal orchestration and focuses on Lata's breathy vocals. The result feels as fresh as the flowers Sharmila is shown picking during the song.
* Asha Bhosle's two Shashikala numbers are an unmitigated delight and she has picked Bheegi bheegi faza, as one of her all-time favourites.
* Kaifi Azmi's poetry is crucial towards capturing the mood of a young girl standing agonised and unsure at the threshold of life. Take:
Dil ki tasalli ke liye; jhoothi chamak jhootha nikhar
Jeevan toh suna hi raha; sab samjhe aayee hai bahaar
Kaliyon se koi poochta hasti hai ya, roti hai
Kuch aisi bhi baatein hoti hai
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Design: Uday Kuckian