Anupama, where the dream-fairies slumber

Publié le 12 Avril 2010












Anupama, by Hrishikesh Mukherjee, centres around the character of Uma (Sharmila Tagore), a shy and silent girl, sole daughter of a cruel father (Tarun Bose) who lost this beloved wife when she gave birth to this daughter. He blamed her for the death of his wife, and has got stuck in this absurd hatred which has permanently traumatised Uma. But around this centre revolves other characters, especially Ashok (Dharmendra), the young teacher-poet who will open her up to herself and to love. Of course he will be attracted to her, to her mystery and her beauty, and the quintessential scene of revelation is one that takes place on a wooded hillside, to the tune of Kuch dil ne kaha:

Now for me this song is the origin of my fascination with this movie. It was Pitu (here) who first allowed me to realize that such a gem existed! Later she sent me the translation for the song (sung by Lata, written by Kaifi Azmi, Shabana Azmi’s father, and music by Hemant Kumar) and added these words for me: “I LOVE this song because the lyrics and the picturisation are so.... fey. Fey is the only word, I feel like the Queen of Fairies is going to alight any moment. It's such a haunting song, and the way the song is sung by Lata Mangeshkar, she drops her voice to a whisper at times. The fog in the video, the wildflowers, these lyrics, they really have a gossamer quality to it, illusory almost.” (The song says at one stage: Palkon ki thandi sej par sapno ki pariyaan soti hain - On the cool bed of the eyelashes, the dream-fairies slumber) So thanks Pitu, and a 1000 more thanks.












But what is really Ashok watching? Wherein does the mysterious charm of this song lie? In the clarity of early morning, Ashok walks out of the house towards the wooded hillside. A few yards down, Uma is singing and he stops to watch and listen. But what he's witnessing is really the birth of music, in its pristine powerful magic. Because the girl who couldn’t talk has become, chrysalis-like, the source of the most wonderful song. This metamorphosis of silence into song is the very definition of poetry. You can see all this on Dharmendra’s face, much more, I think, than on Sharmila’s. She is beautiful, and the photographer (full credits to Jaywant Pathare for his fantastic job) captures her slow exquisite charm for us to contemplate. Yet, I still prefer (and I’m a man!) Dharmendra’s gaze in the scene. First I quite recognize why somebody like Daddy’s girl could actually entitle her blog “In praise of all things Dharmendra-related” – crazy title, but quite understandable! Then one has to say that Dharm has that full persona which some actors cannot completely hide, and that betray them at times: they’re themselves slightly more than the characters they’re supposed to impersonate. In Anupama, you can notice this slight unease in the scene when he has to sing in  half-darkness:

This scene is important because it functions as a parallel scene to the hillside one described above. It takes place at a family meeting for Annie’s birthday. Annie (Shashikala) is the exasperatingly bubbly daughter of one of Uma’s father’s friends. Until now, she’s done nothing but exaggerate the “girlie” tricks which will serve as a backdrop for what’s going to happen during that song. Ashok arrives late, and as a compensation is asked to recite a poem, which he reluctantly accepts to do, saying that he will probably spoil the party's cheerful mood. Annie lowers the lights, and he starts his grave and rather embarrassed song. But as he sings, Annie is transformed (above). She’s getting engaged with another guy, Arun, but clearly Ashok is doing something to her, and I think it’s the emotionality of poetic suggestiveness that penetrates her, and makes her pass from the superficial person she used to be to the sensible grown-up she becomes later. It seems that thanks to what she has felt during that moment of poetry, Annie  has matured. She is now the friend whose influence will help the two lovers meet and be strong enough to brave M. Sharma, Uma’s formidable father. She’s now the woman who reminds Ashok that beautiful philosophies can always be changed, that life isn’t worth being lived if one can’t love (pic below on the right).

So one could say that Ashok, having heard the enlightening Word coming from Uma’s silence, has become the prophet who is now able to awaken listeners to the essence of their own being. Uma’s Song of love, entering Ashok’s soul, is transmuted into poetry, and silences Annie the chatterbox who from now on will listen instead, and change her general demeanour into that of a sensitive young woman.










