Anupama (1966) – romance Hrishikesh Mukherjee style!

Google moves in mysterious ways, its wonders to perform. You ask for information on a new film, and before you know it, you are knee deep in photographs of your favourite B/W onscreen couples! One such search led me to pictures of young Dharam and Sharmila – one of my favourite onscreen pairs. They are both incredibly good looking, excellent actors, and have several great films together. Anupama (The Incomparable One) has long been a favourite of mine, and tops my list of Dharam-Sharmila films. I love well-done romances and they’re seldom as well done as this gentle coming-of-age story of a timid and shy young woman. And no wonder. When Hrishikesh Mukherjee gets together with the likes of Rajinder Singh Bedi, Kaifi Azmi and Hemanta Kumar, one can really look forward to quality cinema.
Once upon a time there was a very happy couple – Mohan Sharma (Tarun Bose) and his new bride Aruna (Surekha). They were very much in love with each other. As happens with deliriously happy couples in Bollyland, they are soon expecting a baby. Unfortunately, this happy event ends not-so-happily – complications during the delivery lead to Aruna’s death. Mohan, inconsolable in his grief, blames the baby, Uma, for his wife’s death.  He hates the little girl, and the poor child is brought up by Aruna’s nurse, Sarla (Dulari), virtually out of Mohan’s sight.
In his grief, Mohan becomes a workaholic by day and a drunk by night. While sober, he makes his dislike of Uma very plain, but in his drunken moments, he lavishes gifts and affection on her. With such a Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde for a father, its no wonder that Uma grows up to be a very withdrawn and timid young woman. She barely speaks and is terrified of most people.
The alcohol and work eventually take their toll and Mohan is advised to take a break from both. His friend Suresh Bakshi (Brahm Bharadwaj) invites him to Mahabaleshwar for rest and recuperation.  So Mohan temporarily moves to Mahabaleshwar with Uma and Sarla. There they stay with Suresh and his manically cheerful daughter Anita/Annie (Shashikala) in a huge mansion. Suresh, like Mohan, lost his wife soon after Annie was born. But the contrast between Annie and Uma couldn’t be greater. Annie has all the confidence and natural exuberance of a much loved child. Uma, on the other hand, has all the timidity and lack of self-esteem that comes of knowing herself unwanted and unloved.
To Mahabaleshwar also come Arun (Deven Varma), his friend Ashok (Dharmendra) and Ashok’s mother and sister. Arun is a vilaayat-returned engineer, and a son of Mohan’s late friend. Naturally, best friends always pledge to marry off their kids. And so, Uma is to be married off to Arun. Ashok is quite unlike his friend. He is a poor and idealistic teacher, struggling to support his vidhwa Maa (Durga Khote) and kunwari behen Gauri (Naina). And his father does not seem to have provided him with a betrothed at birth.
When the exuberant Annie meets Arun, she promptly invites him and his entourage to stay with them at their gigantic villa. This is where Uma’s life begins to change.

Ashok, the sensitive poet-writer, is soon drawn to the shy and quiet Uma. With gentle perseverance, he tries to bring her out of her shell. His Mom and sister also develop an attachment to Uma. She basks in the warmth of her first real friendship and begins to fall for Ashok (And who can blame her? He looks like Dharam and sings like Hemant Kumar!). Ashok pursues his acquaintance with Uma when they return from Mahabaleshwar (atta boy!), and succeeds in getting her to utter her first few words in the film! Cautiously, Uma begins to reach out to him and his loving family. Their blossoming romance is a joy to behold. Inspired by her, Ashok writes his novel Anupama – a book that will later determine the course of their relationship.

Ashok-Uma’s is not the only romance brewing. Arun is drawn to Annie – once he’s got over his initial shock at her manic cheerfulness! Annie is equally drawn to Arun. The cheerful and young-at-heart Uncle Moses (David), fosters their relationship and encourages them to plan for marriage. But Arun is promised to Uma! Try as he might, he can’t work up the courage to tell Uma’s intimidating father that he wants to marry Annie, instead.

