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09 November 2015

Anamika (1973)

Directed by: Raghunath Jhalani
Music: RD urman
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
Starring: Sanjeev Kumar, Jaya Bhaduri, 
AK Hangal, Iftekhar, Rajesh Behl,  
Asrani, Helen
Anamika is a film that I haven't revisited ever since I watched it on Doordarshan so many years ago. The other day, I was listening to Baahon mein chale aao while driving my son to ballet, and it occurred to me that I had quite liked the film then. All I remembered of it is that Jaya Bhaduri's character is not quite what she appears to be, which is the reason for the Meri bheegi bheegi si song. (And for some odd reason, a snatch of dialogue - Prasad ko na nahin kehte.) Time for a rewatch then, especially when I wasn't in the mood for a film into which I had to invest my total concentration. I hadn't realised that Anamika was quite a well-made film that combined romance and suspense. It also helped that the protagonists were Sanjeev Kumar and Jaya Bhaduri, both house favourites, from whom I can reasonably expect a certain level of natural acting.

The film begins with Devendra Dutt (Sanjeev Kumar) attending a function to felicitate him. He's a writer, whose essays and novels are quite popular among the youngsters as well. The evening begins well as he begins his speech by saying he has no intention of boring anyone, so after a quick 'thank you' for the honour bestowed upon him, he throws the floor open for an interactive Q&A session. This is when things begin to get sticky. After the initial innocuous questions about his novels, a young woman stands up to ask him why his women protagonists are all painted such shades of black - they are always manipulative, selfish, unfaithful and so on. 
Visibly disturbed, Dev however answers that his portrayal of women is coloured by his own experience. That leads to the wags in the audience asking some very personal questions. Dev is furious at this intrusion into his personal life, and cuts short the function. 

On their way back home, a car overtakes them and suddenly, its back door opens. Someone falls out right in front of his car. Dev slams on the brakes and he, his uncle (AK Hangal) and secretary, Hanuman (Asrani) get out to take a look. The car that overtook them has come to a screeching halt, however, and two men get out – they pause at the sight of the three men, run back to their car, and make a quick getaway.

It is a young woman, bound and gagged; she is also wounded. Hanuman sounds a note of caution - it is all very mysterious, and he think there's something crooked about the matter.
Dev concurs. He tells his chachaji that the men they saw look like thugs; he will go inform the police, while chachaji and Hanuman wait with the woman. But chachaji wants to take her home she appears to be from a good family – and get her some medical attention. Does Dev hate women so much that he’s forgotten common humanity? 
Reluctantly, Dev agrees, and even calls the family doctor to come and take a look at her. Dr Irshad (Iftekhar) is reassuring. She’s only scratched a little bit and the wound on her head is also not serious. So why is she unconscious? asks the concerned chachaji. Probably from the trauma, says Dr Irshad. He’s sedated her so she will have a quiet night.

Much to Dev's consternation, however, the next morning he wakes up to see the mystery woman bringing in his tea. She is remarkably cheerful and says she felt like drinking her morning tea with him. Dev's face is a sight.
When he tries to make some sense of what’s happening, the young woman breaks down and accuses him of ‘always’ misunderstanding her.  Eh, what? says Dev. Well, is this any way to treat your wife? she asks him. Dev is flabbergasted – what wife? Whose wife?
Doesn’t she remember anything at all about the previous night? Someone had thrown her out of a car? The young woman is in no mood to listen. Why does he always tease her? she demands? Last night, she fell down the stairs, and here he’s insisting she was thrown out of a car! Really! All this sounds good in his novels, she tells him huffily, not in real life.
The young woman continues with the drama when chachaji shows up, much to Dev's discomfiture. Unable to convince the young lady, he drags his chachaji off telling him that this was why he had said she should be handed over to the police. Uncle is discomfited as well. He’d had only good intentions. Handing a young woman to the police would not only spoil her reputation but also her family’s honour. He’d assumed that in the morning, she would regain consciousness and they could send her home.
Dev is not very amenable at this point. This is what happens when you set out to help someone - they hang on to you for dear life. Now he has a ‘wife’!

