Anari (1959), naive hero in a naive movie

Publié le 11 Novembre 2009

Anari (1959), by Hrishikesh Mukherjee, in spite of its numerous defects, represents a compromise between the quality cinema strain started by Raj Kapoor, and its commercial exploitation. The movie is clearly inspired by SD Narang’s Dilli ka thug, which came out a year before, with Kishore Kumar instead of Raj Kapoor, but Nutan is again faced with a lover who blunders into her world, and there is the same poisoned medicine story, with a masked villain pulling the strings dangerously close to her.

The story is rather simple: Aarti (Nutan) is a rich girl who lives with her uncle, the pharmaceutical tycoon Ramnath (Motilal), and who one day decides to escape from the absurd college of good manners, where girls are taught the cultivated ways of walking and laughing (watch her mimick the teacher in front of her friend, and you have Nutan's great style!). Atop the wall, she sees Raj Kumar, a poor painter (Raj Kapoor) on his way to find a job. He helps her to jump down, and indeed the film will show her, figuratively, stooping down to his level. He’s the insolvent tenant at Mrs D’sa’s house, a Goan Christian lady (Lalita Pawar, who is said to have played in 600 films! Imdb lists 338), who heaps her affection on him to compensate for her lost son. She rough-handles him, but her heart of gold protects him from going astray in the world. Continuously pretending to scold him for not paying his rent, she can thus hide her affection for him, and invent little incidents that enable her to give him the money to tide him out.


Of course, the young pair meet again (coincidence helping them), and there is a lot of fun as Aarti hides her identity and passes as her naukari in the eyes of the unassuming Rajkumar. She explains later she invented all this out of fear her wealthy uncle would refuse her match with the poor painter, and so he does, once the plot is disclosed… But the fun ceases when, as expected, the kind Mrs D’sa dies, (careful long sentence coming up) killed by the poisoned medicine prescribed her in order to cure the flu she contracted from going out in the rain to fetch her “son”, who has wandered away from Aarti’s birthday party, where he’s discovered she had lied about her social standing.  So I suppose we can say she’s somehow killed by that lie too.

Indeed the film’s moral message is perhaps a little too heavily dealt with, and the characters also are too black and white. On the other hand, one knows where one stands, perhaps. Because if right and wrong are too much tampered with, who knows where if might lead? This is where the main theme of the film comes in. Raj Kumar is called “Anari”, simpleton, or naïve. He resents it when people say it, but admits it in front of Aarti (“it sounds so nice when you say it”), and also acknowledges the fact in his song “Sab kuch sikha hamne”, where he declares having learnt the tricks of the world, but refusing to become cunning himself.


This “simplicity” is associated with his poverty, and one understands that the two go together, because Raj Kumar is both deceived socially and financially. In fact, he’s bought both ways. His innocence in terms of knowledge of the ways of the world is doubled by his artlessness as far as money and its power is concerned. Because he knows so little, he’s easily fooled, but also trusted and loved. He’s lured into Ramnath’s trap, who is pleased to secure hard-working citizens instead of flattering lazy bums for his office work; in fact Ramnath defends his riches because of his success-story. He was once poor and has succeeded in business. He now calls poverty a poison, and if he refuses Aarti’s love for Rajkumar, it’s because of this stigma. 

Rajkumar in Anari recalls the Raj from Shree 420; the 1955 movie features a simple-hearted young man foolish enough to fall prey to the lures of money and power. Rajkumar doesn’t fall as low, but like Raj, he’s poor and freshly arrived, and this ignorance will cause him being manipulated by both Aarti and her uncle. Anari doesn’t go as far as Shree in terms of reflexion on the problem of poverty, but because it insists on Rajkumar being “anari”, it’s worth while pondering on the question a while. Naivety and simple-mindedness are presented as Raj’s weakness, but also as his dignity. Protected by his guardian angel, Mrs D’sa, he remains faithful to his status, even if this is sometimes a little unrealistic. In Shree 420, Raj is tempted by the demons of wealth and power, and falls, in a dramatic but also highly meaningful way. Here, not only does Rajkumar resist the sirens of wealth and comfort, but he can abandon his beloved when the latter decides (rather unconvincingly) to relinquish him because her uncle has made her see the difference in social classes between her lover and herself. So innocence, or guilelessness, is put forward as a bulwark against the moral ambiguities of riches (and its link with power and oppression of the poor), but on the other hand, Hrishikesh Mukherjee hasn’t really managed to make his point very delicately.


The result is that Anari comes out as a pleasant entertainer, with lots of humoristic moments, but cannot stand as a real meditation on the question of innocence versus experience. Instead, the hero remains in the magical circle of guilelessness, represented by his pious landlady, but doesn’t come to terms, as Raj does much more convincingly in Shree, with the evils hidden in the recesses of the self and of society. And this is a pity, because there was an opportunity to do so: Nutan’s artistic intelligence, Motilal’s mettle, and Raj Kapoor’s genius were all at the director’s disposal. Not forgetting Lalita Pawar’s great acting! I think what happened is that Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s limited moral perspective prevented him from wanting to tarnish his heroes, and make them explore “real” humanity.
There are ravishing close-ups of Nutan:


And others, where she's fooling around!


Check some more pictures here!

Rédigé par yves

Publié dans #Film reviews

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Yves, I have no problems with his acting. He was a good actor. I just get irritated with that "innocent" image. And I agree with you that he did original movies. We can't take that credit away from him. But he had a great team and that played a major role in his success.

