Saturday, October 27, 2012

Annadata (1972)

Many of our old Hindi movies have messages that have not lost their relevance over the years. In fact some of them seem to have been written with a crystal ball in tow, for the incipience of the issues they reflected on at that time has turned into a chronic persistence in the modern world of today. Annadata, one such film made by Asit Sen almost forty years ago, is a film that moots the breeding selfishness in the modern materialistic world and questions whether there is any good left in the world deafened by the rumble of avarice and ambition.

A rich industrialist Amba Prasad (essayed by an immensely likable Om Prakash) is referred to as annadata because of his largesse and charitable disposition. In the urban jungle that incubates the battle between the haves and the have-nots, he stands tall as someone who uses his wealth for the good of everyone, and not just for himself. However, false news of his death opens a can of worms when a large number of his blood relatives start fighting amongst themselves while staking a claim to his empire. But what truly breaks his heart is when his adopted daughter claims to have been an illicit relationship with him (forced by her gold-digging parents), just to proclaim herself to be a true heir to his vast empire. This cruel accusation completely shatters the old man’s faith in the world and he leaves everything he owns in care of his manager, while embarking on a journey, with only his pet dog accompanying him, to discover his lost belief in mankind.

On his journey when he is just about to give up all hope, a chance encounter brings him in touch with Aarti (Jaya Bhaduri), who nurses him to good health. In the days that follow Amba Prasad discovers how one woman epitomized all that he was looking for in the world- honesty, selflessness, benevolence, and righteousness. When he had started getting the feeling of been marooned on an island of spite and no respite, Aarti’s care and love ensnares him in her small yet salubrious world that blossoms with empathy of its occupants. Amba Prasad also strikes a quaint companionship with Aarti’s lover Arun (Anil Dhawan), an idealist painter whose lack of means makes him hesitant to solemnize his love for Aarti.

The movie is far from perfect despite the well intentioned premise. There are unnecessary scenes and also some shoddy acting, led by a very stiff and unintentionally hilarious Anil Dhawan. A polished actor would have definitely added tremendous weight to some complex scenes that fail to achieve their purpose with the present actor. The songs by Salil Chowdhary, though melodious, aren’t as neatly woven with the story as say Gulzar film songs would be. But Jaya Bhaduri and Om Prakash’s assured presence, and the brevity of most scenes that could have fallen in the trap of sermonizing, ensures that the film remains a light yet meaningful watch that ends on a positive note. In fact the film traverses the gargantuan distance between pessimism and optimism in just about two hours.

Parting Note: Annadata is akin to a Hrishikesh Mukherjee film that has its screenplay woven around a good idea, and is given a light-hearted treatment with melodrama kept to the bare minimum.


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