Luminary, Profile

Vijay Anand

Vijay Anand was, without doubt, one of the greatest directors that Hindi cinema has seen. He was a filmmaker who combined a fine sense of storytelling with a highly sophisticated understanding of cinematic craft. His capability as an effective storyteller aside, one that satisfied both the intellectuals and the masses, his incredible talent as a filmmaker comes through even more forcefully in his picturisation of songs. It can be rightly said that Vijay Anand was arguably the greatest picturiser of songs in the history of Hindi, no make that Indian Cinema. His use of creating unusual situations and sets (the unending number of windows through which Dev Anand romances Hema Malini – Pal Bhar Ke Liye Koi Humein Pyaar Karle from Johny Mera Naam (1970)), using long complicated takes involving both character and camera movement (Tere Mere Sapne Ab Ek Rang Hai from Guide (1965) – entire song in just 3 shots), incredible use of foreground and background of the frame (O Mere Sona Re (Teesri Manzil (1966)), dynamic framing with a camera almost always on the move (Aaj Phir Jeene Ki Tamanna Hai (Guide)) and making the most of tightly enclosed spaces (Dil ka Bhanwar Kare Pukar – Tere Ghar Ke Samne (1963) on a set of the inside of the Qutub but what a picturisation!) all played a great part in the magic of the songs in his films. Great as his sense of filming songs was, Vijay Anand also made sure the songs were an integral part of the film’s narrative; they moved the story forward wherever possible and what’s more, they came after a proper build up.

Known popularly as Goldie, the younger sibling of filmmaker Chetan Anand and star Dev Anand, Vijay Anand was born in Gurdaspur, Punjab on January 22, 1934. He did his BA from Bombay University and while still not 20, wrote the script for the iconic Dev Anand starrer Taxi Driver (1954), directed by Chetan Anand. The film, inspired by the film noir movement of Hollywood, was one of the biggest hits of Navketan playing a big part in giving Dev Anand his well-known stylish screen persona. 

With Nau Do Gyarah, released in 1957, Vijay Anand make his directorial debut in the world of Hindi cinema. The film, a combination of the urban thrillers that Bollywood was churning out in the 1950s with the road film (certain elements borrowed from Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night (1934)), was a promising debut for the young Goldie. While the film has its moments, one senses the rawness but also the early promise that Goldie showed as a director and it still remains one of the most enjoyable and likeable Hindi film fares of the 1950s. Early evidence of Goldie’s filmic craft and song picturising ability however can be glimpsed through use of the foreground and background in Kali Ke Roop Mein Chali Ho Dhoop Mein Kahan or using a constricted space (a room and a toilet!) in the romantic ditty, Aaja Panchhi Akela Hai. Other Musical hits of the film include Hum Hain Rahi Pyar KeAankhon Mein Kya Ji and Kya Ho Phir Jo Din Rangeela Ho. Nau Do Gyarah also boasts of a technical flourish when two men are fighting it out in a room and the vamp outside is dancing to the strains of Geeta Dutt singing See Le Zubaan, Goldie cuts to a series of hands of the various characters outside the room to highlight their tension!

Goldie followed up Nau Do Gyarah with the story of a black marketer and his redemption – Kala Bazar (1960). The film is still known for its amazing picturisation of Rhim Jhim Ke Tarane Leke Aayi Barsaat with Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman braving the Bombay monsoons under a single umbrella while he supers their earlier scenes over them walking!

It was with his third film, Tere Ghar Ke Samne (1963) with Dev Anand and Nutan that one could say Goldie truly arrived. The film remains one of the most likeable romantic comedies the Hindi screen has seen. While admittedly on the surface the film is a lightweight, frothy, musical (and most enjoyable, one might say), it does propagate the idea of neighbors living in harmony and looks at some of the issues of the generation gap, arguing that everything new needn’t be bad and everything old needn’t be good either. But yes, the essence of the film is the love story. The developing romance of Dev Anand and Nutan is handled beautifully with simple everyday situations (going out for picnics, rides to the country etc), beautifully written scenes, witty spoken dialogue and plenty of charm, both from the script as well as the lead pair.Barring the Qutub Minar song, Goldie also astounded audiences with his visualization of the title song wherein Dev Anand imagines a miniature Nutan inside his drink and sings to her! The song has an unforgettable moment when Anand’s assistant Rashid Khan puts an ice cube into the glass causing Nutan to shiver, which Dev Anand gallantly takes out! In between Kala Bazar and Tere Ghar Ke Samne, there was Hum Dono (1961) – directorially credited to Navketan’s publicist Amarjeet, but every frame of the film seems to be Goldie’s style.