What does a prophet do? He communicates with the divinity, and translates the divine inspirations into human language. If the hearts of his listeners are open, they can then free themselves from the alienating instincts and passions, and reach a state of serenity where their souls are at peace. They are no longer the victims of fear, of violence or greed, but on the contrary theirs are the quiet minds of the good and the holy. In all religions, we have this striving for a spiritualised state where man is  master of himself and lives on friendly terms with the world around him.

This is what happens to Uma: first a prisoner in her father’s house, shut up in shock and fear and guilt, speechless because communication means a socialisation which is denied her, she will slowly (helped by Ashok) open up to the realisation that her enemy is as much within her as outside her, and that she has to vanquish the demons that are keeping her imprisoned against her will. The theme of communication plays an important role in the movie, the emphasis on the telephone, especially, is there to dramatize the difficulties of passing from silence to speech, from imprisonment to freedom.








What’s interesting is that this theme concerns other people, most notably Uma’s father, who is also imprisoned in his hatred, and incapable of freeing himself without help. It will be again Ashok’s duty to make him see that he, the rich and superior businessman, is the one who needs help. There’s a very good scene, in which Dharmendra comes out shining: his friend Arun, first promised to Uma, had gone to M. Sharma to try and tell him of the fact that he’s in love with Anita (Annie), but had failed to admit it, and so had to find a pretext for his visit: his friend Ashok is without work, could M. Sharma find him a position? Uma’s father  accepts, and summons the poet. He tells him he accepts to give him that job, but that Ashok will have to leave his self-respect at the door, because in such jobs competition is fierce, and people move up by flattering and fawning. Naturally Ashok refuses and delivers the old man a lesson, leaving him angry and stunned.

Realizing We have another “prophet” in the group of friends, a great character: Moses, whom Uma considers as her uncle (whatever his status really is). He's a lawyer by trade, but also a born comedian, and he acts as the jolly clown, always telling funny stories and performing crazy pranks. Clearly he’s Sharma’s opposite; he understands human aspirations, and his task is to mend relationships and suggest solutions to problems between people. Once Arun and Annie come to see him to get some advice about their union. Arun tells them of the difficulties of his being promised to Uma whereas he loves Annie. He’s fallen in love with the wrong girl. But this is Moses’ magnificent answer:

People rise in love











That an old man should think so highly of love, as opposed to arranged unions and preordained social ties is like a prophecy, a divine intervention: Moses asserts the rights of nature, of the goodness of humanity created in God’s image, made to experience love which flows from the heart and reverberates on the whole body. Moses of course is also the name of the liberator of Israel, the one chosen by God to free the chosen People, and lead them out of the land of slavery to the promised land of milk and honey. Thus both Moses and Ashok represent the choice of natural reason and unfettered feelings as the foundations of civilisation, as opposed to the forces of self-interest and social alienation. Ashok the poor poet and teacher, Moses the wise and merry visionary: two heroes whose combined efforts unite to wrench youth and beauty away from the shackles of envy and “mind-forged manacles” (W. Blake). 

In the end, in a move one might liken to a divinely-provoked Exodus (y’all remember “Let my people go”?), Uma reads the book Ashok has written, called “Anupama” (The Nonesuch), which tells her to leave her old life, and crosses the Dead Sea of her father’s rage, who unwittingly is turned into Pharaoh:Let her go











Led by Moses, she walks towards the Promised Land where the Word has called her since the beginning. This is a clever parallel, drawn between situation of women as the oppressed class in Indian society, and the Hebrews led out of slavery. Anupama also contains many wonderful moments which I haven’t mentioned in this brief review, and I wouldn’t like to close before pointing out the feminine grace of Uma’s mother (played by Surekha), as well as that of her foster-mother, Sarla (Dulari), and this surrogate mother is another reference to Moses’ story: seen from this angle, Uma becomes the one saved from the waters and the saviour of her people. I believe this is a fit message for Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s movie: that the one who has been so ruthlessly punished and abandoned as a child should turn into a source of deliverance and freedom for all.







