Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s “Anand” continues to inspire because of its deeply spiritual message of humanism

ESPOUSING GOODNESS A scene from “Anand” | Photo Credit: HINDU ARCHIVES

Inspiration is the greatest influence on any life. While one loves many great films, it is Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s effervescent “Anand” which inspired me with its profound truths of life. Though “Anand” had a great story, screenplay, lyrics, and music, it is the film’s deeply spiritual message of humanism that resides within me since I first saw it at Mayur cinema in Jaipur on 14th March 1971. I must admit that the peculiar circumstances of that moment too helped me adopt “live-love-laugh” as my life mantras forever.

It so happened that in a freak accident in July 1970, I lost the eyesight in both my eyes. For nearly six months, besides suffering the horrifying blackout as well as hundreds of painful injections in the eyes, I was engulfed by an abyss of silent misery behind the bandaged eyes. Subsequently, the prayers of my family led to a miraculous restoration of eyesight. So, when doctors announced a complete recovery, I merrily proceeded to witness “Anand” with my newly gained “insights”.

Reliving the joy of witnessing a film, “Anand” also made me aware of how lucky I was to be alive and thriving. The story of the do-gooder, happiness-spreading cancer patient made me realise life was a transient bubble that could go bust any moment. So for me, Rajesh Khanna spread not just cheer and smile on screen but also lit an everlasting flame of joy within my soul; his screen persona taught me “life should be big and not long” and that spreading of joy is greater than owning riches of the world. Think of it, how many screen characters seriously inspire us to realise our potential or change our perspective of life? Of course, numerous wonderful male and female characters move us to tears and laughter with their enactments but only a minuscule few drive us to a gigantic vision.

Endearing character

Hrishikesh Mukherjee

“Anand” was a defining character who exhorted and motivated viewers “to do unto others what they wanted others to do to them.” Under Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s no-nonsensical baton, Rajesh Khanna became an endearing fountain of love, teaching service and devotion were synonyms of love to bring forth hope and smile to all. Not allowing any of his three personas as writer-editor-director to overshadow the other, Hrishikesh Mukherjee delivered a film of everlasting appeal for cinegoers of all ages and all times.

The hallmark of a great film is a story well etched out on screen so as to grab the attention as well as the emotion of the audience while leaving a sublime imprint on our conscience. If the end product is also finely strung with some excellent acting, music, and stagecraft, it leaves not just a lasting impact but also an impetus for other image makers to learn and do better. What astounds is how Hrishikesh Mukherjee makes the viewers aware of their personal shortcomings, goads them to change yet never offends or arouses their ire. And he does that with ease with his incredible screenplay whereby his characters become part of us and yet not one of us; we aspire to be like them without a trace of envy or hostility that we are unequal to them in their greatness! Carving an eternal nest in our memories, the taut screenplay (written by Mukherjee along with Gulzar, D. N. Mukherjee, and Bimal Dutt) inculcates the importance of human actions better than what is prescribed by the best of religious texts. If Rajesh Khanna is the cynosure of action, Amitabh Bachchan as Dr. Bhaskar is an apt foil as a man given to worldly fears, attachments, and heartaches. The interaction between the two is akin to Krishna’s lesson to Arjun through the epic of Gita. Like Arjun, Bhaskar is vulnerable and unsure on the battlefield of life but learns a lesson in living and giving through the noble actions of “Anand” who like Lord Krishna stands as the ultimate symbol of pure, untainted eternal joy. The crux of the engrossing drama is Bhaskar’s gradual development of affection as well as the frustration of being a mute witness to the oncoming death of his patient who later lives on despite dying!

So while these two actors radiate extreme fulcrums of sombre and sublime, method and spontaneity as well as logic and intuition, other characters too add to the colour and interest of the narrative. Apart from several worthwhile supporting characters, Mukherjee also deftly juxtaposed the secular fabric with some interesting characters in the form of the Muslim stage actor Johnny Walker, the Punjabi wrestler Dara Singh and the Christian nurse Lalita Pawar thus lending grace and charm to the proceedings on screen. Along with the camerawork by Jaywant Pathare, what also helps endure the alluring magic of the film are its wonderful songs that were delightfully woven by Salil Chowdhary. While “Kahin Door Jab din Dhal Jaaye” and “Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli” by Yogesh in Mukesh and Manna Dey’s voices are perennial favorites of moviegoers till date, “Maine Tere Liye” by Gulzar also creates magic for ears!

Frankly, “Anand” reminds us to do good as that is the intrinsic design of nature for all of us. The more we give of ourselves, the more we receive and as our lives are intertwined, we do need to nurture happiness for the sake of our souls as well as our future generations.

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