As he waits impatiently for chachaji to take the doctor along and go to the police, the young lady seems to have wiled her way into his niece’s heart. That is just the beginning. Later, as he goes into his room to shower, he gets even more angry – she’s in the bathroom. What’s more, she comes out wearing his clothes. 
Why? Because he’s thrown all her clothes out, she says. Dev gets even more irritated. And upset. And yes, even a little worried.

When chachaji returns with Dr Irshad, the latter asks her her name. 'Mrs Devendra Dutt', she replies. Yes, but what's her first name? She cannot answer. How old is she? She cannot remember. Where are her parents? Where did she get married? The young woman is distressed. Didn’t the doctor come to their wedding? No, because Dev hasn’t been married at all. The young woman takes umbrage at that. Lies! she exclaims. She is married to Dev. Her very real distress unnerves the doctor.

When the inspector puts in an appearance, Dr Irshad tells him that it is possible that the young woman’s trauma has led to temporary amnesia. But why does she claim to be Dev's wife? asks the perplexed inspector. Because, interjects Hanuman, hundreds of girls and young women write fan mail to Dev, proposing marriage, even talking about how they are related to him janm-janmantar.
While Dr Irshad thinks it is a case of wish fulfilment, Dev is sure that she just wants to defraud them. It is better to hand her over to the police, he tells the inspector, but just then, they hear her singing a deeply devotional song, like a good Indian wife. Everyone, including the inspector, is impressed. Not Dev, however, who just wants to get rid of her and the resultant turmoil. He looks like he could cheerfully strangle her.
Dr Irshad is of the opinion that her mental state is too delicate to withstand being thrown out of the house. And since chachaji agrees with his friend, Dev, outnumbered, gives in.

The mystery continues to deepen – it is clear that the young woman is afraid of something or someone. Who, she cannot or will not say. But when she's rejected by Dev once too often, she breaks down - why does Dev hate her so? 
Chachaji consoles her. Dev has had a terrible time, he tells her – there had been a girl, Sapna, whom Dev had loved very much. (Oh, did he love someone else before he married me, interrupts the young woman.) After a few years, without telling Dev, she left him to marry someone else. This is why Dev hates women, distrusts them.

Slowly, the young woman winds her way into their hearts. Not Dev’s, though she makes no bones about her attraction towards him. She comes into his room when there's a thunderstorm, claiming to be frightened, throws herself – literally – into his arms, until finally, furious beyond belief, D throws her out of his room, telling her that neither he, nor anyone else in the house has any relation to her.

The next morning Dev gets a lecture from Dr Irshad. The young woman had been so traumatised by his behaviour towards her that she had been unconscious the whole night. Does he want her to go mad? He advises Dev to keep her from any further trauma. It turns out that Dev has a conscience. And that it’s all a scheme dreamt up between his uncle and Dr Irshad to keep Dev from lashing out at the young woman. 