Perhaps Goldie’s real triumph as a filmmaker came with Guide (1965). Initially he was dead against directing this film causing Anand to approach elder brother Chetan Anand, who was busy with his own film, Haqeeqat (1964), and then Raj Khosla but things didn’t work out here either. Vijay Anand was approached again and this time he took on the film albeit reluctantly. Ironic because Guide today is regarded as perhaps the best film that Vijay Anand has made and rightly so. Based on RK Narayan’s novel The Guide, the film is immortalized by the director’s bold, unconventional strokes; who would have dared to film a story in India then that showed a man and woman living together outside the sanctity of a marriage way back in the 1960s? And that too in a milieu as traditional as that of Hindi cinema which doesn’t allow nonconformist relationships even today! In fact, it is one of the earliest efforts in Indian Cinema to actually show its two leading characters as frail human beings who could make mistakes in life, and yet be unapologetic about it.

Guide released to great critical acclaim and was a big commercial success as well. One of the major changes that Vijay Anand did was to change the setting of the film from Malgudi to Udaipur and while this did give the film an exotic, grand visual look, admittedly perhaps this took away from the ambiance of the small town of Narayan’s novel. The ending too of the film was significantly different from that of the novel. But then Vijay Anand has always maintained that he was never interested in merely copying any work of art from one medium to another unless there was scope for value addition and to be fair to him, he has made Guideinto a rich and unforgettable cinematic experience. Guide more than reinforces his reputation as Indian Cinema’s premier song picturizer. Special mention must be made of Aaj Phir Jeene ki Tamanna Hai (The famous low angle tracking shot of Waheeda dancing along a ledge continues to amaze one even today) and Tere Mere Sapne Ab Ek Rang Hain, which he canned in just 3 shots with complex character and camera movements – truly a great filmmaker at the height of his craft.

With Guide, Vijay Anand became the Hindi Film Industry’s big hope. Here was a filmmaker who could make intellectually stimulating films that could be profitable money earners as well! Following Guide, Vijay Anand went from success to success with films like Teesri Manzil (1966), Jewel Thief (1967), Johny Mera Naam (1970) and Tere Mere Sapne (1971). All the above named films show Goldie at his creative best as a filmmaker. Teesri Manzil might be a Nasir Hussain script but it is Vijay Anand who infused the necessary technical pizzaz raising the film several notches, making it an almost Hitchcockian comedy-thriller. Jewel Thief, a take off from Hitchcock’s North By Northwest (1959), is a riveting crime caper with the filming of its songs a major highlight. In fact, the picturisation of Hothon Pe Aisi Baat is arguably one of the greatest in the history of Hindi cinema as Vyjayanthimala dances like never before) and Johny Mera Naam still occupy a pride of place on filmgoers’ hearts as far as thrillers go but perhaps Goldie’s most satisfying film of this period was Tere Mere Sapne. Based on AJ Cronin’s The Citadel, the film looks at an idealist doctor losing his values to money before realizing his mistake at the end. The film is one of the most sensitive and maturely directed film by Vijay Anand, particularly the scenes between the husband and wife, who leaves him when she sees he is no longer the same man she married.

Sadly however, Vijay Anand’s career took a curious turn following Tere Mere Sapne. His subsequent films like Blackmail (1973) and Chhupa Rustom (1973) while having the odd Vijay Anand sparkle (the Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas song in Blackmail) were major disappointments. At this time he was going through personal upheavals as he married his niece and even turned to Godman Rajneesh. He did return to directing films with multi-starrers like Ram Balram (1980)and Rajput (1982) but found himself stifled with the dictates of the star system. He still made the odd film – Hum Rahe Na Hum (1984) and Main Tere Liye (1988) but the magic was missing.

Vijay Anand also acted in various films – Agra Road (1957), Haqeeqat (1964), Chhupa Rustom (1973), Kora Kagaz (1974) and Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki (1978) but though some of the films were successes, particularly the last two named, he failed to make the same impact he did when he was behind the camera. In the early 1990s, he was seen in the television serialTehqiqaat playing Sam the Detective and was in the process of making a film with brother Dev Anand – Jaana Nahin Dil Se Door when he passed away.

Vijay Anand died in Mumbai on February 23, 2004 due to a heart attack. It was one of the rare times that even the emotionally controlled Dev Anand wept openly. And it indeed is a sad reflection of the times we live in today that the news of his death was but a scroll of text on the News channels while a leading lady’s wedding crockery got far more coverage. However, in the eyes of the true cineastes, filmmakers like Goldie Saab don’t die. They become immortal.

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