Thursday, February 11, 2010

Anand Ashram (1977) - a sweet saga...

When in doubt, always pull out a favorite film. Unless you last watched it in your childhood, you know that you’ll enjoy it. And this film definitely fits the bill. It is overflowing with all my favorite actors – Sharmila Tagore, Moushumi Chatterji, Ashok Kumar, Uttam Kumar, Rakesh Roshan, Utpal Dutt, Asit Sen. The story is convoluted enough to keep me interested and told well enough to hold my attention. AND it features one of my favorite songs – Saara pyar tumhara maine baandh liya hai aanchal mein (I have tied up all your love in my aanchal).

Asha (Sharmila Tagore) is returning home from the city one day, when she misses the last boat to her village. Not willing to be stranded on the wrong shore for the night, she hitches a ride on a private boat. The boat owner Deepak (Uttam Kumar), turns out to be a childhood friend. He promptly takes the opportunity to see her home and visit her father, who was his school teacher.
In the years since Asha last saw him, Deepak has aged rather dramatically (MUCH faster than her), and has also become a fully qualified doctor. Not that his being a doctor will help Asha. Her father, Mr. D’Souza, is dying of cancer and is dreadfully worried about his unmarried daughter. Deepak spends the evening trying to cheer up Asha and her father, and is late getting home.
Deepak’s father, Pratap Narayan Raychaudhary (Ashok Kumar), is not happy to hear of his visit to D’Souza. Pratap Narayan is a very aristocratic and high-in-the-instep Brahmin zamindar (you can judge his elevated position by the sheer number of en-chandeliered ceilings in his haveli). He cannot condone his son visiting a lowly Christian, especially one who married a child widow, and then converted to Christianity!
Deepak ignores his father’s strictures and continues to fraternise with the D’Souzas. He and Asha exchange childhood memories and take romantic buggy rides. Before D’Souza breathes his last, Deepak makes him a death-bed promise to take care of Asha. Deepak then proceeds to get married to her, in full view of the village! Pratap Narayan is enraged, and threatens to disinherit Deepak unless he renounces his bride. Our hero chooses to break the ties of blood, rather than be separated from Asha and her dimples…
So, Deepak and Asha leave the village in search of a job and a new home. In the train, they run into a rich businessman Rasiklal (Utpal Dutt) who wants to endow a clinic in his village. He is overjoyed to find in Deepak, a doctor on the lookout for a village post. It is a match made in heaven! Asha and Deepak take over Rasiklal’s village dispensary and spend some quality cute-time billing and cooing – he in his stethoscope (and clothes!) and she in her nurse’s uniform.
All is right with the world, until Asha gets pregnant. Yes, they have to pay dearly for their early marital happiness. When Asha is battling with a difficult child-birth, Deepak is across the village taking care of a patient. By the time he returns home, he is a proud father of a baby boy and a bereaved widower. For a filmi character, he takes this in very good part, never once blaming his son for his beloved wife’s death! Instead, he takes the villagers’ help to take care of his son, Prakash, and carries on with his medical practice. When Prakash is a few months old, Deepak’s old nurse/nanny/family retainer Girdhari (Asit Sen) shows up, urging him to reconcile with his father. Girdhari has long been urging Deepak to do this, even when Asha was alive, and Deepak always refused. But this time, he agrees to hand over his son to be brought up in the haveli. He has but one condition – Pratap Narayan should never know that Prakash is his own flesh and blood.
Pratap Narayan is told that Girdhari has adopted an orphan. He grudgingly permits said orphan into the haveli when assured that the child is from a good Brahmin family. Soon, of course, Prakash has his grandfather wrapped around his little finger. His orphan-ness is speedily forgotten as he becomes Pratap Narayan’s de-facto grandson, without Pratap Narayan knowing that he is his grandson! Prakash grows up to be (of course) another doctor, and also Rakesh Roshan. Grown up Prakash is sent abroad for medical studies, according to the prevailing traditions in chandelier-owning classes.
On returning from vilaayat, Prakash joins the R&D Department of a multinational company - needless to say, he does his research in a chemistry lab! Both his grandpa and his father are disappointed that he wont practise medicine, but only his father decides to express his disapproval. Deepak descends upon his son to berate him for his decision. Prakash is very puzzled that a stranger feels so strongly about his career choices! Deepak calms down and the two then have a doctor-to-doctor chat. The upshot of this chat is that Prakash agrees to visit Deepak at home.
In Prakash’s city, Deepak’s “at home” is with his employer Rasiklal. Rasiklal’s sassy daughter, Kiran (Moushumi Chatterji), has known Prakash since college and has long nursed a crush on him. So when Prakash visits their house to meet Deepak, she loses no time in pressing her suit. Dr. Prakash firmly refuses all romantic overtures, but soon succumbs to her charms – as any right minded man ought to. Deepak is delighted by their budding romance, but Pratap Narayan is made of sterner stuff. He forbids the marriage on the grounds that Kiran is not a Brahmin.
What will happen to Kiran and Prakash’s romance? Will Prakash ever find out that he was an orphan adopted by Pratap Narayan? Will the two ever find out who Prakash’s real parents were? Will Rakesh-Moushumi get any cuter? Will there be more melodrama? Do you really need an answer to any of that?
Its such a sweet film, with exactly the right mix of melodrama, romance, humor and 'family values'. Oh! I forgot the scenery chewing. Uttam Kumar should definitely get a prize for the amount of scenery he managed to gobble up so brazenly. Nobody who’s seen the Mahanayak (‘great actor’ - Uttam Kumar’s sobriquet in Bengali Cinema) in action would believe he had it in him! The rest of the cast also looked like they were having fun – especially Sharmila, whose dimples kept flashing.
Nosing around on youtube, I discovered that this film was simultaneously released in Bengali, too. And from the lip sync, it seems like the Bengali version is not a dubbing but was probably shot at the same time. The best part is that the Bengali version on youtube has scenes that were inexplicably missing from my copy! So I was able to patch up some of the missing links in my copy. Take that Moserbaer!