Chachaji is very pleased at their little ploy; Dev is at least conscious of the young woman's health now, and even has a name for her – Anamika (‘the nameless one’).  Unbeknownst to himself, he’s also becoming very conscious of the young woman catching her playing in the rain with his niece for instance, renders him seemingly incapable of reading a book properly, much to his own consternation.
Anamika comes in drenched, and not knowing he is in the room, begins to change – as well as make her opinion of Dev very clear. (It is equally clear that D is beginning to find his ‘wife’ very attractive indeed.) He gets her saris (claiming she should stop wearing his clothes), is not very receptive to his uncle’s advice that they hand her to the police – after all how long can they keep her? – is milder in his approach to her, draws the bedclothes over her as she sleeps, even finds himself kissing her hand…
It is even clearer that Anamika wants Dev. ‘Wants’. Because she demands her rights as his ‘wife’. And when that doesn’t work, tries to seduce him, exhorting him to ‘take her in his arms’. Dev doesn’t know whether to be exasperated, or anxious in case anyone wakes up, or amused at her persistence.
The next morning, Dev has a visitor. Naresh (Rajesh Behl), the son of Dev's publisher, Daulat Ram. Naresh has come with copies of Dev's latest novel, Anamika, and a royalty cheque. It is at this moment that ‘Anamika’ walks in with tea, and Naresh clearly knows her. 
Anamika, however, shows no recognition. Naresh disclaims all knowledge of her as well; he claims he’s just curious  – a young woman, in Dev's house?  Dev doesn’t elaborate. 
That night, someone tries to abduct Anamika, but is foiled by some quick thinking on Anamika’s part, and some intrepid action on Dev’s. Chachaji uses this as an excuse for some match making. Why not take Anamika to Simla? He can't leave himself because his granddaughter has her exams, but Dev could take Anamika, couldn’t he? Having thus cleverly ensured that they would be alone in Simla, chachaji is satisfied.
Dev and Anamika reach Simla and spend some fun times together. ‘Fun’ because Anamika gets D almost beaten up before she ‘rescues’ him from it. Anamika can certainly act very well.  
Dev is beginning to fall in love with this buoyant, flirtatious young woman who came so unexpectedly into his life, when things begin to fall apart.  
His enquiries lead him to Hotel Oberoi Clarkes, and to a desk clerk who identifies Anamika as a ‘Mrs Malhotra’. A shaken Dev gets the address from the helpful clerk and leaves. He cuts short their sojourn in Simla and returns to Bombay. Here, he pursues the matter. What he learns leaves him disturbed and anguished, and with a further clue to help him unravel this mystery. 
All he learns just heightens his disgust and his anger. And his uncle, though shaken himself, is not fully convinced at the truth of these allegations. Anamika tries to explain, but his reaction stuns her.
Forcibly evicted, she leaves quietly, and jumps straight from the frying pan into the fire.
Meanwhile, Dev is both angry and distraught. Nothing is the same without Anamika, and he can neither forgive her deceit nor forget her. His writing is also suffering because he’s lost in thoughts of her. It is at this time that they get fresh news of Anamika. His chachaji had always been sure that Anamika could not be as bad as she was made out to be – now, he’s even more certain, and if Dev cannot go to Delhi to discover the truth, he will.
Reluctantly, Dev leaves for Delhi, where he has to attend the 25th anniversary of his publishers as well. He’s fortunate to run into Anamika again, but unfortunately she refuses to recognise him. And oh, she’s not Anamika. She’s Mrs Kashyap. Mrs Archana Kashyap. The new owner of the publishing firm.
Who is she really? Dev’s Anamika? Ruby’s Kanchan? Or Archana Kashyap, the daughter of a respected social activist and present owner of a publishing house?

And what does Naresh have to do with all this?  
Anamika keeps the suspense going without letting it lapse. It is not just Dev who is kept guessing, it is we, the viewers. Who is this strange young woman, and what does she want? 

