Revisiting: Gulzar’s Aandhi (1975)

Aandhi [1975] Montage

With the result of the general elections been declared, and the UPA Sarkar acquiring a ‘Bahumat’, it certainly calls for a Bollywood treat and what better than Aandhi [1975].

Gulzar’s Aandhi could not have been more controversial. The subject matter evidently shows reflections of the lives of Indira and Feroz Gandhi, and it was released at a time when India was reeling under emergency (1975). But how could I have known; I was not born then. Watching Aandhi today in the year 2009, only brings me memories of the first time I heard the haunting melodies that this movie had to offer. Yes, I did watch this movie before but, never did I watch it with a mature understanding of Indian politics, the issues surrounding it and the sensibilities that this movie portrayed . But having watched it now, I can say Aandhi definitely sums up to a very compelling drama of a movie where political inclination and ego clashes between a man and a woman leads to a family’s disintegration. It echoes the feelings of Abhimaan, but with a political twist.

Suchitra Sen as Aarti Devi

The story begins with political leader Aarti Devi being arranged a stay at a hotel where JK is the manager. Aarti Devi is in the city to campaign for the elections, and both of them eventually get to meet after a gap of 10 years. Aarti Devi was once JK’s wife (however, they never did tell us about any divorce).The story unwinds in a series of flashbacks narrating the story of JK and Aarti- how they met each other for the first time and fell in love. Aarti (Suchitra Sen) is an Oxford alumni, born to a rich father and has aspirations to join politics. JK (Sanjeev Kumar) is an ordinary working class guy who prefers to keep life simple. Although Aarti loves JK’s simplicity and creative poetry, her ambitious father and her own aspirations are not appreciated by JK. This battle of egos ultimately results in them separating, even when they have a daughter who is a year old. Aarti goes ahead with her political career and JK shifts cities and jobs until they are destined to meet after 10 years. Will this bring their lives together or will the family reunion be still not possible? The film deals with all of these questions surrounded by the tactics and dirty strategies of Indian politics.

Released at a time of political unrest, I can imagine how difficult it would have been to get this movie pass the censor borad. The political remarks made by this movie are absolutely hard-hitting. From business tycoons backing up political leaders for a mutually beneficial deal to exposing corruption at every level, Aandhi does not compromise. The dirty politics played by the opposition to get more publicity (to get featured on the front page of a newspaper) or to instigate pelting of stones at a campaign rally of the opposition – all of thes e terms are very much mainstream now, (thanks to Aaj Tak and all the legions of news channels reporting Uma Bharati and Mayawati falling from stage or cutting birthday cakes). But imagine talking about this at a time when Operation Bluestar happened and Indira Gandhi declared national emergency. Add to that a story of a woman politician, leaving her family for politics – the obvious comparison that emerges from it. Bravo, I must say.

Sanjeev Kumar as JK

Coming to the performances, Sanjeev Kumar makes me believe in the anguish that JK goes through. He makes me laugh when he cracks the jokes about him doing anything and everything at age 12, and also his repulsion to politics. 10 years brought with it a lot of grey to their hair, and judging by the looks they had when they got married, they were indeed quite old for marriage. As for Suchitra Sen as Aarti Devi, there is something about her that I cannot describe in words. There is a secret in her smile, an innate pain when she emotes her sadness, and extreme joy when she exhales her jubilance. Although, her dialogue delievery in Hindi is not very impressive, I will have to excuse that considering her character is Bengali ( Aarti’s surname is Bose). I am still very much touched by her performance and I know that until I see her Bengali movies ( of which my mum and dad are big fans ) I will not be able to appreciate the magic of Suchitra Sen. But judging from Aandhi, Suchitra Sen brings Aarti Devi to life, crystal clear.

Tere Bina Zindagi Se Koi- Aandhi Last but not the least, RD Burman’s immortal music makes this movie a must watch. And with the risk of repeating myself, I should say, that the music of Aandhi is haunting. Not very often do I get the chance of choosing the best song in a movie, because when I watch the movie I get it instantaneously. But I am in a fix here. The three main songs of the movie – Is Mod Se Jaate Hai, Tum Aa Gaye Ho Nuur Aa Gaya Hai and Tere Bina Zindagi Se Koi, all three are equally my favorites. Kishore and Lata never sounded so beautiful together, and Gulzar’s lyrics are to die for. [ I will surely have to come back for a detailed review of the soundtrack of Aandhi] To sum it up, Aandhi is a must watch for JK and Aarti Devi, for Gulzar’s bold cinematical expose [long before Maachis] and for RD Burman. Hardly, does it get better than this.


1. The Make-Up of the 70’s ..aah the abundance of Kaajal..
Make-Up of Suchitra Sen

2. Sanjeev Kumar – JK’s heels..Uunche Log…Uunchi Pasand
JK's heels

3. AK Hangal – Brinda Kaka cries
AK Hangal - Brinda Kaka  cries

4. Egos clash ..Abhimaan-esque
Sanjeev Kumar debates with Suchitra Sen

5. The Naara incident ..See it
The Naara Incident -Aandhi

P.S. This is my 100th post on OKS….Yippeee ki Yayy….!!!!

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7 thoughts to “Revisiting: Gulzar’s Aandhi (1975)”

  1. Congrats on the 100th post!

    I really need to watch all these brilliant oldie flicks. Will do that once I get back to India next week. Gulzar’s films would be a good start, isn’t it?

    P.S. That song, Tere Bina Zindagi Se Koi, is so so beautiful! Gulzar rocks, seriously! Brilliant lyrics.


  2. I second Bhargav’s thoughts on Teri bina zindagi hai koi, that song has been in my head ever since i heard it and it makes me want to watch the film, such a pity its not readily available in the Uk, i’ll have to go through arms and lenghts to get a classic like this, which i don’t mind


  3. I had no idea those songs were in this film! Thank you for your writeup. It’s on my list to get next. And I can completely relate to your views on re-watching a film with a mature mindset. Try seeing some Guru Dutt films now!

    @Bhargav: Have fun in India!


  4. Aandhi is for sure one of the best films based on Indian politics. You are absolutely right. It did take a lot of balls to make this movie, especially during the period of emergency. I love Suchitra Sen’s portrayal of aarti Devi.

    I hope you understand Bengali. Would want your views on Saptapadi, if you can get hold of it.


  5. Agreed that Suchitra Sen left a towering impression as old and young lady (partly reminding of another, newer, Bengali actress, Rituparna Sengupta) and that the songs are lovely (even with me not understanding Hindi). But technically, i thought Aandhi has many weaknesses:
    – strong changes in sound in mid-scene
    – the “night scene” at the ruins mostly filmed at daytime, with a few confusing switches to night time footage
    – their daughter never seen
    This and some more added up to a half-disappointing experience.


    Sujoy Reply:

    Could you please elaborate on the strong sound change bit.. I couldn’t understand exactly what you meant.
    The night scene was shot in daytime and then post-production work was done, because it was shot at Nalanda University which is the most ancient University in recorded history. I believe they did not have the permission to shoot it in the day. And as the film’s premise demanded Suchitra Sen to be a very busy politician who would only have some time for leisure in the night, the setting had to be changed in the post production..

    Yeah, their daughter is in Shimla, [ I guess studying ] so during that short period of stay, she wasn’t being shown. But why does that count as a weakness, err.. I’m confused.
    I’m sorry that you are (half) disappointed with the experience, but am glad you loved Suchitra Sen’s performance and RD Burman’s music.

    Thanks for the comment. Hope you check out the other posts and you are welcome to comment on any thing you find worth commenting. Cheerio!


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