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Memorable films

Hrishikesh Mukherjee

 


Hrishida's career started first in the film laboratory and later in the editing room with New Theatres Pvt. Ltd, Calcutta. He came as a part of Bimal Roy's team to Mumbai in 1951 and worked with him till he became an independent director himself.

His debut film as a director was Musafir (1957), which had a pretty unusual structure. Episodic in structure, it looked at three totally unrelated stories symbolizing marriage, birth and death in which the common link is the house where the stories occur each time with new tenants. However commercial and critical success came with Anari (1959) starring Raj Kapoor and Nutan.

His following film Anuradha (1960) dealing with a lively, vivacious woman who becomes frustrated and lonely due to her husband (an idealistic doctor working amidst the rural poor) neglecting her in favour of his work, won the President's Medal.

Ironicaly just when it looked like Hrishida had it made, in the period from Anuradha to Satyakam (1969) barring Asli Naqli (1962), Anupama (1966), Ashirwad (1968) and of course Satyakam (1969), though he made films regularly, nothing was particularly too distinguishable in his work.

Anand (1970) however was a masterpiece. It looked at a man dying of cancer who is determined to make every moment of his remaining life happy. It is a film with great compassion, a delicate balance between hope and fear, between life and death and is probably Rajesh Khanna's greatest ever performance.

The 1970s saw Hrishida do some of his best work with Guddi (1971), Bawarchi (1972), Abhimaan (1973), Namak Haram (1973), Chupke Chupke (1975), Mili (1975), Golmaal (1979) and Khubsoorat(1980). These films show that Hrishada understood middle-class mentality as very few others do. He poked gentle fun at its outworn values, its failings and foibles, and prodded his audience to think.

However the 1980s with the rise of Amitabh Bachchan and larger than life films saw Hrishida's brand of filmmaking die out. Recently he tried a comeback with Jhoot Bhole Kawa Kaate (1999) trying to capture the magic of his films of the 1970s but the film was both a critical and commercial failure.

Hrishida has also served a stint as Chairman of the Central Board of Film Certification and of the National Film Development Corporation. In 2000, he was awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke Award and on January 26, 2001, he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan for his contribution to Indian Cinema.

Hrishida passed away in Mumbai on August 27, 2006 after a prolonged illness.


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