BTW, Anari was not the only film they did together. They also did Cchalia (which you have reviewed in your blog :) ), Dil hi to hai (1963) and Kanhaiya (1959, which again you have reviewed).
Yes, you're right, I had forgotten these movies! So much for me. Well, at least we agree on Raj Kapoor, which I don't mind underlining, since not everybody is of the same mind! About Dil hi to hai, if you know of a way to see it with subtitles, I'd be very interested! I remember trying some time ago, but failing.
I strongly feel that Nutan simply outshone Rajkapoor in this movie. Superb acting by her. I liked all songs in this movie. Deeply meaningful and melodious also. Nutan shows that she is indeed only 23 years old via the song "Woh Chand khila woh taare hase". That is an all-time favourite of mine.

There is a scene where Raj Kapoor describes her smile. He says its a "smile that can bring death and give life too". What a perfect description. That applies to the real life Nutan too !!!!
I nevertheless like Raj Kapoor, sanctimonious and all. He's done enough original movies where he's himself for me to consider him a great actor. Now as per his relationships with Nutan, he might have been overshadowed by her, indeed, because precisely he was for once confronted to another equally great phenomena. He then wouldn't have been able to shine as he was accustomed! Hence his subdued attitude in Anari, the only film they did together.
First, Raj Kapoor was no "Anari" (naive) in real life. He was extremely sharp and knew how to get things done. So I am sure he was no "gentleman" in allowing her to take frontstage. He had this happy knack of looking "Oh sooo innocent" in his movies (almost sanctimonious). People started getting tired of it.

I truly believe that around this time (1959) Nutan was at the top of her game - simply unstoppable. She would hog all the limelight in any movie. Personally, I feel it was pity that she got married at this time. It kinda slammed the brakes on her career. (Nutan being Nutan was able to come back, but she lost a precious couple of years)

Raj Kapoor was supremely lucky in his life to have Shailendra pen his songs (He was a legendary lyricist) and to have Shankar-Jaikishan (two incredible musicians) composing music for his films. In my opinion they were the key to his success.
Yes, you're right, this movie indeed seems to have been made to showcase the lady's charms and grace! Now perhaps this is a gentleman's decision to let her be on the frontstage? Or do you think Raj Kapoor was really overshadowed by her?

hi yves,

my response to your posts can easily convince u how much i admire RK.

but really, RK sucks in anari! here RK is reduced to someone supid by hrishikesh mukherjee! Hrishikesh mukherjee(who later made ANAND with rajesh khanna)wasa pretty mediocre film-maker, and anari
proves it well too. He used the image of RK, potrayed so convincingly in the first half of sree 420 & made a mockery of it.

                                        many people complain about RK's acting abilities. What
i think that there were not many capable directors who could cast RK as an actor in a film as good as RK's own films. Mehboob didn't cast RK after Andaz(1949),Bimal roy never did it, due to
competition. This was RK's tragedy, he never got good acting roles outside his banner.

                                         exceptions are PHIR SUBAH HOGI(1958), which i
strongly recommend as one of RK's great acting potrayals, and the mettle of fine director RAMESH SAIGAL, who extracted it out of him.


Hello Vineet Kumar,

Yes, you're right, Anari is indeed a minor movie for RK. I watched it more for my well-loved Nutan! BTW you must have noticed by now that even if I am a Raj Kapoor fan, I am even more a Nutan

I'll chek Phir Subah hogi though. Thanks,




someone just recommended your post to me, because I had written about Anari as well. I agree with you on many terms, but despite its flaws, Anari entertained me a lot, and it's a good movie for
people who don't watch many classics otherwise.


Hello Limette,

Well I'm very pleased that even if we do differ slightly, at least we caome together enjoying these classics - that's the most important for me!

Thanks for visiting!


Hi Yves,

Great post...I love this film...its a moodlifter i feel!!


Yes, that's a good way of putting it, because even if it has a few defects which stop it from being a masterpiece, it's still very funny and enjoyable!


Yes, Yves - I've seen Anari and I've also seen Shree 420 and Sangam, both of which I thought allowed Raj Kapoor to portray a more
interesting character - even though there were shades of the simpleton in places in both those films too. But Shree 420 had the protagonist showing shades of grey (there's an
amazing scene in that where Raj Kapoor, wearing a tux at the party, shows Nadira - I think - how he can change 'personas'. He swipes his palm down across his face, from forehead to chin, his
expression changing with the moving hand. Okay, I don't like RK, but he was superb there!) And Sangam allowed him the same shades of grey - the depths to which suspicion drives
him are believable... though not perhaps the rather melodramatic end. Anari, while good entertainment, didn't let RK go beyond being a simpleton - or not much.


I find myself agreeing almost completely with you.
Thanks for the message.


At the risk of being labelled an iconoclast, I must admit I don't much like Raj Kapoor - and especially not when he acts the simpleton. Still, this is an entertaining film - though, as you point
out, it doesn't utilise to the fullest the acting abilities of its cast. Motilal and Nutan were capable of much more (so was RK). Unfortunately, Anari gets relegated to being a
largely preachy and unsubtle sort of film... though I love the music. Superb.


Hi Madhulika,
Don t worry; many people think like you (I suppose you know it) and Raj Kapoor isn t the most popular of actors (I wonder who is, BTW). You are not the first one I hear having problems with his
mannerisms: I too am also a little put off when he overdoes it.
So I understand you've seen Anari? Yes, I was indeed disappointed, and kept thinking of other roles where he was freer to interpret characters along his own lines, and place them in a meaningful
storyline. Have you seen Sangam? Now that is an example of what RK could do: he gave a depth
to his hero which I have rarely seen in Indian movies. I suppose it is because of that type of art that I have become partial to him.