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Avishkaar (1974)

ANUJ KUMAR
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Rajesh Khanna, Sharmila Tagore, Satyendra Kappu

Intensity itselfRajesh KhannaThe Hindu Photo Archives
Intensity itselfRajesh KhannaThe Hindu Photo Archives

One of the issues with the young generation is that it thinks what’s happening to it is something novel. But a glance at films and literature of times gone by would convince us how cyclical is the nature of human experience. I faced a similar problem with my happening nephew a few days back. He believes his wife doesn’t understand him and the view from the other side is almost similar. And yes, that usual refrain, “Oh! You won’t understand. Such things didn’t happen back in the ’70s.” I advised him to go to the video library nearby and fetch a copy of Basu Bhattacharya’s Avishkaar and discover how a sensitive filmmaker dealt with the problems a modern-day couple faces — back in 1974.

Part of Bhattacharya’s trilogy about man-woman relationships (the other two being Anubhav and Grihaprivesh ), it has withstood the test of time. You can relate to Amar and Mansi’s quandary as they grapple with a trust deficit soon after their ‘love marriage’If family friend Sunil is the representative of optimism in relationships, Amar’s ‘broad minded’ colleague Rita talks about the practical aspect of marriage. Both are red herrings! Early in the film Rita tells Amar how marriage smothers dreams and leaves the man only with desires. Cinematographer Nando Bhattacharya (he also shot Anubhav ) captures the miasma that Rita talks about through the wavy opening montage.

On the surface it seems like the subject doesn’t require technical skill, but like in performances, Bhattacharya ensures the craft remains unassuming. Artistically edited (S. Chakravarty), the narrative goes back and forth to bring out the layers in the relationship. The pattern allows the film to become one-dimensional. In between Bhattacharya slips in the story of a taxi driver (Satyendra Kappu) without losing pace. The guy from the lower middle class is happy despite sharing space with nine people. Talking about his wife, he shares with the couple, “People say my wife’s hair is thick and long, but I swear I have not seen it in the light of day.”

After the demise of Rajesh Khanna, many observers claimed that the star fall prey to his stock mannerisms. Here you can see Khanna inhabiting a disillusioned husband with all the details. There is nothing trademark ‘Kaka’ here as you only see Amar with all his frailties come alive on the screen. It must have being challenging for the raging star to pick a role where he was not the hero in the conventional sense. Wish he had picked such characters with more regularity.

He teamed up with one of his favourite heroines, Sharmila Tagore, who also turned up without her trademark bouffant and false eyelashes, and gave a performance that rings true even today. For a filmmaker who seemed to know so much about the tenuous nature of relationships, Bhattacharya’s personal life was not all that smooth. He started as an assistant to Bimal Roy and went on to marry Roy’s daughter Rinki against the wishes of his mentor. Rinki collaborated with him and in fact contributed as set designer in Avishkaar . However, years later Rinki, better known as a journalist and a documentary filmmaker, walked out of her marriage making charges of domestic abuse. She even wrote books on the subject including the much acknowledged Behind Closed Doors: Domestic Violence in India . Whether Bhattacharya’s life reflected in his cinema or his screenplays seeped into his personal sphere is a matter of conjecture but it does bring out the complexities of life in the film industry.

It won Rajesh Khanna a well-deserved Filmfare Award for Best Actor (his third and last). Unfortunately, Bhattacharya lost out to Manoj Kumar ( Roti Kapda Aur Makaan ) in the Best Director category.

And perhaps Tagore proved just too real to be nominated!

Discover Avishkaar , and you are bound to see your face in the shards of glass that Amar and Mansi throw at each other.

ANUJ KUMAR

There is nothing trademark ‘Kaka’

here, as you only

see Amar with all

his frailties come

alive on the screen… Sharmila Tagore,

who also turned

up without her

trademark bouffant and false eyelashes, gave a performance that rings true

even today.

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