Amar Prem (1972)

June 30, 2016 05:17 pm | Updated September 16, 2016 05:04 pm IST

Rajesh Khanna and Om Prakash in "Amar Prem". Photo: The Hindu Archives

Rajesh Khanna and Om Prakash in "Amar Prem". Photo: The Hindu Archives

How could Rajesh Khanna have shed tears? The eternal romantic that he was, a champion of the big screen, wooing his fans with inimitable magic –– an infectious smile with a gentle nod and an alluring blink; he left the audience in a trance. He had to “hate” tears.

Anand in “Anand” wanted to live after having waited for death, wanting to welcome it with open arms even as his close ones prayed for his recovery from a dreadful ailment. This Anand was different. He lived a painful life, keeping his tears to himself, and looking for solace in the arms and voice of Pushpa (Sharmila Tagore), a village girl sold to a brothel.

“Amar Prem” is not about Rajesh Khanna or Anand. It is about Pushpa, a role tailor-made for Sharmila Tagore, returning to work after a long break. This was an important phase in the career of both actors, both in their prime and producing commanding performances. They had romanced so beautifully in “Aradhana” where the leading lady becomes an unwed mother. Here, Anand and Pushpa share a platonic relationship, their love sublime and model.

Raaj Kumar was said to be the preferred choice to play the role of Anand, who loves his drink. Dilip Kumar set a benchmark in “Devdas”, an act unmatched for all times. The portrayal of an alcoholic by Dilip Kumar was the driving force of Bimal Roy’s classic. Not that Rajesh Khanna had attempted to emulate the one and only Dilip Saab but he left a mark with his restrained show, his voice soft and never slurring. There was dignity in Devdas embracing melancholy. The character loved to punish himself. But Anand of “Amar Prem was different. He was not going to drink himself to death.

The essence of the movie revolves around three characters –– Anand, Pushpa and Nandu, a child who is tortured at home by a step-mother (Bindu). Nandu is showered with affection by Pushpa and their relationship is so stunningly captured in the Lata Mangeshkar-sung “Bada Natkhat Hai Yeh Krishan Kanhaiya…”

Music by Rahul Dev Burman periodically reminds you during the course of the film that this was one of his best works. Kishore Kumar lends his voice to some soulful compositions –– “Kuch Toh Log Kahenge”, “Chingari Koi Bhadke”, “Yeh Kya Hua Kaise Hua”. And then “Raina Beeti Jaye” by Lata leaves you craving for more. With such inspiring components involved the film had to be an outstanding tribute to good cinema. You feel it when Anand, at the end of the song, remarks, “Tumhara naam Pushpa hai, Meera Hona Chahiye Tha.”

Amar Prem was remake of a classic Bengali film “Nishi Padma”, featuring the great Uttam Kumar. In wanting to give his best Rajesh Khanna reportedly watched the original many times. Tagore slipped into the role so naturally and gave a stellar performance as a courtesan, a woman yearning for love and a mother. Her innocent bonding with Nandu, who grows into a handsome man (Vinod Mehra) and makes a pleasant return to her life, is a striking aspect of the story.

Abandoned by her husband, Pushpa finds love away from home in Anand Babu, who is also seeking affection and respect outside his house. He brings hot samosas for Pushpa and keeps reminding her he “hates tears.” Anand finds hope in Pushpa, who looks to forget her past. But fate throws her back into a cruel world where she reconciles herself to leading a life of humiliation after pledging to keep Anand from visiting her. Nandu also leaves with his parents and Pushpa, true to her character, takes the hardships in her stride. Time flies.

An old Pushpa encounters an ageing Anand. He is shattered by the sight of Pushpa working as a domestic help, constantly badgered by the master. Anand runs into Nandu, who has come to stay in the neighbourhood with his wife and son. In an emotional climax, Pushpa is taken home by ‘son’ Nandu even as a tearful Anand bids adieu. He does not hate tears anymore.

Genre: Romantic drama

Director: Shakti Samanta

Cast: Rajesh Khanna,Sharmila Tagore, Vinod Mehra, Abhi Bhattacharya, Bindu, Sujit Kumar, Om Prakash

Story: Based on Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay’s story “Hinger Kochuri”

Screenplay: Arabinda Mukherjee

Dialogue: Ramesh Pant

Lyrics: Anand Bakshi

Music: R.D. Burman

Box office status: Hit

Trivia: Won three Filmfare Awards – for Best Screenplay (Arabinda Mukherjee), Best Dialogue (Ramesh Pant) and Best Sound (Jehangir Nowrojee)

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