15 comments:

  1. Haven't seen this movie although have enjoyed the song "Saara pyaar tumahara meine baandh liya hai aanchal mein"

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  2. I've never seen this - probably because a bulging-tummy Uttam Kumar didn't appeal to me! (especially after I'd seen him looking gorgeous in Chhoti si Mulaqat) But oh, this sounds so good. I'm sure seventymm have this in their rental catalogue; I'm off to order it right now!

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  3. Filmbuff, you should watch it! Its a really sweet film.

    dustedoff, Uttam Kumar is really not the best thing about the film. His acting is pretty bad and he does look way past his prime. But I love him too much to hold that against him! ;-) Besides, the film is so much fun and sweet by turns, that ageing-Uttam Kumar cant spoil my fun! Do watch it - I'd love to see your comments on it.

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  4. Oh, Sharmila is just too cute in this. And Rakesh looks extremely swashbuckling; I kept on expecting him to pull out a fencing foil instead of a stethoscope!

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  5. I love Saara pyaar tumhara . It sounds good. Will pick it up soon and watch it.

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  6. Hey does Sharmila's bag change colours from the 1st to the 2nd screencap?

    I remember watching this movie in my tender childhood and remember being extremely sad that Sharmila dies...I still remember that feeling every time I listen to 'sara pyaar tumhara...'. Yeah, children can be silly and childhood memories have a way of lingering! As if that wasn't enough, to top that I also remember feeling a sense of betrayal when I heard 'palkon ke peeche se kya tumne keh dala', which was playing on the TV soon after this movie was screened and saw a happy and frolicking Sharmila dancing around when I was still mourning her death!

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  7. ajnabi, you're perfectly right - he does look swashbuckling! I wonder if he ever did any sword fights... Hrithik sure got the right Roshan genes! :-)

    sunheriyaadein, I hope you'll like it as much as I do! :-)

    Ruchi, Bollywood continuity or lack of it never ceases to surprise me (how did I never notice these things before?!). Sharmila gets out of the boat and goes home - and not only does her bag change color, her hair is styled differently too!