Just before I finish: a fun take on the movie may be found here (Bollyviewer) She also mentions a valuable review from stardust. And here below are some Surekha-filled meethi-meethi moments!

His-idol.JPG      Foster-mother.jpg


Surekha 3      Surekha 1


Rédigé par yves

Publié dans #Film reviews

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Commenter cet article

Suja 29/03/2011 16:18

Hi Yves, I saw this movie again after many many years and was very pleased with it on the whole. I came to see what your take was; I really like some of your ideas, especially the importance of
the name 'Moses'. I didn't think of that at all. I also like the idea of the 'saved' actually being the 'saver'.  By the way, its common in India to address people in the age group
of one's parents as Aunty or Uncle. Its a honorary title one can even use with total strangers.

I see that you have commented on two of the older ladies, but not the third - Durga Khote - who is always so natural in any part she does. She emotes motherliness so well!

I also thought that Uma and Annie were two opposites who rose from the same kind of background and circumstances and Annie's role was created as a counterpoint to Uma's role. Was Annie also
'damaged' in some way because she didn't have a mother? Did she cling to a childhood because she was clinging to her father? Uma too was clinging in a way ...she modeled herself to please a
father she could never please..that is a kind of clinging. And even towards the end, before she read the book, she was willing to go on pleasing him.

I dd not like Shashikala's interpretation of Annie's role. Childishness need not be shrill and annoying. The character could have been more sympathetically portrayed. She was after all a nice
girl; she made friends with people far below her level economically or socially, she supported a girl very different from her when the need fact, a very solid character!

Dharmendra's interpretation I loved, he was excellent in this subdued role. Its funny, when I was a school girl I had not liked it - I wanted him to be more dashing :) I would have liked him to
storm the house and save her from her evil father :) But as a mature adult, I like this SO much better. He gives her space and courage to deal with it on her own, isn't that far far better? Well
written role.

Like you, I love Kuch Dil Ne Kaha. Ya Dil Ki Suno is beautiful poetry and the composer has given it a peaceful tune but I wish he had not sung it himself. His accent is SO atrocious and sounds so
wrong on Dharm..Hemant Kumar is Bengali BTW.

Cheers. Suja

yves 29/03/2011 23:52

Suja, each time somebody comes and mentions they love Anupama, I'm thrown back into the mistiness of that mountain hillside...

Yes, I love Durga Khote, seen in so many movies of those years, and so dependable, too. You're right, I should/could have said a word about her!

Your theory about Annie is interesting, but her father doesn't appear as an explanation for who she is, he seems a benevolent man enough. So perhaps there's nothing to draw from her education
which might explain her exaggerated character! Because of course, a heavy atavism is present concerning Uma...

And I chime in concerning Dharmendra. This makes me think I had told someone (can't rememeber who, now) to watch more Dharmendra movies! Your visit has reminded me of that.



Shilpi Bose 08/10/2010 16:47

Ever since I have discovered your blog I have been going through it and I think you will forgive me if I take more interest in my father's( Tarun Bose) films. I have  noticed that your site
is on memsaabstory's blogroll while memsaabstory is in your blog roll. I recently did a 6 part guest post on my father for Greta's memsaabstory, you may take look if you wish. I am happy to learn
that dad is one of the actors you like.

yves 08/10/2010 19:22

I'll definitely go and see: somehow I've missed that part of Greta's blog (or didn't connect it directly to you), but then her output is so amazing that sometimes what seems to me a little moment
has elapsed, and lo! half a dozen films or contributions have been added, and I simply can't follow!!

Thanks anyway for the interest you take in us Bollywood lovers.



Filmbuff 03/05/2010 05:17

A great review of a lovely movie. I totally agree with you about the transformation of Sashi Kala's character. Once again you have given good insights into the various characters.

