Abhimaan begins with the camera pulling back from a House Full board displayed outside a theatre.
| Pawan Kumar
|| Hrishikesh Mukherjee
|| S D Burman
|| Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bhaduri
Commercial success might have been playing on director Hrishikesh Mukherjee's mind (and indeed Abhimaan was reasonably well received). But the film's enduring appeal lies primarily in
the fact that it is a deceptively gentle yet intensely probing exploration of a troubled marriage caused by fragile egos and fractured psyches.
Released within months of its lead players Jaya and Amitabh's marriage June 3, 1973, Abhimaan deals with newlyweds. The screen couple encounter discord due to their differing levels of professional success.
Subir (Amitabh) is a star singer, known for his repertoire of crowd-pleasing
songs, a fact established by the Kishore Kumar number, Meet na mila re man ka. As the breezily-sung
song subliminally suggests, Subir feels acutely alone, despite being
besieged by midnight telephone calls from frantic female fans and despite
having an amiable friend in Chitra (Bindu), a rich socialite who fawns over
Subir's visit to his doting aunt, Durga Mausi (Durga Khote), who lives in a
distant village, fructifies in a meeting with Uma (Jaya Bhaduri), daughter
of a classical singer. Subir is drawn to Uma's rendition of the Shiv vandana and eventually to Uma herself.
Interestingly, director Mukherjee subtly suggest the differing points of
view underlying the obvious attraction that the couple feel for each other.
When Subir asks Uma if she enjoys his songs, she admits to liking some, but
describes his songs as "haa hu, cheekna
chillana." When Subir explains that he is only catering to the
gallery, she queries, "Aap logon ko khush karne ke
liye gaate hain (Do you sing to please others)?"
At Subir and Uma's wedding reception, Subir insists Uma join him in a duet.
Raisaab (David), a renowned classical
singer, recognises the fact that Uma is a better singer and confides to a
friend that he fears a troubled future for the couple.
When the friend assures Raisaab that the
problem won't arise as Uma would soon be chained in the bonds of domesticity
and motherhood, Raisaab laments, "Woh toh aur bhi bura hogaa" (that will be even
Pithy lines like these, penned by novelist Rajinder Singh Bedi, lend depth to seemingly ordinary scenes.
The film evocatively captures the blissful early days of the marriage --- the scenes have a ring of truth. Subir, before drinking his morning cuppa, cups Jaya's face in his hands and plants a kiss. In a hilarious subsequent scene, when Subir presses his finger on his lips --- his code for 'I want a kiss' --- the washerwoman unwittingly emulates his gesture. Uma breaks into an uncontrollable fit of giggles.
Reality invades this paradise. Exhorted by Subir, Uma sings a duet with him
and finds herself flooded with solo song offers. Over the next few reels,
Mukherjee feelingly etches the chasm between the couple. He is fortunate to
have the advantage of the insight that only an entertainment industry
insider can possess.
For instance: on sighting Uma, Subir's fans snatch their autograph books and
make a beeline for her. Photographers ask Subir to stand aside while they
click Uma's solo pictures. The final straw proves to be a producer offering
Uma Rs 5,000 per song, which is more than Subir's price.
Deeply hurt, Subir bottles his emotions and uncorks the whiskey bottle.
In a scene that places a finger on the film's pulse, Subir (who has taken to
spending time in Chitra's house), laments in a self-pitying tone, "Pehle akela tha, ab bhi akela hoon (I was, and
am, alone)." Chitra observes that loneliness is a self-inflicted pain caused
by chhote chhote abhimaan aur aham (petty
Uma volunteers to stop singing, but ends up wounding Subir's scarred
self-image further. In a moment of pique, he tells Uma that he doesn't need
Uma returns to her village, only to realise that she is carrying Subir's
baby. When the news is conveyed to Subir, he is secretly delighted but his
ego still needles him.
The cataclysm is reached when Uma loses her baby. A contrite Subir brings
her home, but an emotionally-petrified Uma has stopped responding to pain or
happiness, even music. In a bid to shatter the wall of silence surrounding
Uma, Subir does a stage show where he sings their song: Tere mere milan ki yeh raina.
This evidence of her husband's love finally implodes the barriers within Uma
and she breaks down and weeps copiously. In a
kerchief-wringing scene, Subir gently holds Uma and urges her to sing once
Superb performances by Amitabh and Jaya are the life force of the film.
While watching Abhimaan, one is tempted
to wonder if Jaya's subsequent opting out of the limelight was partially
influenced by this film. Amitabh plays a star singer with flamboyant élan,
looks genuinely in love and later wears the sullen look as if it were second
Jaya is appropriately expressive in the first half and appears effectively
numbed in the climax.
Bindu succeeds in becoming the onscreen representation of the audience.
Asrani is terrific as the secreatry who constantly familiarises Subir with
his fragile-as-China male ego. In the scene after Asrani has angrily
resigned as Amitabh's secretary and is walking out, the phone rings. Asrani
automatically moves towards the phone to attend the call, stops himself and
leaves. A fine directorial touch.
Finally, the film's celebrated music score is enhanced by the creativity in
its utilization. Each song in Abhimaan
fits snugly into its situation.
* Only months before Abhimaan was
released, Amitabh Bachchan had finally broken through to major league
stardom with Zanjeer. 1973 was a good
time for AB as he delivered one more hit Namak
Haram (also directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee) in the same year.
* Jaya shared Filmfare's Best Actress Award for Abhimaan with Dimple Kapadia, who won for Bobby.
|Famous songs from Abhimaan:|
| Meet na mila re manka
|| Kishore Kumar
| Nadiya kinare
|| Lata Mangeshkar
| Loote koi man ka nagar
|| Lata Mangeshkar, Manhar Udhas
| Teri bindiya re
|| Lata Mangeshkar,Mohammed Rafi
| Ab toh hai tumse
|| Lata Mangeshkar
| Peeya bina
|| Lata Mangeshkar
| Tere mere milan ki yeh raina
|| Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar
marked yet another efflorescence of S D
Burman's already legendary talent. In the same year, 1973, his compositions
* The truly memorable, award-winning score of Abhimaan