Saturday, August 03, 2013

Anands don't die

“Babu Moshai,” the leading man with the crinkly eyes said to his tall, gawky doctor friend, and viewers smiled in admiration. It was the first time that Hindi cine audiences had come across the term, Babu Moshai, Bengali for a gentleman. But there was no doubt that the term would make a place for itself not only in the lexicon of Hindi filmography but also in the minds and hearts of viewers.

Anand (Hindi for happiness) was the eponymous hero of the film, written and directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee. Anand (Rajesh Khanna) exemplified the cancer fighter’s motto, ‘I’ve got cancer. Cancer hasn’t got me.’ 

The film begins with Dr Banerjee winning a literary award for a story he has written based on one of his patients, Anand. Then begins the flashback detailing the character of Anand, a man whose unquenchable thirst for life even Cancer could not quell.

An orphan with no family of his own, Anand comes to Bombay to seek treatment for his sickness. Admitted to the clinic of Dr Prakash Kulkarni (Ramesh Deo) for treatment of lympho-sarcoma of the intestine, he rebels against the depressive atmosphere of the hospital and chooses to go home with Dr Bhaskar Banerjee (Amitabh Bachchan).

Slowly Anand's charm and sweetness help him gain the affection of all those who come in contact with him.

I am no Rajesh Khanna fan. Even so, Anand is one film I can watch again and again. And again.

I am amazed at the strength and courage that a man on his deathbed needs to have to be able to touch the healthy around him with his philosophy of life. In contrast, so many of us have only to catch the Common Cold and we start moaning as if we were going to die within the hour.

Anand's spirit is undeterred even though he has the misfortune to know that his day of death is fast approaching. Even as the candle of his life melts faster and fiercer, Anand continues to forge new connections and friendships, backslapping random people and hailing them as Old Friend Murari Lal. He explains his strange behaviour by saying that every human being is a transmitter and a receiver; a person transmits a signal or a vibration and another person receives it and becomes a friend. 

Anand's behaviour teaches us an important lesson: that we must live life to the fullest, squeeze every drop of living out of it before it's time to go quietly into the night. In another instance, Anand is attracted to a young girl from a drama company. Since she can speak no other language but Gujarati, he buys himself some Gujarati language learning books in order to be able to converse with her, even though he knows he won't be around to test his language skills.

It was Anand who brought Shakespeare's All the world's a stage into my life. When I heard the Hindi version of those lines, I was impressed beyond belief, even though I was a mere child then. Years later when I studied Literature, I marvelled at the manner in which Hrishida had re-invented Shakespeare's lines.

Every character in the film was carved out so memorably. Even Durga Khote, the mother of Renu, Dr Banerjee's love interest, made her presence felt. As a child, I remember feeling the anguish provoked by her innocent questioning of Anand, as to why he wouldn't be able to make it to the wedding of Dr Banerjee, if it was solemnised a year hence. 

Other characters who left their mark in the film were the matron, Mrs D'Sa, who is stern, yet soft hearted, Dara Singh, the head at the akhada, who is recruited by Anand for the task of teaching some roadside romeos a lesson, and Isa Bhai, the head of the drama company, played by Johnny Walker, who is the one man who eventually answers to the call of Murari Lal.

They are all characters who have become memorable to audiences. Their sheen has not worn off despite repeated viewings.

The songs are another beautiful facet of the film. Zindagi kaisi hai paheli hai -- What a mystery is life. The lyrics of the song bring out the pathos and sadness of knowing that a person who is so full of life is about to be snuffed out forever.

Kahin door jab din dhal jaaye -- When the sun sets in the distance. This song portrays the sadness of seeing death advancing upon a person so inexorably, and of knowing that he has nowhere to hide.

Anand may not be an accurate depiction of a cancer patient. It does not matter if he has not lost his hair to chemotherapy and if his cheer is too good to be believed. The '70s were never the setting for realism in Bollywood.

The best thing about Anand is that Anand mara nahin, Anand marte nahin (Anand did not die. Anands do not die) when so many of us permit ourselves to die a thousand deaths each day.

(This post has been written in response to a prompt on Indiblogeshwaris, inviting posts on memorable Hindi films.)


  1. You have chosen a lovely film 'Anand' (happiness). the songs are hauntingly beautiful and the film needs no mention.

  2. Yes, the songs are sheer poetry, Kalpana. It is indeed a classic among Hindi films.

  3. Absolutely loved your Post , the movie Anand and well the actor Rajesh Khanna :-)

    Babumoshai, zindagi badi honi chahiye, lambi nahin!"

    Looking forward to your next post


  4. got all nostalgic after reading this... remember sitting and watching this with my dad..



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