What happens to these tangled relationships? Do Ashok-Uma and Arun-Annie find their happily-ever-after? Will Uma let go of a lifetime of striving for her father’s approval and strike out for her own happiness? Will Annie stop overdosing on her “be cheerful, be perky” tonic? I suggest you watch the film and find out yourself!

Its a lovely film with a beautiful story, satisfyingly well told – all the hallmarks of a good Hrishikesh Mukherjee film! The characters are very believable and the film depicts them all so sympathetically. The stunning black and white cinematography adds depth and feeling to the emotions swirling through the film. On a more frivolous note, there is so much pretty in the film. From the gorgeous lead pair to the lovely Shashikala and handsome Deven Varma – they are all so beautiful! Plus, it has the best music out of all of Hrishi da’s films. Check these out: Lata’s joyful Dheere dheere machal and lovely Kuchh dil ne kaha; the exuberant Asha numbers Bheegi bheegi fiza and Kyon mujhe itni khushi de di; and Hemant Kumar’s haunting Ya dil ki suno duniyawaalon.
Dharmendra is superb as the principled and sensitive writer. Not once does he go over the top. Even his “we are poor but happy” speech sounds sincere and heartfelt. His character is also very well written. I loved that though Ashok does his best to woo Uma and give her some faith in herself, he also gives her room to grow and make her own decisions.
Sharmila is equally good as the shy Uma. Uma barely speaks in the film. All of her emotions – her silent fear of her father, her striving for his approval, her growing satisfaction with Ashok’s affection (Sharmila makes full use of her dimples to convey half-smiles as only she can!) – are conveyed beautifully through Sharmila’s expressions and body language. I have just one gripe with Sharmila’s Uma – I wish she’d left off her bouffants as Hrishikesh Mukherjee apparently requested her to. The well-coiffed hair add a touch of glamour that detracts from Uma’s quiet and simple character!
Of the rest of the cast, I found Shashikala’s Annie rather grating. Her bubbly enthusiasm and cheerfulness was very, VERY overdone, especially since the rest of the cast put in a pretty understated performance. My favourite, apart from the leads, was David. He was adorable as the jocular and fun Uncle Moses, and had just the right mix of avuncular and friendly to make him the best confidante in matters of the heart!

22 Responses to Anupama (1966) – romance Hrishikesh Mukherjee style!

  1. ruchi says:

    Hey bollyviewer…you are back again! So great to see you again!

  2. Anu Warrier says:

    To state the obvious, you are back! 🙂

    Annie is an imitation of Sujata‘s Rama, the former being a lot more restrained. But Anupama was a great watch for all that, and I’ve always like Sharmila, bouffant or not. 🙂

    One small bone to pick: the best music of all of Hrishida’s films? What about Salilda’s score in Anand, hmm?

    • bollyviewer says:

      One small bone to pick
      Anu, must you pick on such small details? 😉 Sure, Anand had lovely music, and so did Anuradha and Anari, among others. But if I do exaggerate a bit, its under the influence of Dharam-Sharmila – they make me forget other films!

      By the way, just browse the list of Hrishikesh Mukherjee films. Seems to me that the most tuneful of his movies have names beginning with A – Ananri, Asli-Naqli, Aashiq, Anuradha, Anupama, Anand, Abhimaan.

  3. Shalini says:

    Yay! So good to have you back! How I’ve missed your witty, tongue-in-cheek captions – they always make me giggle.

    You picked a lovely movie to come back with. Ashok might quite possibly be my favorite male character in Hindi films.

    • bollyviewer says:

      Thank you Shalini. [Big grin] Its so nice to ‘see’ you, too!

      Ashok really is a great romantic hero, in the right sense, isn’t he? No heroics, and, more importantly, no machismo.

  4. dustedoff says:

    So glad to have you back, bollyviewer. 🙂 You and your brilliant captions (that chest hair one actually made me burst out laughing – thank goodness I wasn’t eating breakfast while reading this!). It’s been years since I watched Anupama, but your review makes me want to go off and look for it right now. That last scene, by the way, always makes me go a little weepy. Tarun Bose’s acting is wonderful there, and it’s done so subtly.

