#72 #Scriptors100BestFilms #Abhimaan
The battles between ego love and fame have been haunting the cinema from across the world, some might think that Abhiman, the blockbuster hit of 1973 resembles George Cukor’s A Star Is Born, starring Judy Garland and James Mason.Writer Nabendu Ghosh’s story is about a popular playback singer (Subir Kumar), played by Amitabh. It’s quite lonely at the top for Subir, whose only friends are his secretary Chandru, played by Asrani and Chitra (Bindu), friend-cum-benefactor and Uma (Jaya), a talented undiscovered singer who goes on to become his wife and excelles as a singer better than her husband.Here we come to the age-old discussion about man’s position being higher than that of women in society. Uma is shown to be clearly much more talented than her husband. He is popular but soon finds his throne being usurped by his simple wife who bears no ill will towards anyone. Why is she such a thorn in his heart of she did garner a little more praise than him? The big question of male ego and pride comes to haunt the life and love of Subir and Uma like it must have done in the lives of so many couples.
Audiences at the time saw similarities in ‘Abhimaan’, the story of a chauvinistic singer-husband who is unable to accept his wife’s superior popular appeal as a singer, and the real life events in the lead pair’s life: Amitabh Bachchan was just starting his career while Jaya Bhaduri, with her impish ways and infectious laughter, had already caught the imagination of the nation with runaway hits like ‘Guddi’, ‘Uphaar’, ‘Koshish’ and ‘Piya Ka Ghar’. The other version is that the film, which was to be called Raag-Ragini , was drawn from the real life story of Kishore Kumar and his first actress-singer wife, Ruma Ghosh from whom the legendary singer separated.Whatever it be, Abhimaan , directed and written by Hrishikesh Mukherjee (Along with Nabendu Ghosh, Rajinder Singh Bedi, Biresh Chatterjee and M.N.Sippy) and tightly edited by Das Dhaimade, was a huge success. It is believed that Jaya and Amitabh invested their own money in the film, which was co-produced by Jaya’s secretary Susheela Kamath.
Songs are the mainstay of this musical, and Lata Mangeshkar, conducted by maestro Sachin Dev Burman, is at her very best.Abhimaan till date is one of his very best scores. SD in this movie intentionally used different male voices for Amitabh to demonstrate the ups and downs in the success graph of the singer-hero Subir in the movie. So when Subir is at the peak of his popularity it is Kishore Kumar crooning ‘Meet na mila re man ka’ and when Subir pairs with his wife Uma (Jaya) for the first time, it is Mohammad Rafi with Lata (‘Teri bindiya re’) and as Uma starts overshadowing her husband in popularity, SD uses Bhupendra’s voice with Lata (‘Loote koi man ka nagar’) and finally when the estranged couple comes together it is again Kishore Kumar with Lata Mangeshkar in the ever-popular number, ‘Tere mere milan ki ye raina’. SD always had great faith in Lata, in this movie Lata has given some of the best songs of her career under the creative mastery of SD. It is said that Hrishida had instructed Jaya to follow and observe mannerisms of Lata to prep her act of a singer. Jaya used to often come to recordings and observe Lata’s actions like standing barefeet while performing and taking the pallu on her head while singing. So much so that she was styled exactly like Lata for the movie in pastel shades. From real to reel, this score was a masterpiece. Sachin Da’s association with Hrishida continued till his last breath, after recording his last song for Mili, he went into Coma but Abhimaan became a milestone for SD as he won his last Filmfare Award for best Music for this epic soundtrack.
Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bhaduri are apt for the roles they play. Bachachan is good but Jaya is somehow, inches ahead of him. Her expressions in times of joy or woe are just immaculate. She looks lovely, the quintessential Indian beauty who wants nothing else but a happy home with her family. . Even the other actors, like Bindu, Asrani and Durga Khote, all play out their roles to perfection. There is no discordant note here. But no discussion of Abhimaan can be complete without mentioning the fantastic music given by SD Burman, One of his last films, Sachinda entralls with his meet na milere man ka; piya bina or even the evergreen duet, tere mere milan ki yeh raina. While Abhimaan may not be Hrishida’s best, it still has a special place in the hearts of Hindi film goers. It had it all, lilting music, absorbing storyline, great acting and very fine direction.Jaya and Amitabh are well-matched but it is an out and out Jaya film. She won a Filmfare Best Actress’ award for her flawless performance: Whether it is in the rendering of the songs or while conveying an expression of helpless despair while watching her drunk husband being helped out of the car or the gentle but firm reminder to Chitra that Subir was hers, the deep sense of sorrow at losing her pregnancy or while crying out her pain through the last song, she is absolutely riveting. In this film Jaya shed her image of the girl-next-door and became a woman of substance.
Mukherjee has always been a character’s director. He knows how to make a character fascinating or likeable for the audience (one of the many reasons why he is often on the wish list of many ambitious actors). His direction and handling of the story ensures that viewers cannot help but care about what happens to Subir and Uma’s marriage. The director establishes Subir’s popularity among fans in a likeable and heartwarming sequence of brief scenes at the beginning where different girls react individually to his song playing on the radio in the middle of their everyday life. One is stroking the star’s picture on the cover of Filmfare magazine, another is applying lipstick while in another house, little girls dance excitedly. I also like the nice way he ends the initial Subir-meeting-and-falling-in-love-with-Uma scenes by showing us a point of view shot of Uma looking down at her feet. The feet indicate the steps that she is taking on her new journey with her new life partner.However The melodrama in the climax seems out of sync with the mood in the rest of the film. The musical ending with everybody watching the characters onstage seems slightly forced. But Mukherjee probably wanted it that way because music is one of the key themes of the film. So he ensured that “Abhimaan” begins with a song and ends with a song. From this, we know that the character approaches his fans with a detached sense of cynicism and sarcasm.