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Leela Naidu’s 1st Film Anuradha (1960) Was All About A Homemaker Taken For Granted

Posted: May 23, 2021

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The 1960 classic Anuradha was way ahead of the times, showing the story of a talented woman taken for granted by her husband. Sounds familiar?

Recently I saw Anuradhadirected by Hrishikesh Mukherjee. It stars Leela Naidu, (who, as per the late director Satyajit Ray was a classic beauty) Balraj Sahni, and Abhi Bhattacharya. The film was way ahead of its times.

A doctor, Balraj Sahni falls in love with a girl. She is his patient as she had a fall is injured. She is an upcoming singer. She is the beautiful Leela Naidu. She marries him despite opposition from her rich parents who feel that Abhi Bhattacharya, is the better suited boy, as per their stature in life.

A homemaker, Anuradha is taken for granted

Post marriage, Leela follows her husband to work in a village, where he treats patients. Leela toils hard. She is doing housework & attends to their small daughter. Singing which was her life, has long been forgotten. Her husband has no time for her. He is too involved in treating his patients.

One day, Abhi happens to come with a friend, and insists that she sing something. She sings one of the best songs in the movie…“Kaise din beete, kaise beeti ratiya, piya jaane naa… (how does the day get wasted, how the night gets wasted,…..my lover does not realise)”.

When she is singing, Abhi and friends are in rapt attention, taking in the soulful voice, while the hubby, that is the Doctor, is immersed in reading a medical journal.

Will she stay with the husband and not leave for the city where she could set the music world on fire?! Will she? Won’t she? Will her love for music force her migration to the city; the husband can accompany her as well. What happens next?

Reel life that imitates real life

Maybe reel life imitated by real life… too many examples of the husband taking an achiever wife for granted. Ravi Shankar-Annapurna Devi, Nargis-Sunil Dutt, Amitabh -Jaya, Mazhar Khan-Zeenat, and many more. which never makes the audience feel that this was the first movie for Leela Naidu.

There is a feminist message, that the husband must have some regard for the talent of the wife. Yet the message is too subtle – will the wife continue to be a home maker though she can be someone else? Will the husband do something so that the talented wife does not fade into oblivion? Many of us who have to give up our jobs for any reasons whatsoever will surely identify with the character portrayed by Leela Naidu.

All were stellar actors…Balraj Sahni, Abhi Bhattacharya, and of course Leela Naidu, and it’s unbelievable that this was Miss India Leela Naidu’s debut movie! She looks stunning in this black and white movie. The suave Balraj Sahni, was a member of Indian People’s Theatre Association and an excellent actor. And of course Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s direction that brings out the nuances.

One of the first songs in the movie Bahut din huye … was a story I had read in my Hindi class at school, decades ago. It is about a princess –Phulkumari, who never laughs, and then all try to make her laugh. Finally a funny man makes her laugh, who is a prince, and wins her hand. So, this movie brought back school memories!

The irony of Pt Ravi Shankar’s music

Music by Pandit Ravi Shankar is superb. The songs do full justice to the fact that the heroine of the film is a singer par excellence, who gets lost in the life of a house holder. Lata Mangeshkar’s voice is young and fresh, and the lyrics speak of joy, agony, and the sadness of the singer who gets eclipsed completely by the pressure to be a homemaker.

It’s an irony, though, that Ravi Shankar was the music director for this movie. Ravi Shankar’s first wife, Annapurna Devi stopped performing in public as Ravi Shankar was unable to accept that Annapurna Devi was much more talented than him.

This movie made in 1960 won the 8th National Film award for the best feature film, and went on to be nominated for the Golden Bear for the 11th Berlin International Film Festival in 1961.

If this movie was to be made today, I am sure it would have a very different ending.

Anuradha can be watched here for free.

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