Babu moshai, Zindagi badi honi chahiye, lambi nahin (Life should be big, not long)
– Rajesh Khanna’s character Anand in the Hindi film Anand
Anand came out in early 1971, when Rajesh Khanna (born Jatin Khanna) was at the height of his popularity.
Aaradhana, released two years before and in which the star played dual roles, was a blockbuster hit.
Young Indian Romeos upon espying pretty girls started humming Mere Sapnon Ki Rani or Roop Tera Mastana, two fine songs from Aaradhana.
Fans thronged outside Rajesh Khanna’s home, mobbed his shooting locations in a frenzy and crowded any place he happened to be visiting.
Indian girls went crazy over the handsome star, many desperately longing to be the 28-year-old bachelor-boy’s wife.
The demented ones among them resorted to penning frantic love letters with their blood in hopes of attracting his attention.
During a vacation trip to my grandparents’ home in the 1970s, I remember reading in an old issue of the Illustrated Weekly that on the day of Rajesh Khanna’s marriage to Bobby girl Dimple Kapadia, 10,000 girls in India were so dejected that they wanted to commit suicide.
And if reports are to be believed, some actually did.
Well, India has never been short of crazies among the distaff sex.
Rajesh Khanna – First Indian Superstar
Such was Rajesh Khanna’s unrivaled sway over the Indian youth in the early 1970s.
The Indian movie industry had never encountered a fan frenzy like this before.
Before Rajesh Khanna, Indians had seen several famous Hindi film stars (Raj Kapoor, Ashok Kumar, Dev Anand, Shammi Kapoor, Joy Mukherji etc) and even a ‘silver jubilee’ star (Rajendra Kumar) but not a single superstar.
Rajesh Khanna was India’s first superstar.
A title he held until a fickle audience turned their back on him and Lady Luck conspired against him.
By the late 1970s, Rajesh Khanna’s co-star in Anand Amitabh Bachchan had became the new darling of the masses and proudly wore the crown of Superstar.
Anand – Rajesh Khanna’s Finest Hour
In a long career with over 160 films, Rajesh Khanna played several memorable roles and enjoyed many hits.
But more than any other role the actor will be remembered for playing the ebullient character of a terminal cancer patient Anand in the eponymous film with extraordinary elan.
Ably directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee, with amusing dialogs by Gulzar and lifting music from Salil Chowdhury, Anand is that rare Hindi film gem.
Like Bollywood films of today, most Hindi films in the 1960s and 1970s too were unwatchable drivel.
Anand, however, was an exception to the rule and turned out to be an eminently watchable film.
As with other great films, the passage of time has done little to diminish the charm of Anand.
From the moment he rushes into the room of Dr.Prakash Kulkarni (Ramesh Deo) in the nursing home, Rajesh Khanna’s Anand owns the film.
A few moments later, Anand, addressing another doctor in the room Dr.Bhaskar Banerji, utters the word Babu-Moshai that has since become inseparable from him.
Anand is all about Anand.
Even in the frames Anand is not on the screen, the discussion is centered on him.
The other characters (the two doctors, Suman and Renu, the Matron) merely happen to be in Anand’s orbit.
There are no surprises in the film.
Almost right from the onset, we know the principal character Anand has incurable lymphosarcoma (cancer) of the intestine.
The main character Anand too knows that he has but a few months left but he’s determined to live life to the fullest till the end, bringing joy to those around him.
Amitabh Bachchan plays a grim cancer specialist Dr.Bhaskar Banerji, an antipodal character to the cheerful, talkative Anand.
Cynical and fearful of expressing his love to a girl he admires, Bhaskar Banerji is in utter contrast to the ever-smiling Anand.
Before long, Anand shifts from the nursing home into Bhaskar’s home and inveigles himself into his host’s heart. Soon, Anand enables sunshine to flood into Bhaskar’s life by settling his marriage with Renu, a former patient the doctor is fond of.
If there’s any suspense at all in the movie it’s the question of when death, forever hovering in the background, will lay its ghastly hand on Anand.
And death does strike at the end but with none of the ugly melodramatics common to most Indian movie tragedies, where the dying are often seen coughing incessantly and spitting blood accompanied by loud shrieks from family members.
The only jarring note in Anand was when director Hrishikesh Mukherjee has Renu drop the pallu of her sari and display her cleavage.
That scene was wholly unnecessary but I’m not really complaining. 😉
It was a peerless, viruouso performance by Rajesh Khanna.
Perhaps, Rajesh Khanna realized that Anand would be his defining movie.
And he appears to have given Anand his all.
To this day, when Kaka, as Rajesh Khanna is fondly known, utters the word Babu-Moshai, fans feel goose bumps.
Amitabh Bachchan’s performance in Anand pales in comparison.
It’s a testament to director Hrishikiesh Mukherjee’s rich talent and Gulzar’s fine dialogs that they weave a fine vein of humor in Anand without coarsening the underlying tragic element running throughout the movie.
Anand’s tendency to strike up conversations with strangers through the ‘Murarilal’ tactic is hilarious, more so when one of the strangers turns the tables on him.
Apart from directing the film, Hrishikesh Mukherjee also took on the responsibility of writing the story and editing the film.
Anand – Great Music
Besides Rajesh Khanna’s sterling performance, the other big draw of Anand was the music.
More than four decades after the movie’s release, the four songs from Anand continue to strike a chord with listeners.
Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli (Manna Dey), Kahin Door Jab Din Dhal Jaaye (Mukesh), Maine Tere Liye Hi Saat Rang Ke Sapne (Mukesh) and Na Jiyaa Lage Na (Lata Mangheshkar) delight connoisseurs of Hindi film music today as much s they did in 1971.
The combined viewership of the four Anand songs on YouTube exceeds several million.
My favorite song in Anand has always remained Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli, followed by Kahin Door Jab Din Dhal Jaaye.
Anand is a lovely Hindi film and your favorite blog SearchIndia.com cannot recommend it strongly enough.
Anand is available in the U.S. via the Indian movie streaming service Mela.