The beginning sequence in Anubhav surprised me pleasantly. It is a party celebrating a couple’s sixth wedding anniversary. The camerawork is more evocative of European cinema helping conjure up a candid and intimate look into the machinations of this society event. The overlapping of voices and a quick glance at each forgettable face of a guest makes you feel a part of this party. I instantly recalled all the formal parties I had been to in my life (well, most of them) and feeling a similar emotion of remoteness and false involvement that this sequence evokes.
The party is not staged for the camera’s benefit. When you consider most Hindi films, everything in a crowded scene is directed or choreographed in a way to hint at drama or passion. This might be done in the form of a song or a dramatic confrontation. These kind of scenes are entertaining in their own right but the party scene in Anubhav also works because it shows the lack of dominance that these people have. There is no spotlight on a single person and it is a little child who draws all the oohs and aahs.
Once you realise that the director is Basu Bhattacharya (Teesri Kasam), you can understand why the opening is so unusual. The married couple are Meeta (Tanuja) and Amar (Sanjeev Kumar). Meeta likens her home to a hotel as it is swarming with unnecessary servants. Normally a person who goes through the motions of her role as an obedient wife, Meeta decides to take matters into her own hands. She sacks nearly all the servants without even consulting Amar.
When Amar complains, her response is: “Jab woh sab hote hai aur main nahin, kya tum meri kami mehsoos karte ho?” Here, a desire to be needed and loved has been awakened. Anubhav is a rather feminist film in some ways. Meeta asserts herself, not by shouting or by force, she takes the initiative to get rid of whatever is making her unhappy. She has a more difficult time later with the re-entry of old flame, Shashi (Dinesh Thakur) into her life. When Amar finds out who he truly is and feels betrayed, Meeta asserts herself once more and explains to him her side of things.
But where Anubhav really scores for me is in its celebration of life. The constant ringing of the phone, the ding-dong of the clock, the whirring fan… These are all emblems of the passage of time and a warning of how life can just pass you by. There is a lovely moment when a carefree Meeta hums in the shower (to Geeta Dutt’s sublime voice): “Mera dil jo mera hota, Palkon pe pakar leti, Hoton se utaa leti, Haathon main khuda hota.” We all have moments when we fall asleep to the routines of life but this song is about waking up and grabbing your present with both hands. Meeta takes ownership of what her heart is telling her.
And Tanuja is such a natural screen presence here. Every time she speaks and I hear her quiet honeyed voice, I find it soothing. Her warm demeanour counteracts against the desolation of the apartment that threatens to stifle her. Of course, Sanjeev Kumar is also at his natural and charming best. Both show a high comfort level with each other and make for a sweet onscreen pairing. Anubhav has its flaws and odd moments but the feeling of joy that it generates is precious to me. Go out and wake up to life. Reach out for what is yours. Go grab the sun. As Geeta Dutt herself says: Suraj ko pakar leti, sandal ki tarah malti…