In his interviews with film directors, Rajeev Masand asks them about the film that changed their lives. Since no Rajeev Masand cares about the film that changed my life, I asked myself. After some time of consideration I realized that if there is one film that actually affected my life, it was Anand.
It was in the first class of the Film Appreciation basket course during my first semester in engineering that I saw Anand the first time with an adult’s sensibility. It moved me so much, and it was the first time a film moved me. I realized the power of cinema, and I realized that filmmaking could be something I would want to do.
Anand begins with the director’s dedication to the city of Bombay and to Raj Kapoor. The opening credits play along with the landscapes of the city of Mumbai, then known as Bombay. The film opens with a literary event where Dr. Bhaskar Banerjee (Amitabh Bachchan) is being given a literary award for his first novel, Anand. In his speech, Dr. Bhaskar Banerjee confesses that Anand is a character from his life he had met in the days when he had given up on the profession of the doctor and felt helpless at his inability to save lives of the poor.
Fifteen minutes into the film we are informed that the main character of the film, Anand has lymphosarcoma of the intestine and is coming to Bombay for his treatment. Dr. Bhaskar barely looking at Anand’s X-Ray proclaims that he’ll live for six months at best. Enters Anand like a storm, as Bhaskar Banerjee later describes in his diary. He starts blabbering and rambling. He jokes about everything, including his disease, and ends up irritating Bhaskar. To which Anand reacts by saying, “Zindagi badi honi chahiye, lambi nahi.” A life should be big, not long. Just before the end of the scene after Anand exits, we find sympathy in Dr. Bhaskar’s tone as he talks to his friend Dr. Kulkarni about Anand’s disease. So just the first scene with Anand starts bringing a transition in Dr. Bhaskar from being cold and indifferent to empathetic.
“Zindagi badi honi chahiye, lambi nahi.” This one line becomes the anthem of the film from here on as Anand leads us into a story where we head towards a hopeless end and yet find ourselves completely engaged in the film. Like Bhaskar says at the beginning of the film, Anand likes to make friends. With his magic, he turns the cynical Dr. Bhaskar into Babu Moshai, he becomes the brother to Dr. Kulkarni’s wife, Suman. He turns a matchmaker to bring together the shy lovers, Bhaskar-Renu. He becomes a son to Renu’s mother. He becomes the chela of Issa Bhai, who owns a drama company. Basically, there is nothing Anand can’t do, except overcoming his disease. But then even when Suman takes him to Moni Baba, who can supposedly cure one of any disease, he asks Baba to bless him with a happy mind that makes everyone happy, instead of the body that’s dying anyway.
But then even Anand is only a mortal. He lost his parents to India-Pakistan Partition, migrated to India, was disappointed by the relatives who treated him like a burden. He loved a girl in Delhi but probably left her because of his disease. Then he came to Bombay and fell in love with the city and its people.
Anand is written, directed and edited by Hrishikesh Mukherjee. It is arguably his best film. However, after revisiting the film a lot of times, I’ve come to find a lot of Gulzar in the film. Gulzar is credited for dialogue and lyrics of the film, and anyone who is remotely aware of his work can identify him in the text. There are countless great, memorable dialogues in the film, and its album, composed by Salil Choudhary is still as popular as well.
Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan were the two emerging stars at that time. While Khanna already had a big hit in Aradhana, Bachchan was just starting out. Both of them went onto have great careers after Anand, but their comradery in Anand is one of the most memorable in the Indian films. The climax of the film is one of the most iconic scenes ever. Personally, it is the most emotional scene for me. I get emotional watching it, every time I watch the film. But then follow the last words of the film, the most fulfilling words. The words of Gulzar, in the voice of Bachchan:
“Anand mara nahin, Anand marte nahin”
Anand didn’t die, Anand doesn’t die