I saw Aandhi two days ago, and the movie touched me immensely. Aandhi is a beautiful film. Directed by the magical Gulzar, the film traces the life of Arti Devi, a politician played by Suchitra Sen. With an eye on elections, she comes to stay at a hotel and finds out that the hotel manager is none other than her estranged husband JK, played gloriously by Sanjeev Kumar, whom she had left nine years ago to embark on a political journey. On meeting each other, Arti and JK realize that they still had feelings for each other and they start meeting secretly as the world does not know that they had been married. They bring their old relationship to life for a few days and then again get parted from each other because they want different things from life. There was some speculation that the movie was based on the story of Indira Gandhi and her husband but Gulzar has categorically denied that and has said that Arti's character was only inspired by Indira Gandhi as she was the most powerful politician of that era. Without a doubt, there is an uncanny similarity between the appearance of Arti and Indira Gandhi.
There is a beautiful theme that is present throughout the film. Does time break bonds? Does spatial distance accentuate emotional distance? Does love pass the test of time? "Saalon se rishtey toot jaate hain kya," remarks JK to Binda Kaka (AK Hangal) when he says that time has changed so much. Even after meeting nine years later, JK remembers that Arti loves to drink water from the suraahi, that she likes chandan ki agarbattiyaan, and that she prefers yellow flowers. Arti remembers that JK does not like coffee at night. Later, this points comes when Arti says to Binda Kaka that she has lost so much in life. Binda Kaka replies, "Na milne se koi rishte toot jaate hain? Vo rishta hi kya jo haath tootne se chhoot jaaye." Everything might change, people might change, time might change, but love remains, maybe hidden somewhere in a special corner in the heart. Maybe you don't feel it everyday because it might be so ingrained in that it becomes a part of you and your memories. And, that is what happened to Arti and JK, too. As they say, "Love is how you stay alive, even after you are gone" and as Angie said in Finding Fanny, "Log marte hai, pyaar nahi, haan baat to vohi hai ki life khatam hoti hai, love thori, vo to hota hai kahin na kahi, bas use dhoondna padta hai." That also explains why Gulzar showed a non-linear narrative in the film. JK and Arti remember each other through flashbacks. The boundaries between the past and the present are blurred and there is a constant shift between the two throughout the narrative, just like their love that has successfully transcended the barriers of time.
At another point, JK and Arti take a stroll in a historical place with ruins. Arti says it feels that it was centuries ago the last time she took a stroll like this, and JK replies, "Shayad un dino ki baad hogi, jab yeh imarat abhi ujdi nahi thi." Further, he adds that they should take a walk everyday for the time she is here as "Kam se kam yeh imarat kuch dino ke liye hi bas jayegi." The ruined imarat is nothing but a metaphor for their own ruined relationship as their own almost dead relationship has come to life for a few days when they met. There is something poignant and wistful about the scene where a couple take a walk in the ruins, and talk about their own ruined relationship, reminiscing about their old days together. There is juxtaposition between the characters' internal surroundings and their external surroundings and Gulzar does this brilliantly. Interestingly, this is the also same place where Vishal Bharadwaj shot the song Bismil from Haider.
One of the other interesting things about Aandhi was that there was no other woman in the entire film except Arti. There is only mention of Manu, Arti's and JK's daughter, but we never get to see her after she grows up. There are some scenes when she is young, but otherwise there is not even one female character in the film. Arti is surrounded by men all the time. She does not have a mother and was raised by her father and Binda Kaka. Then, she gets married to JK. When she goes to politics, all her advisers and her adversaries are all men. We just don't get to see any women. Mrs. Indira Gandhi is famously described as 'the only man in her cabinet'; it is interesting to see the film portrays Arti as 'the only woman in the film'. At the risk of being labelled a sexist, maybe being surrounded by men all the time made Arti highly ambitious. She was not ruthless but the way she left her daughter with JK without even thinking about 'motherly love' and does not meet her own daughter for years shows that she took her political career seriously and the great thing about the film is that not even once she is judged for doing that. At another point, she even leaves her daughter to a neighbor because she had to rush to work. Her daughter would have a hard time understanding her mother's choice of leaving her. At one point, she is standing beneath a picture of Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, and says that she idolizes Indira Gandhi, which explains her strength of character. At risk of being called an over-analyzer, I found it very interesting that though the film denies any similarity to Mrs. Gandhi's real life, Sanjeev Kumar's character is called JK, which incidentally is similar to the consecutive initials of Feroze Gandhi (FG).
Aandhi has a non-judgmental depiction of the aspirations of both Arti and JK. Arti's father wanted to use her to deepen his business ties and he did not want her to marry JK. She refused to be a toy in his hands, and married JK because she wanted to start a life with him. She realized she was never made to be a housewife, she felt suffocated sitting all day long in her house. She was a rebel and she did not want to follow orders from her husband, so she leaves him. JK was a simple man and he wanted no connection with politics, and he did not like when his wife wanted to join politics. He gets angry at her and even admonishes her when she refused his order by saying to her, "Mera shauhar banne ki koshish mat karo." If JK's behaviour was like that of a male chauvinist husband at times, she also hurts him by saying some things about his low status in the society. She wants him to leave the job of a hotel manager. So, both of them were at fault in some way or the other.