    • bollyviewer says:

      Dustedoff, your, “I am bored of the Lets make Pride & Prejudice in Hindi post” had a lot to with getting me back in action. 🙂 So thank you!

      It’s been years since I watched Anupama…
      You mean you don’t watch it at least once every few years?! 😉

      That last scene is very touching, and Tarun Bose plays it so well. Its entirely Mohan’s fault that he does not have a real relationship with his daughter, but I can’t help feeling sorry for him for losing out on it.

  5. Bollyviewer, it’s so great to see you posting again! And what a lovely review to inaugurate Masala Punch. Sharmila may have the bigger bouffant, but you’re the best–it’s wonderful to have you back.

  6. Filmbuff says:

    One of my favourite HR movies and I too am a big fan of the Dharam-sharmila Jodi – satyakam, anupama, mere humdum mere dost etc.

    Tarun Bose and Sharmila did a great job but handsome Dharam won my heart hands down apart from the music and lovely songs.

    I am glad some one else found Sashikala’s character grating.

    • bollyviewer says:

      Hrishikesh Mukherjee had a way of ramping up the cheerful in some of his films. Shashikala in this film, Rajesh Khanna in Anand, Rekha in Khubsoorat, to name a few. Speaking of Khubsoorat, it is apparently being remade with Sonam Kapoor in the lead. I wonder how it’ll turn out. Considering what happened to Chashme Buddoor, I do not have high expectations of this one.

  7. Filmbuff says:

    A re-make of khubsoorat will be a flop simply coz of changing times. The earlier one was set some time in early 80s? when family meant everything and simplistic stories centering around families became hits. HM’s speciality was paying attention to all characters and keeping to the storyline told in a simple yet effective way – i guess his earlier stint as an editor worked well for him as a director. I will not be surprised if the new version keeps harping on Sonam as a clothes horse and ignoring the nuances of other characters who add to the story. I think i saw the hindi version of Austen’s Emma with Sonam and Abhay Deol (mainly for Abhay coz I like this guy’s choice of roles), they made a hash of the story – forgetting the name – was it Aisha?

    • bollyviewer says:

      A well-done remake may still work. My fear is that a Khubsoorat remake won’t be a well made film at all. Have you seen Do Dooni Char (2010)? It has all the elements of a good Hrishikesh Mukherjee film, and was moderately successful, too, I think.

      The Emma adaptation was Aisha – and a very badly made film it was! Austen’s Emma was a spoilt young lady, but she was a real person, not a Paris-Hilton-with-a-heart-of-gold that showed up in Aisha!

  8. Filmbuff says:

    Yes Do Dooni Char was indeed a very good movie – had elements of HM & Basu Chatterjee movies. Habib Faisal is a good writer and movie maker – rooted. LoL at Paris Hilton comment! I recently watched Shahid supposed to be based on a true story of an activist – very good movie. The main guy who won a national award recently and a FTII graduate did very well indeed. He was also in Kai Po Che and the hero in Kangana Ranaut’s Queen. Kangana did a great job in Queen – did you see it ?

    • bollyviewer says:

      Shahid is on my to-watch list. It’s got good reviews and sounded like an interesting film. Rajkumar Rao, the lead actor, was pretty good in Kai Po Che, too. I did not realise he was a graduate of FTII. I am not fond of Kangana Ranaut, so haven’t yet seen Queen. The reviews suggest that it’s an interesting film, so I have put it on my to-watch list, too. Now I just have to locate these films and find time to watch them! 🙂

      • Filmbuff says:

        Pls do give Queen a chance, she has done really well and so have the supporting characters. The story and direction are good. Since you are now in Delhi I think it may be easier to find a DVD or even online. I haven’t seen Kai Po Che yet. I have a mile high pile of DVDs to watch both new and old. I saw RK/sharmila’s Raja Rani yesterday

        • bollyviewer says:

          It may be easier to get the DVD in the market here, but I am definitely not venturing out in the Delhi heat unless it is an emergency – have been in purdah at home, since the heat hit! 🙂 Hopefully all the movies I want to watch will turn up on youtube.

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