A brief aside:
For whatever reason, 1973 seems to be a golden filmi year for me. Whether it's Yash Chopra's supremely romantic Daag: A Poem of Love; or Raj Khosla's poignant and exciting dacoit drama, Kuchhe Dhaage; or Manmohan Desai's charming Aa Gale Lag Jaa; or my personal pick for the best underdog film--the Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila vehicle--Raja Rani . . . not to mention others that really hit home but that I might not consider favorites (like Namak Haraam or Zanjeer) . . . I'm starting to get so spoiled from the sheer awesomeness that when I finally do watch a film from '73 that isn't so great, I'm probably going to throw a tantrum.
But, back to the topic at hand.
I had heard just enough about Anamika to whet my appetite, and so one rainy summer night I found myself venturing into the genre of filmi-suspense/noir. If anyone can point me towards more of the same, I would be much obliged. But I have a feeling that Anamika might be one of a kind.
Devendra (Sanjeev Kumar) is a famous, but reclusive, novelist. In the opening scene, at a book-signing, we see his screaming fans, but we also hear him accused of being a "woman hater," because of the dearth of positive female roles in his stories. Devendra declines to answer this. From the first, we get the idea that Devendra has a past . . . and some trust issues.
On his way home from the signing, a car swerves in front of Devendra's, and a bound and gagged woman falls out (Jaya Bhaduri). Reluctantly, after urging by his secretary (Asrani) and his uncle (A.K. Hangal), he brings the woman home.
|And the moral of the story is: Always listen to Asrani. He's almost always right.|
Yeah. This doesn't go over well with Devendra. He proceeds to sulk and rage about the house--while the unnamed woman recuperates . . . and manages to win everyone in the house over with her amiability and enigmatic grace. Plus, she's a good Hindu girl, and she can sing, too. Her devotional/mystery song seemed (to my ears anyway) to emulate other "ghost and/or mysterious woman" numbers from early Hindi and Malayalam cinema. Like this one from Mahal, and the Yakshi genre of Malayalam ghost songs.
After a while, even Devendra warms to her--especially after he gets a lecture from the family doctor (Iftekhar) about the need to "humor" her in her delusion for a few more days until she recovers. Devendra christens her "Anamika," which apparently means "she of the unknown name," or something like that.
It also doesn't hurt that he starts to find her VERY, VERY attractive, and blushingly catches a glimpse of her playing in the rain with his niece.
Here he is reading his Hemingway upside down because he's got pretty-lady-in-the-rain on the brain.
And here, he realizes that said pretty lady has entered the room to change, but doesn't know he's there.
Sexiness and humor ensues.
She pretends to be sleep--clutching his hand.
And when that doesn't work, she sings him a delightful seduction song . . . and in a maddening blend of guile and innocence, she exhorts him to get over his shyness and come and embrace her.
Devendra maintains his maidenly honor and escapes, of course. But only just.
It must be noted here that in Anamika, Jaya Bhaduri and Sanjeev Kumar complement one another with that indefinable chemistry one expects from famous screwball comedy pairings (like Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant, or Myrna Loy and William Powell). They share enough of a similar sensibility and way of speech that we certainly don't question their presence in each other's lives. AND because they are both a little too clever and cerebral for their own good ... we are immediately treated to this sort of mental electricity flowing between the two . . . as they both try to figure each other out and get what they want out of the situation.
However, the two characters could not be more different in how they go about their lives. Anamika is spontaneous and resourceful (and may or may not be lying at all times), while Devendra sticks pretty close to home, and seems to live very quietly with his writing and his family to keep him company.
Even the way they walk and move together gives one the impression of a yin and yang symbol being acted out. Devendra tends to be stiff and composed, while Anamika is boundlessly energetic and even subversive in her physicality. And because Anamika and Devendra have strong, fully-formed personalities, half the fun of the film is seeing the push and pull between them. They may share some understanding of the world on a fundamental level, but they also constantly push each other (sometimes literally) outside of their respective comfort zones.
In a somewhat scandalous turn of events, Devendra's uncle (A.K. Hangal was amazing in this role!), playing matchmaker, advises him to take Anamika to their house in Shimla, to give her a change of pace. Uncle dearest also manages to bow out, so that the two almost love-birds will be alone. Clever, oh so clever.
We get some hilarious, but also a little bit unnerving scenes of the two fighting and playing in the snow. I say unnerving, because Anamika shows her cards for a moment--betraying how well she can lie when she so chooses. Once again, a shadow of a doubt passes over the couple. (And yes, that IS a reference to Hitchcock's film of the same name. Hitchcock's films will definitely come to mind while watching this film.)
Further revelations about Anamika occur . . . and Devendra is led to a night club dancer (Helen) who claims to know who Anamika is (and what she does for a living.) Hint: It's not good, and Anamika leaves in disgrace.
But, is Helen's character telling the truth about Anamika? Will the family be able to go on without her now that they know what they're missing in life? Will Devendra look into the matter further? And will Anamika be thrown right back into the danger she was running from?
Of course, Devendra and Anamika do cross paths again. But, this time, will Devendra give Anamika a second chance? And more importantly, can Anamika escape her past?
If you crossed Hitchcock's Vertigo, Notorious, and Rear Window . . . you might get something like Anamika; but in Hollywood, the denouement and reveal might ruin the whole story for re-watching purposes. As it is, whether or not you know Anamika's secret, I think you'll want to watch this one again. It's equal parts sexy, scary, and sweet. The writing and the dialogue is pretty tight, especially in the one-on-one conversations. The constant aura of suspense and tension is just delicious. And finally, if you're into enlightened gender roles and a very different take on the filmi-heroine, this one is for you.
If you haven't seen this, watch it immediately. Seriously. It's mind-blowingly awesome in a way completely different from the masala awesomeness or tearjerker romances I'm used to from the 70's. But don't ask me for my copy. I'm not going to be able to part with it any time soon!