BLASTFROM THE PAST
Shashi Kapoor, Hema Malini, Nirupa Roy, Nasir Hussain
Tinsel queen Hema Malini in Abhinetri
There are actors, versatile and talented, who, despite giving path-breaking performances year after year fail to emblazon their name in the constellation of Bollywood. Alternately, there are actors, who with sheer charisma and screen presence make it to the top league, without being great shakes in the acting department.
“Abhinetri” written, produced and directed by Subodh Mukerji, who had earlier given hits like “Munimji,” “Paying Guest” and “Junglee” was released in 1970 with Shashi Kapoor and Hema Malini in the lead. The two actors destined to have a long stint in Bollywood, with the latter being dubbed as ‘Dream Girl' for her beauty and grace, flexed their star appeal, despite being mediocre actors, at least at that stage of their careers.
Undoubtedly, the camera loves Hema Malini with the passion of a maniac for her traditional looks, expressive eyes and poise that made her an indomitable force in Bollywood. In “Abhinetri,” she is Anjana, a stage actor/ dancer and demonstrates her prowess as an accomplished dancer. But, when it comes to emoting, her weakness stares forth. With a limited talent pool at her disposal, in terms of acting, she fails to break the mould of two or three standard expressions used to convey happiness, love and angst. Indeed, she was no match to the histrionics of Waheeda Rehman and Vyjayanthimala , whowere great dancers and outstanding actors.
To her credit, Hema Malini developed into a fine actress later in her career, equipping herself with comic timing as seen in films like “Sholay” and “Seeta Aur Geeta.” But in “Abhinetri,” she can only be applauded for her ethereal beauty and graceful dancing.
Kapoor as Shekhar, a hard working scientist employed in a laboratory under an eccentric senior (Nasir Hussain in his trademark style) also achieved milestones as a star, despite being an actor with severe limitations. Even his astounding screen persona, the Kapoor khandaan good looks and debonair style fail to add depth to his otherwise well-etched character.
While the star power of the lead pair makes the movie based on husband-wife relationship worth watching, it fails to create the magic that films based on a similar storyline like Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bachchan's (then Bhaduri) “Abhimaan” or Rajesh Khanna-Sharmila Tagore's “Aavishkaar” did. The so-called ‘chemistry' between Kapoor and Malini is missing, although they look fabulous together.
The storyline is fairly simple and predictable. An unplanned encounter between Shekhar and Anjana leads to love and matrimony, which is sweet as chocolate for the first year, but then sours into bitter grapes when Anjana, feeling neglected by Shekhar's workaholic ways, decides to take to the stage once again (Anjana had stopped performing after marriage) which irks Shekhar, who believes in traditional (read no professional dancing) values.
The antagonism reaches a level where the two decide to live separately, till Shekhar's mother (Nirupa Roy in a role which she could have done to perfection even while asleep) comes to visit Shekhar.
Fearing that she will be heartbroken at the developments, Shekhar pleads with Anjana to pretend everything is hunky-dory between them till she leaves. But it so transpires that the mother had been summoned to salvage the sinking ship of marriage by Anjana's close friend (played by Nazima — in a case of going over the top), an endeavour in which she finally succeeds.
A refreshing music score by Laxmikant- Pyarelal is a redeeming feature of the film. The songs were composed to suit the situation and managed to convey the emotion with remarkable clarity. “O Ghata Sanwari” and “Sajna O Sajna,”solo numbers by Lata Mangeshkar, are a treat to hear even today, while “Bane Bade Raja” in Asha Bhonsle's voice, although in a different context and genre, was richly sung. Similarly, “Sa Re Ga Ma Pa” and “Milte He Rahenge Hum,” duets of Lata with Kishore Kumar and Mahendra Kapoorare equally engrossing.
The success of the songs had a lot to do with the creative genius of Majrooh Sultanpuri, a wizard with words. The cinematography by N.V. Sriniwas captures the beauty of actual locations (that are very few, mainly in songs, most of the film was shot indoors) with subtlety.
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