Abhimaan by Hrishikesh Mukherjee
Subeer Kumar (Amitabh) is well on his way to becoming India's top pop singer. He has no intention of getting married, but when he goes to visit his Durga Mausi (Mausi=mother's sister), he falls in love with religious, simple Uma, by whose voice he's enchanted. He marries her and returns to Bombay where he announces that he will never sing without Uma again. However, Subeer encourages Uma to sing alone and when her popularity is soon greater than his own, the seed of jealousy begins to grow... The major difference between Uma and Subeer is that she sings for herself, whereas he sings for the public. It is the difference between geet and sangeet. This is the root of the thing that later causes problems, and based on which the movie is named. (source: IMDb)
This review contains some spoilers
Saumya Baijal reviews the film:
As I journey through my favorite films of all time, I am drawn towards the film that I have watched innumerable reruns of, and felt different reactions towards the same situations. This morning too, I was drawn to the music of SD Burman, the honesty of Hrishikesh Mukherjee, and the outstanding portrayals by Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan. The master storyteller gave us a film on complex emotions, on inertia, on what age old notions instilled in us subconsciously do to us. Fantastically restrained, beautifully paced, the film has firmly etched its place in the halls of veritable glory. Abhimaan.
Amitabh and Jaya in the movie
The film witnesses various relationships, at different points in the story. Different forms of friendships are explored, whether between Subir and Chandru, or Uma and Subir, Subir and Chitra and even Chitra and Uma in a scene. The sanctity of friendship, the nature of disagreements in choices, the palpable anger and guilt in characters as the story moves, is beautifully portrayed on screen.
Hrishida’s films are evergreen. They are rewatched, they are memorised, and they are immortal. Amongst his many strengths was the believable nature of his characters. The warmth that would exude from scenes, the unquestionable fact that there was some good in the world. The conversations were clean, the people pure. And each of his characters were strong, though they all gloried in their imperfection. The ability to embrace that imperfection, and present it to an audience, and then making the audience believe that there still was some good left in the world, was to me, Hrishida’s forte. Subir, Chandru, Chitra and Uma are all imperfect. Yet, there is something that draws us into their story. When Subir and Uma sing ‘Tere mere milan ki yeh raina’, no matter how many times you’ve watched the film, or how prepared you are, atleast one tear is definite to roll down your cheek.
Another aspect I’d like to point out, is the phenomenal casting Hrishida has done in this film as in most of his stories. We see the usual faces that appeare in each Hrishikesh Mukherjee film, but each was cast superbly in their roles. Whether it was AK Hangal, Durga Khote, David, Asrani- all staples in Hrishikesh Mukherjee cinema, the narrative would have been woefully incomplete without them. David as he warns his friend of Subir’s decision, is unforgettable. Like in Satyakam, Chupke Chupke, Guddi, Mili or Golmaal, different genres each, the casting remains impeccable.
The acting prowess of the supporting actors deserves to be mentioned
The film despite the subject remains an unbiased account of the relationship one sees. At one point I felt bad for Chitra, at many points sympathised hugely with Subir and many times felt sorry for Uma. All this while there was love for Durga Mausi (Durga Khote), and helplessness for Sadanand (AK Hangal). There was no polarisation, no fingers being pointed. Subtlety was magnificently used- whether it was the change in Amitabh Bachchan’s expression as he asks for Rs 6000 for his song, or when the autograph books are snatched away, or the passing mention of Devdas in the narrative. Even the sequence of awards as they move away from Subir, are strong visuals with crisp editing to help us through the story. With Jaya Bachchan one of the scenes that doesn’t leave you is that of her near silent communication with Chitra as she goes to take her husband home from the latter’s home. Subir’s despair, jealousy, repulsion is palpable in Amitabh Bachchan’s portrayal.While the story seems to revolve around Amitabh Bachchan’s state of mind, it really is Uma’s story and continues to maintain that balance right till the end.
A discussion on Abhimaan, is incomplete without it’s music. Each song pushes the narrative forward, is amazingly melodious and the lyrics are very very relevant to the story, yet equally enjoyable in isolation. SD Burman brings back his composition of ‘Sun mere bandhu re’ to effective use towards the end of the film. The background score is worth a mention, as each of the expressions and situations in the film are accentuated beautifully, with simple tunes, and building the tension with the sheer tempo. Majrooh’s words resonate the angst of both the characters and their bid to fight the situations they are in.The film, like all great films, shows us symphony when all elements move in tandem- the acting, music, dialogues, narrative and the lyrics.
The character of Uma, though shown in a village, is still a woman with a mind of her own, and her priorities clear in her. She reprimands Subir, coyly plays with him, reacts to him, and also yearns for him when needed. She is confident of her talent, vocal of her choices. It is her conscious decision in the film to want to abandon her career at the cost of saving her marriage. It is not a decision imposed by any other character, and neither is it the ‘right’ thing to do. The film doesn’t preach morals. It lives and breathes. Uma compliments Subir.
Jaya as Uma in the movie
Abhimaan has few characters. But each is outstanding in its depth, and the interplay between each keeps the viewers involved at every step. The honesty that each bring, the emotions that each build are almost real. Hrishikesh Mukherjee has always extracted work from his actors to build on his story- to not just say it, but live it.
Abhimaan does just that. It lives the pain, and the relief. It allows a peep in the complex emotions of jealousy and the underlying notions of patriarchy that we grapple with everyday. It uses tense underplay. And for all its techniques, Abhimaan has a pure soul. That is what lingers on, long after the arclights are dimmed.
Saumya Baijal writes reviews on her blog, Words’ Worth. She hasn’t rated this movie on her blog as she considers it one of her favorites we are assigning it a 5 star rating. You can check out her original post here
What did you think of this review? Do you agree with Saumya’s assessment of the film?