Anand (“Bliss”) is as happy a movie about terminal illness as you’re likely to find. Nevertheless, this classic Hindi film raises interesting questions about how healthy people should interact with the sick, and whether preemptive grief makes things worse.
The story unfolds through the diary entries of Dr. Bhaskar Banerjee (Amitabh Bachchan), a thirty-year-old cancer specialist who’s already overwhelmed by the amount of death he’s seen in his career. His own sense of futility — “Oh, God! Such frightening helplessness.” — makes him persnickety with his patients. He sees no point in giving them false hope.
Being a bachelor, Bhaskar is the logical choice to host Anand (Rajesh Khanna), a friend of a friend who wants to tour Bombay. Bhaskar and his friend and fellow doctor, Prakash (Ramesh Deo), are tasked with treating Anand, who’s suffering from terminal intestinal cancer.
Anand talks non-stop, joking with friends and strangers alike. Such relentless cheerfulness would normally grate on a man as taciturn as Bhaskar, but the doctor sees the melancholy behind Anand’s permanent grin.
While the most obvious message in the movie would seem to be “live each day to the fullest,” a more interesting theme relates to how healthy people are supposed to interact with the terminally ill. Anand knows he’s dying, yet he chooses to remain upbeat. He’d rather have fun while he’s here, and he wants his friends to be happy when they’re with him.
At one point, Anand threatens to leave rather than endure anymore of Bhaskar’s forlorn looks. The film makes a persuasive case that the ill have the right to dictate how they are treated by others. Just because our own inclination may be to mourn what we know we will lose, it doesn’t mean we should subject the person who is dying to those feelings.
More than forty years after its original release, the shots of Mumbai (then Bombay) make the city look like a very cool place to be in the early 1970s. Bachchan looks dashing, and the furnishings in Bhaskar’s house are fabulous.
The only aspects of Anand that don’t really translate to the modern-day are its aggressive musical cues (though plenty of directors still rely on them). Any time Anand gasps for breath, the sounds of an orchestra blare to ensure the audience knows that the moment is significant. The effect is more shocking than instructive, especially in cases where the music intrudes on an otherwise quiet scene.
The relatively small cast delivers great performances, particularly in regard to the way they react to Anand’s sickness. Bhaskar’s beloved, Renu (Sumita Sanyal), is rock steady, while Prakash’s wife, Suman (Seema Deo), loses her courage. Bachchan keeps the core of Bhaskar intact, opening him up to Anand — and the world — gradually.
While playing a character who’s described as a “tornado,” Rajesh Khanna carefully ensures that Anand feels realistic, rather than like some outrageous film creation. Anand is fun-loving, but not a clown. He has moments of melancholy, but he’s not harboring a dark secret. He really is just a guy who wants to be happy while he can.
Thanks to fine performances and a charming lead character, Anand is easy to watch and enjoy.
I am so glad you saw this Kathy 🙂
Anand is one of those films I can watch again and again. Well expressed as always.
Very early in the film, I thought, “This is really easy to watch.” I’m not sure if that makes sense, but I think you know what I mean, Keyur. 🙂
Well said. One of my favorite movies. If I may add – the difference between Prakash and Bhaskar in treating patients represents the dichotomy between earthly pragmatism and utopian idealism.
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Thanks for linking to your article, Ashok! I really love the scene where Prakash and Bhaskar discuss their approaches to medicine because it doesn’t play out the way one expects. It seems as though the scene is setting up Prakash as a villain, but he makes such a solid case for the way he treats his patients. No, the wealthy hypochondriacs he treats don’t need the pills he prescribes, but the patients feel better as a result, and isn’t it his job to make people feel better? Besides, if he doesn’t prescribe the pills, the patients will just find another doctor who will (as Bhaskar knows from experience). Plus, their money allows Prakash to treat patients who can’t afford to pay. What a great scene among many.
So glad you finally saw this. It is one of my all time favourites. Many of the fictional characters I’ve written have in some way been influenced by Anand and Bhaskar. I wanted to name a son Hrishikesh. To my wife’s delight we only have girls. Lol.
Great Review! I agree about the musical crescendos. It was a common technique of the era. Bollywood’s own dramatic Western Saloon piano chords. Greatest movie ever! ( hyperbole )
Your wife wouldn’t go for Hrishikesha as one of the girls’ names, Shahid? 😉 The reason those musical cues bugged me so much was that the dialogue on the Blu-ray was mixed so low that I had the volume cranked. The characters would sound as though they were mumbling, then Anand would gasp for breath and BLAM! I jumped more while watching this than when I watch horror movies. 😀
another in depth review. Loved it.
I liked that you liked this amazing movie. If I’m not mistaken this movie is like life is beautiful. Every family sits together and watches it on tv. At least it’s true for my family. So many memories with this movie.
I guess that sound problem must be in dvd.
Well, the climax of movie is so damn good. Bhaskar comes back but anand os already dead and bhaskar tries to wake him up and the dound recorder starts playing. Best of hrishida.
I’m not a fan of aggressive emotional music queues in general, Parth, but I’m sure the DVD sound mix didn’t help. Thanks for pointing out that this is a great movie for the whole family.
Thanks for the great review as always, Anand is my one of the favorite movies, I have watched it 10-15 times and every time I watch this movie I find new reasons to fall in the love with this movie. I think this movie is about Bhaskar and how he changes his perspective of life from staring scene of the movie to the last scene of the movie. Lyrics of the Songs are too good and it describes life of Anand. I think it is harsh from you that you have not given 4 out 4 stars to this one. 😉
Well since you liked this dated Rajesh khanna movie may I recommend avtaar and aap ki kasam. For the record, in the overacting n hamming Bollywood arena Rajesh was comparatively realistic actor 🙂
Thanks for the recommendations, Ricky!
I think it is not only the best movie of Rajesh Khanna but it is the best movie ever directed in India.
I’ll give more than 10 stars out of 10
I always wonder why rajesh khanna was overlooked for the national award for his performance in Anand.
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