It really, really helps that the leads are played by Sanjeev Kumar and Jaya Bhaduri. Friends in real life, and co-stars in innumerable films, their camaraderie and comfort with each other is evident in all their scenes together.
Both natural actors, they made even their confrontation scenes look believable, keeping their emotions on an even keen, with not a tinge of melodrama. We certainly expect something more cerebral than mere 'masala' from these two actors, and they deliver wholeheartedly. The sparks that fly between them as they spar on screen can only come from actors who are supremely confident of themselves and each other. Both Dev and Anamika are fully fleshed-out characters, much more than the usual one-dimensional cardboard cutouts we are used to getting. 
As a heroine, there is much more for Jaya to do than look pretty and lip-sync the required romantic duets and sad solos. It is an author-backed role for her as the titular Anamika, and Jaya eats it up with a grin. She is at once a damsel in distress and a flirtatious wife who cannot understand why her 'husband' insists on disowning her; a mystery woman who has a past, and a young wife who seems keen on living life as she finds it; a woman who make the most of the opportunities that life offers her, and one with a past that she divulges without offering proof of her truth. 
She is clear that she loves and desires Dev, and her 'seduction' number is a delightful mix of innocence and playfulness. Anamika is certainly not what she appears to be, and in Jaya's depiction of her, there's a roguish delight in her twinkling eyes and million-watt smile as well as a certain amount of womanly guile. Her Anamika is at once strong and vulnerable, and Jaya's mobile features bring out both aspects with ease.  Here, her chulbuli-ness is not an irritant as it was in the initial scenes of Mili. She is incredibly self-restrained, and while one can see the laughter bubbling under the surface of the fun-loving Anamika, one also senses the vulnerability that she tries so hard to hide.
Later, when Anamika is confronted with her past, and Dev demands to know her truth - if he has the 'right' to ask, he says - she bursts out that all 'rights' in a relationship seem to belong to men. She even castigates him: 'Jeevan mein ek ladki ne dhoka kya diya, saari aurat jaati se nafrat karne ka haq mil gaya aapko!' But she explains, and she does so in a very matter-of-fact manner, offering no proof, just her tear-filled eyes hoping he will believe her, wanting so much for him to believe her after all. It is a very contained performance, and it reminds me why I like Jaya Bhaduri so much.
Sanjeev Kumar plays the perfect counterfoil to his chirpy co-star. His Dev, weighed down by what he sees as his girlfriend's betrayal, is in no mood to welcome another woman into his life, however attractive - and attracted to him - she might be. His frustration at her entering his life and staying there, his slow thawing towards her clearly-expressed love for him, his hurt and anger at what he sees as her betrayal - they all come alive in a restrained performance by Sanjeev Kumar. When he eventually confronts her, the anger disappears, leaving only his love for her behind - a love that wants to believe in her innocence, the innocence that his uncle insists is there behind her ill-repute. The dialogues are taut, and especially in the scenes between Dev and Anamika, they crackle with electricity.
AK Hangal had a very-unlike Hangal role. I'd always thought of him as the male version of Leela Chitnis or Nirupa Roy, always moaning about on screen. Here, he is the avuncular chachaji, but short though it is, he had a finely-etched role as the uncle who dotes on his nephew and wants only the best for him. He and Iftekhar (in a non-Iftekhar role - he wasn't a police officer here) have some nice scenes written for them, and they play them to the hilt. Especially, the scenes where they are plotting against Dev. In a delightful twist, Iftekhar (playing the Muslim, Irshad) insists on calling Hangal (playing Shiv Prasad, a Hindu) 'Maulana' while the latter calls him 'Pundit'. There is no effort made to explain this idiosyncrasy, and that is why the conceit works so well. 
The songs. How can I forget the songs? Except for the song picturised on Helen, which I suspect was there only so there could be a song picturised on Helen, all other songs fit very well into the narrative. This was the only one which seemed forced.

Baahon mein chale aao is one of my perennial favourites, and Jaya does a wonderful job lip-syncing it on screen. The mischief in Lata's voice complements that in Jaya's eyes, and thus, it becomes one of the songs that are wonderful both heard, and watched. Meri bheegi bheegi si is perhaps the most well-known number, with Kishore pouring on the angst of a betrayed heart. It works well in context. The odd-bodkin is  Logon na maaron ise... by Asha Bhosle. 
A very mischievous number, and one that is aptly enacted by Jaya who 'rescues' her lover from a mob she's just sent after him. Once again, it was a perfect combination of an expressive voice being complemented by an expressive actress, both chanteuse and actress in perfect control of their craft.  

Jaaoon toh kahan jaaoon is an Asha bhajan. I don't have much to say for or against it - it's pleasant song. To me, it's one of those 'take it or leave it' numbers. The one song I could have done without is the Helen song, Aaj ki raat, that I mentioned earlier. Not because the song itself is 'bad', but because it was so evidently shoehorned into the film. This was a case of creating a situation because you felt the need for such a song. But that is a small peeve in a film that was so different from the usual offerings of the period. 

What could I have absolutely done without? Some totally unnecessary scenes with Hanuman and his penchant to day-dream about any woman who crosses his path. If they had been cut, this film would have been much better than it already is. Don't let that stop you from discovering (or re-watching) this film, however. 

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