    Sharmila dying is really an event that must be properly mourned - but surely not so long?! ;-)

    Childhood memories can be so powerful sometimes! The one romantic song that makes me feel sad is Jhil mil sitaron ka aangan hoga. Its from Jeevan Mrityu - a movie based on The Count of Monte Cristo. I remembered the song when I read the early happy part of the book - and just knowing that the young lovers would be parted for ever, makes me feel so sad when I hear the song!

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  8. I am with you on 'Jhil mil sitaron ka'! I have the same feeling when I hear it and also because of 'The Count of Monte Cristo'. I haven't even seen 'Jeevan Mrityu'...maybe I need to see the movie to cure myself!

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  9. Watching Jeevan Mrityu did not cure me! I know Mercedes and Edmund get parted for good in the book, and even though Dharam-Raakhee end up together in a happily-ever-after, it still does not take away Edmund-Mercedes's sad end from my mind. I guess there is no cure for childhood memories, short of amnesia!

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  10. I somehow don't remember this film as a good one. And somehow I remember the part only till Uttam-Sharmila marriage. I just can't remember Rakehs Roshan and Moushmi and Ashok Kumar. The only part I remember well is the delivery scene. Maybe we were in Bangalore at that time and had 'electricity cut' on that day.
    The songs are good.

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  11. And not to forget Uttam Kumar's smile. It is simply irresistable and makes you forget paunch and all, just like the case is with Sanjeev Kumar

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  12. Thanks for writing about "Anand Ashram". Bollyviewer. I always mix-up this film with the other Sharmila-Uttam movie from the same period - Amanush. The films don't seem to have made much of an impression on me, but I love the songs of both. Wish Shyamal Mitra had composed for more Hindi films.

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  13. harvey, you should see this! The Rakesh-Moushumi track is the best part of the film - so sweet and such fun.

    Much as I love Uttam Kumar, I must admit that his smile doesnt make me forget his age - merely makes me overlook it. Ditto for Sanjeev Kumar.

    Shalini, I havent seen Amanush, but from the synopsis it sounds like a very painful film - nothing at all like this. I do love Dil aisa kisi ne mera toda, but I havent been tempted to watch the film for it. Seems like Uttam Kumar's Hindi ventures were all with Sharmila (Chhoti Si Mulaqat excepted)!

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  14. Don't know if you are checking ur blog - just wanted to let you know that I finally saw Anand Ashram last weekend.

    I agree Mosar Baer cutting scenes esp the song scenes. You are lucky to see the bengali version to patch up the bits.

    AA was okay. It had all my fav actors too but some how the idea of Ashok Kumar objecting to his son meeting and marrying some one outside the caste in 1977 (movie was released then) seemed to be outdated. The premise must have been more acceptable in the 50s. This bit reminded me of Satyakam.

    I think Amanush was a much better movie. I would really recommend you see Amanush. That is the movie that made me an Uttam Kumar fan.

    BTW, what is wrong with Uttam's teeth? I am referring to your hilarious screen caps.

    Also, I could figure out your blog header after seeing Moushami and Rakesh Roshan at the lab!

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  15. Filmbuff, I've been away from this blog way too long, but I am back now!

    I don't think Ashok Kumar objecting to his son marrying outside the caste was outdated in the 70s. I still have plenty of friends whose parents object to their inter-caste marriages and the objections seem to come way more strongly from Brahmin parents. Ashok Kumar is shown to be a high-caste Brahmin, so him objecting to his son marrying outside the caste seems quite realistic.

    Amanush is on my to-watch list and I will get to it soon. Uttam Kumar never was a favorite of mine when I saw him only in Hindi films - his Hindi is terrible and it detracts considerably from his charisma. It's only when I saw his Bengali films that I became a big fan! And his teeth are perfectly fine - now that he's been to the dentists'. ;D

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