On another note, some of the more recent movis that I would recommend include - Socha Na Tha, Ahista-Ahista, Jab We Met (you may have seen some of these already), Gafla, 99, Aamir, Khoya Khoya
Chand, Meera Bai Not Out, Hazooron Kwaishien Aisi, Paa, Ek Haseena Thi (a few yrs old), Being Cyrus, new Parineeta etc


yves 03/05/2010 16:50

Hello Filmbuff,

Many thanks for your encouragement and thanks for all your suggestion. I always copy down the lists I receive, and try my best to please people who ask for the reviews. I've done a review on
Socha na tha, and had seen Parineeta, but I think I haven't reviewed that one!


sophy 28/04/2010 01:55

Hi Yves,

I'm Indian-American and am bicultural. I've been doing a lot of traveling and that has me somewhat confused of late.

I've sat through a whole lot of Dharmendra movies in the last few months, putting up with silly pointlessness that only a fan will. So yes, I do have a top 10. I think his Hrishikesh Mukherjee
movies were the best--Anupama, Stayakam, Chupke Chupke. Guddi was more Jaya Bhaduri but Dharmendra was good there too. Others in the top 10 would be Mera gaon mera desh, Sholay, Jugnu and Phagun
where he plays a small role. It's once again a female centric movie and Dharmendra did many of these. I haven't seen Blackmail, Bandini or Phool aur Patthar but by all accounts they should make
the list. So there's  nothing unusual there--many would agree on a large subset of these. Other movies I quite enjoyed were Aadmi aur Insaan, Yakeen, Aankhen, Naya Zamana. And one movie that
I absolutely want to see for the songs is Dewar. Khamoshi is not a Dharam movie. He briefly show us his gorgeous rear profile and leaves us wanting more.


yves 29/04/2010 11:44

Hello again Sophy,

Thanks for the suggestions! I'll make a note of your choice of Hrsishikesh movies!

Have a nice day.

sophy 20/04/2010 18:39

Sorry that should have been "Kuch dil ne kaha" above. I like "Ya dil ke suno" too. Both are very quiet songs.

yves 22/04/2010 15:14

Yes, I also like "Ya dil ke suno", but "Kuch dil ne kaha" has that special atmosphere which sets it apart from the others, I think. And of course, there's Lata's magic!

sophy 20/04/2010 18:27

Bonjour Yves, As a Dharmendra fan, I see this movie often enough and am always looking for fresh takes on it. Thanks for a very nice review. I read somewhere that "Ya dil ke suno" is one of Lata's
favorite songs. It is so quiet, so different and Lata perfectly captures the voice of a girl who only talks to the flowers and birds. Dharmendra did these restrained roles better than almost anyone
else. Like you said, it is part of his persona. With so many of the others, we see their superstar ego. Dharmendra didn't really have that ego. J'habite en France aussi, mais mon français n'est pas
très bonne.

yves 22/04/2010 15:08

Hi Sophy,

Thank you for having left your impression; I'm pleased to exchange with lovers of Indian cinema! You tell me you like Dharmendra: perhaps you could indicate to me which of his movies are the

You also say you live in France: which nationality are you?


dustedoff 15/04/2010 15:36

No, Yves - in fact, the only Filmfare award Dharmendra won for his acting was a Lifetime Achievement award. He was nominated for Phool aur Patthar (also made in 1966, the same year as Anupama)but
lost out to Dev Anand for Guide.

yves 19/04/2010 23:33

Ok thanks Madhulika.

Rom 15/04/2010 14:07


Je n'ai pas vu ce film, seulement l'extrait de la chanson Kucch dil ne kaha, qui est vraiment sublime.

A bientôt.

yves 15/04/2010 14:47

Bonjour Rom,

Eh bien j'espère que cela vous donnera envie de voir le film, il en vaut la peine!



dustedoff 14/04/2010 07:50

What a lovely review - thank you for that! I like Anupama a lot, more than most of the other Sharmila Tagore-Dharmendra films there are, and the last scene is one of those I find absolutely

I read somewhere that Dharmendra said, re: his acting, that after he didn't get a Filmfare award for either Anupama or Satyakam, he decided not to take his acting seriously. I do think he was
excellent in this.

yves 15/04/2010 11:09

Hi Dustedoff:

And so: did he get that Filmfare Award?

Thanks for your appreciation.