The film never portrays any of them as a villain; it was just that they both wanted different things from life. This is also I feel what would happen to Naina and Bunny in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. Bunny would get suffocated sitting at home, and Naina would not want to live the life of a nomad, and their differences would only increase with time. It is all about perspective. Arti has a different view on life, while JK has his own. It is these differences that we need to accept and move on with life. There is another beautiful contrast on this aspect in the film. The symbol of the Arti's political party is a panchhi or a bird. In the beginning, we see that her opponents ridicule this by saying that just like birds fly away after eating the grain, Arti will also do the same and fly away once she gets the votes. Later, her party-man explains another contrast by saying only birds can fly and reach the sky, "Aur kisme itna dam hai jo itna ucha uth sake aasman me." Immediately, in the next scene, we see that Arti is flying in a helicopter in the sky. Contrast to the scene before, we see that JK is gardening. It is as if this also depicts their difference; she is flying in the air like she wants to fly away in her life, whereas he wants to stay closer to the ground, that is why is he likes to spend his time gardening.
But the cinematic brilliance of Aandhi lies in the unspoken word. There is so much that is left unsaid and the film asks us to understand this unuttered feeling. When Arti comes back to visit JK, she looks around as if she is trying to find someone. Then, she asks, "Is ghar ko itna saaf kaun rakhta hai," which was as if she was trying to find if JK had married again and her eyes were perhaps searching for another woman, and she asks this question as to who keeps this house clean because she hesitates to ask him directly.
Later, when JK says that she has achieved so much in life and asks her if she is happy, she pauses for a second and then does not reply and starts talking about something else, as if again she is holding herself from saying that she has achieved a lot but lost his love. During the song Tere Bina Shikva, they do not lip sync and keep on reminiscing on what could have been their life if they were together. It is this unspoken and the unsaid word that portrays a deep underlying loneliness in both of them and the film nudges us to understand it on our own. There is also an underlying theme of journey in the film. The most beautiful song of the film is Is Mod Se Jaate Hain which talks about their journey of life. It is such a lovely song that portrays the entire story of the film itself. They talk about finding that road which will take them to each other from this mod, this point in life. When they come near that road, it takes a turn, and it stops. And, yet, they keep on waiting that maybe there will come another road that will take them to each other from this mod, this situation in life. It is a lovely song. Later, we see that Arti and JK talk about how much differences have come between them, she has traveled so far ahead and he has left behind, again, symbolizing this element of journey of life. It is no coincidence that this conversation on life and journey happens when Arti is reading a copy of Life magazine. It is this juxtaposition of the internal and the external is portrayed by Gulzar splendidly.
Aandhi ki tarah ud kar ek raah guzarti hai,
Sharmaati hui koi qadamon se utarti hai,
In reshmi raahon mein, ik raah to wo hogi,
Tum tak jo pahuchti hai, is mod se jaati hai.
Ik door se aati hai, paas aa ke palatti hai,
Ik raah akeli si, rukti hai na chalti hai,
Ye soch ke baithi hoon, ik raah to wo hogi,
Tum tak jo pahunchti hai, is mod se jaati hai.
Conversations on life while reading Life
Finally, the film shows that time is the biggest healer. At the end, there is a change in both of them. There are no hard feelings and both of them have learnt to understand each other. Arti realizes that she has to move ahead and serve the people, and JK also mellows down. He says he does want her to return because she is losing the election. He says, "Tumhari haar meri jeet nahi ho sakti. Main tumhe haara dekhna nahi chahta." He learns to accept that in her victory is his victory as well and perhaps, in the climax, which is undoubtedly one of the best in a film, they let go of each other and again the song Is Mod Se Jaate Hain plays. They came so close, Ik door se aati hai, paas aa ke palatti hai, yet they are not together, but there is still hope that maybe one day there will come a point in life where they will find a way that will lead them each other. Ye soch ke baithi hoon, ik raah to wo hogi, tum tak jo pahunchti hai, is mod se jaati hai.
Aandhi is a beautiful film that convincingly portrays the complexities of human emotions and aspirations. Sanjeev Kumar and Suchitra Sen are brilliant. There are some actors on whom old age looks gracious and Sanjeev Kumar is one of them. He depicts his a character's nuances beautifully. The music and lyrics of the film are par excellence. But the film belongs to one and only Gulzar. There is melancholy and loneliness but at the same the film tells us to let go and not lose hope. Maybe one day, we will all find that road that will take us to our love as well.
Dialogue of the Day:"Jee mein aata hai, tere daaman mein,
Sar jhuka ke hum rote rahe, rote rahe,
Teri bhi aankho mein, aansuo ki nami to nahi."
Teri bhi aankho mein, aansuo ki nami to nahi."