Hrishikesh Mukherjee's Anupama: Untangling the complicated web of a father-daughter story – The Indian Express

Hindi cinema has eulogized the mother-child relationship. So much so that when the character of a mother appears humanly flawed, we can’t stop praising its ‘realism’. While mothers are given God-like status, fathers in our movies, have often gotten the short end of the stick. They are either absent, or strict, and quite one-note. It is rare for a film to base its emotional arc on a father-daughter relationship whilst examining its nuances, and also humanising its flaws. Hrishikesh Mukherjee picked the challenge with his 1966 film Anupama, where Tarun Bose played the father Mohan Sharma, and Sharmila Tagore played the daughter Uma.
Mukherjee, who was known for delicately handling relationships in his films, focused on the emotionally fractured relationship of a father and daughter that has never gotten a chance to bloom. As we enter the world of Anupama, we witness the consuming love that Mohan has for his wife. The kind where their world belongs to each other, so when his wife dies during childbirth, Mohan is lost. From this point on, he can never even look at his daughter unless he is drunk. Mohan turns into an alcoholic and every night Uma shivers as she hears her father’s stumbling footsteps enter her room. “Tera kasoor kya hai? Main tujhse kyon nafrat karta hoon? (What is your fault? Why do I hate you?),” asks Mohan to himself in a drunken state as he cries sitting by Uma’s bed as she pretends to sleep.
Anupama isn’t as verbose as other Mukherjee films. In fact, it has long stretches of silences where the director solely relies on the actors’ expressions. When Hrishikesh Mukherjee cast Sharmila Tagore in the film, he was told by many that she was the wrong choice for the role. “There were howls of protest when I signed Rinku (Sharmila Tagore) for Anupama. She was busy doing an Evening in Paris in a bikini! I was told to take Nutan instead. I said, ‘Look, Rinku has the expressive eyes of my Anupama’. I had to instruct her very closely, she didn’t know what she was doing. When she saw the rush print, Rinku gave me a kiss,” he told Filmfare in a 1998 interview.
When Uma meets Dharmendra’s Ashok, she finds someone who is ready to hear her silences. She finds courage in being his inspiration, and he finds his muse in her. He shows her the way to get out of her circumstances, builds her confidence so she can take that step, but doesn’t actually rescue her. The director makes it a point to highlight the same in the film, so you know that Uma’s win is hers alone. At one point, one of the other characters challenges Ashok’s notion and argues that not everyone is capable enough to get out of their own mess, and they might need some help but Ashok sticks to his principles. He believes that it is up to Uma if she wishes to change her circumstances. When Uma ultimately chooses to break the shackles, you celebrate for her because she has earned that win.
Hrishikesh Mukherjee, in that same interview with Filmfare, had shared that the story was based on a real-life incident. “It was based on my cousin sister’s life. My aunt had died during childbirth, my uncle became an alcoholic, he couldn’t stand his daughter. I’d seen this with my own eyes. For her relationship with the poet who rescues her, I used my imagination. Though they are in love, they never touch each other,” he said.
Anupama is dominated by a strong love story but it is essentially a father-daughter story. As Uma finds her way and leaves her father behind, he finds peace in letting her go. He is aware that he should have let her be the person she was supposed to become but his pride gets the better of him. Mukherjee insists that no one here, is a bad person. They are making bad decisions that are affecting their loved ones, but the audience isn’t asked to judge these characters. Rather, we feel empathetic towards them and even forgive them.
Anupama touched upon a subject that was handled years later by Mahesh Bhatt’s 1989 film Daddy. Mukherjee’s film spoke about the emotional damage of one’s childhood years, and the scars it leaves behind that never really heal, which was quite unique for a mainstream film director making movies with mainstream stars.
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Sampada SharmaSampada SharmaSampada Sharma is a Copy Editor at Indian Express Online's entertainme… read more


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