50 years of ‘Anand’: 7 facts you didn’t know about this Rajesh Khanna classic

Anand is without a shred of doubt Rajesh Khanna’s finest performance. Just how he got the role is a story of its own

Rajesh Khanna (Photo Courtesy: Social Media)
Rajesh Khanna (Photo Courtesy: Social Media)

Subhash K Jha

‘Anand’ marked the first of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s 3 historic collaborations with Rajesh Khanna, the other two being Bawarchi and Namak Haraam. Anand is without a shred of doubt Rajesh Khanna’s career’s finest performance. Just how he got the role is a story of its own. Read on.

1. Anand was based on the friendship between Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Raj Kapoor. Hrishida told me he was so close to Raj Saab that not a day passed when they didn’t meet at least once. So close were the two that Hrishida would often get morbid thoughts about the two of them being separated by death. That’s how Anand was born. In fact Hrishida wanted to make it with Raj Saab playing the role that Amitabh Bachchan finally played. Hrishida got to work with his best friend Raj Kapoor only once in Naukri which was a fiasco.

2. After Raj Kapoor as Anand did not work out, Hrishida’s choice for playing Anand was Kishore Kumar. But we all know how eccentric Kishoreda could be. So Hrishida went to Shashi Kapoor with the role. That too didn’t work out. It was Rajesh Khanna who offered to step in as Anand at the peak of his career. The rest as they say is ‘hysteria’.

3. Lalita Pawar who was always cast in vampish roles here played the stern but softhearted nurse D’Sa. This was not the first time that Hrishida had cast the powerful Pawar as a kind Catholic. She had played one in Hrishida’s Anari as well. This director liked casting vamps in sympathetic roles: Shashikala in Anupama, Bindu in Abhimaan and Arjun Pandit.

4. Real-life couple Ramesh Deo and Seema Deo played husband and wife in the film also. Anand Sehgal grows very fond of Seema Deo’s character. On her birthday he says the immortal line on mortality, “Main toh yeh bhi nahin keh sakta ki meri umar tumhe lag jaye.”

5. The Manna Dey song Zindagi kaisi hai paheli was to be played in background with the opening credits. When Rajesh Khanna heard it, he asked Hrishida, “Why do you want to waste it in the background?” The songs was shot on Rajesh Khanna at the Juhu beach and became a hit. Songs used as part of the background score were known to flop.

6. Rajesh Khanna had no leading lady in Anand (or in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Bawarchi). Sumita Sanyal was cast opposite Amitabh Bachchan. Though there was no song situation for her, Hrishida created one, as he wanted at least one song by his favourite Lata Mangeshkar in the film. That’s how composer Salil Chowdhary composed the timeless Na jiya lage na for Anand.

7. Anand was ripped off many times by many filmmakers. The most notable of the spinoffs was Karan Johar-Nikhil Advani’s Kal Ho Na Ho in 2003 with Shah Rukh Khan playing the do-gooder who dies of heart ailment. The most famous dialogue in Anand was Maut tu ek kavita hai which Gulzar wrote. Anand remains the most vibrant comment on life’s ephemerality. It’s not the size that matters. It’s how you use that thing that matters. Life, silly.

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