Hrishikesh Mukherjee, who gave one of the most popular lines to Bollywood — Jeena isi ka naam hai, is no more. The man who charmed both critics and viewers with his simple but effective narration died on Sunday.
He was 83. The song Kisi ki muskurahaton pe ho nisar, which belongs to Mukherjee’s classic Anari starring Raj Kapoor and Nutan, epitomises his idea of filmmaking. He never flirted with glamour in his movies.
Instead, Mukherjee adopted simplicity and warmth and his best pals and audience loved his style. He started his career as an assistant director to veteran Bimal Roy in 1951 and it took him six years to direct his first film Musafir (1957) with Dilip Kumar.
The film bombed at the box office but it caught Raj Kapoor’s attention who was immensely impressed by Mukherjee and recommended him as director for Anari (1959). The film was a huge commercial success and there was no looking back for the director.
Mukherjee had a knack to package age-old ideals as love, austerity and equality with freshness of early morning dew and proved with his films that they were relevant to routine lives.
Not many filmmakers have had the wisdom and gut-feel to pick up slice-of-life themes like innocent teenage infatuation, neglected wife or daughter and doomed benevolence at a time when films blindly glorified their protagonists.
One could easily empathise with the infatuated teenage girl in Guddi (1971) and feel the frustration of the hardworking but neglected wife without any hard feelings for the idealist husband in Anuradha (1960).
The prolific director, who passed away after a prolonged illness, had by the end of his career taught generations how to make life fun-filled without losing virtuosity.
He took the concept of catharsis to beautiful heights without disturbing the flow and feel-good texture of the movie, which mainly revolved around educated middle-class families. Consider this.
Even as Anand lies dead and his recorded voice calls out “Babu Moshai”, giving goose bumps to the viewers, one could not think of bringing him back but to only let go. The last night together of Anuradha (Leela Naidu) and Nirmal Chowdhary (Balraj Sahni) is a concept in itself.
The scene where the devastated husband intends to caresses the sleeping wife’s hair but withdraws, may not be a visual delight but it conveys the hero’s feelings effectively. Mukherjee’s selection of songs too was of the same feel. They had no idealistic settings or extreme visualisation.
Take Lata Mangeshkar classic Dheere dheere machal from Anupama for example. The only props seen while actress Surekha sings the song on the piano are a ladies’ handbag and a timepiece — something we find in our drawing rooms.
The peppy Yesudas-Asha Bhonsle number Janeman janeman tere do nayan of the film Chhoti Si Baat, 1975 is another example of his style where Amol Palekar, wooing Vidya Sinha, takes the imaginary position of onscreen couple Dharmendra and Hema Malini.
He was equally good with humour evident from Chupke Chupke, Golmaal and Khoobsoorat. But post Khoobsoorat his career headed downhill and he made a futile attempt to revive it with Jhooth Bole Kauwa Kaate, starring Anil Kapoor and Juhi Chawla.
Apart from filmmaking he served as the chairman of National Film Development Corporation (NFDC). As Hrishida begins his final journey, his audience would like to hear him call out once again “Babu Moshai!” and then perhaps, let go.