Millennials Review Classics: Rajesh Khanna Says YOLO in ‘Anand’
Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan share a strong friendship in <i>Anand</i>. (Photo: The Quint)
Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan share a strong friendship in Anand. (Photo: The Quint)

Millennials Review Classics: Rajesh Khanna Says YOLO in ‘Anand’

Yes, that’s what the film is all about, the fact that you only live once (YOLO) so live it happily. Before I start, I must admit the first movie I most prominently remember of Mr Bachchan is Kabhie Khushi Kabhi Gham, whilst I don’t remember seeing any of Rajesh Khanna’s films. That part of the generation may be laughing at my coy ambiguity but it’s a fact that precisely explains my tiny hits and misses with films of the past era as expected out of a millennial.

Philosophy and optimism in the background of some of life’s succumbing moments; that’s how I related to the Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan starrer, Anand. I almost fell in love with Rajesh Khanna’s sanguine character and his charismatic demeanour until it got a little too constant towards the end. How could that man be so positive in the face of death? After a point, it annoyed me a bit, to be honest.

When Rajesh Khanna passed away in 2012, I recall him being called the ‘original superstar’ before Bachchan’s rise in the 70s. After watching the duo in Anand, I happened to second that claim. His controlled approach to the dark shades of Anand had me intrigued. Directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee, the 1971 film known for its magnanimity in terms of cast and larger than life story line is filled with morals and values. It almost seemed like a lesson about death, pain and life minus the sheesha and chills of today.

The Plot

The story is one that’s common in Bollywood. A debilitating illness, too many people attached to you and a confusion between life and death.

An oncologist genuinely having his heart pining for humanitarian causes and trying to make a living vouching for all the ‘medical promises’, Amitabh Bachchan aka Dr Bhaskar plays a stern man.

Suffering from a rare kind of debilitating cancer called lymphosarcoma of the intestine, Anand knows about his life being at stake for the next three months. Dr Bhaskar on the other hand is quite pessimistic about his profession as he is unable to fight the fatalities of a patient’s critical condition and death.

Life changes for Bhaskar as he starts smiling and laughing again when Rajesh Khanna aka Anand enters and makes him his Babu Moshai. I love the way Rajesh Khanna says that, somehow the term stuck to my head and I secretly imagined what it would be like, if that were supplemented by ‘dude’.

All said and done, this cancer plot seemed less dramatic and more relatable than Karan Johar’s Kal Ho Na Ho or Ae Dil Hai Mushkil where cancer is treated like a point to add drama more than sense to the story.

Yeh Dosti... So Realistic

There was no excessive pounding out of the illness. Rajesh Khanna perfectly underplayed his character with ease and that was a relief. At least there was no sudden hair loss within hardly a few days like Anushka’s character in Ae DIl Hai Mushkil. I found it appealing that contrary to the present day fascination with love stories, the film hardly had any romantic angle to it and yet did so well.

At no point did I feel bored with all the philosophy. On the contrary, the friendship shown between two male characters came across as so realistic, pleasant and non-gay. Towards the end, I wondered what would happen if Anand had a mobile phone to call Bhaskar before he breathed his last.

Lesser drama and more meaning, that’s how Rajesh Khanna played the role with ease and skill. (Photo: Altered by The Quint)
Lesser drama and more meaning, that’s how Rajesh Khanna played the role with ease and skill. (Photo: Altered by The Quint)

The Magic of Gulzar

I had heard a lot about the legendary Gulzar sahab for having penned some memorable lyrics and dialogues.

When Rajesh Khanna said “Udaasi khoobsurat nahi hoti hai Babu Moshai?”, I believe Gulzar raised a huge question, that we constantly battle to answer.

Without a doubt, every dialogue seemed worthy of being shared as a quotable quote on Facebook. Intense, meaningful and pregnant with deep thought, my favourite one was this.

Keep It Simple Silly

If Anand was a film in the 21st century, the song Zindagi Kaise Hai Paheli... would probably be filmed in different locations with a thousand of edits. For me, to see a single shot of Rajesh Khanna in the same frame was a relief. It was better than the kind of edits we see now. Simple fade ins and fade outs made the film easily progress from one situation to another. I also loved the way the film began with a scene where Bhaskar writes a book for Anand and the flashback kicks in with the simple tool of a voice over.

Slow But Memorable Music

Every song is perfect for a video based on one’s life experiences, but I found them a tad too slow. Whilst Maine Tere Liye... sounds like the Channa Mereya... of the past, Kahin Door Jab... gave me a heady feeling with its intense lyrics. My favorite was Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli Haye... it reminded me of every Maths problem I ever struggled and solved and the imaginative phase post break-up where suddenly the beach is your soulmate or when you don’t get the right emoji to express your feelings.

The narrative could have been faster. As the film progresses into its first hour, it turns slow and I gradually felt bugged about the fact that the story took so long to get to the point. I get that people started falling in love with Anand but after a point, it just got too long. But all throughout, what I enjoyed was the consistent idea of an ailing man set out to live his life with full zest and vigour, regardless of his fatal illness.

Overall, Anand had me awed by the fact that one could express so much with the eyes, gestures and simple emotions. Minus the complicated sounds in the background, the film had me in tears towards the end. The iconic last shot of Anand was indeed a perfect amalgamation of brotherly love and a greater part of life’s sensibilities. My dreamy Bollywood self was satiated when the tape recorder played Anand’s dialogue just in time.

For me, Anand was a life lesson on the joy of being impulsive in contrast to Bhaskar’s practicality. As Bhaskar serenaded memories of his dear friend towards the end, I swiftly wore the 21st century protective armour on myself. The armour that says “Bahut senti picture thi yaar par theek thi”.

(This story is from The Quint’s archives and is being republished to mark Rajesh Khanna’s death anniversary.)

(The Quint is now on WhatsApp. To receive handpicked stories on topics you care about, subscribe to our WhatsApp services. Just go to TheQuint.com/WhatsApp and hit the Subscribe button.)

Follow our Cinema section for more stories.

    Also Watch