50 Years Of Abhimaan: A Movie Before Its Time And Relevant Even Today

Abhimaan is a film about gender norms and expectations, male insecurities, female success and social attitudes towards all these.

The Hrishikesh Mukherjee film Abhimaan starring Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bachchan nee Bhaduri released 50 years ago, in 1973.

The film released at a time when Jaya Bhaduri was already a successful star (she had begun her career at age 15 in the 1963 Satyajit Ray film Mahanagar). At the time Abhimaan was made, Amitabh Bachchan was less sure footed in his career, with several of his films bombing; not yet having embraced his ‘angry young man’ persona.

Abhimaan is a film about gender norms and expectations, male insecurities, female success, and social attitudes towards all these. This was a film before its time, and one that is still very relevant in the themes it explores. Even fifty years later, this is still a very good film: really well written, understated, believable, relatable and… the music! Piya bina piya bina, nadiya kinare, loote koi man ka nagar, meet na mila, teri bindiya re, tere mere milan kithe simply brilliant music that in my book, makes S D Burman a peerless genius (OK I’ll stop gushing now).

Reel and reel life

The story of the film follows Subir Kumar, a successful singer and man about town who falls in love with Uma, a shy, unworldly village girl who is also a very talented singer. He marries her and brings her to town and insists that she start to sing professionally. Soon Uma becomes a successful, highly sought-after singer; even more so than her husband.

At the time the film was made, Bhaduri was the bigger star than Bachchan, so in a sense this was reel life following real.

The progressive man – up to a point

The young couple are happy and in love and they sing together. We see a progressive young man supporting and encouraging his talented young wife to seek fame and success… until she becomes more successful than him. This is when things start to sour. The male ego cannot tolerate that the fact that the star he created now shines brighter than his own.

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There are recriminations and accusations and the wounded young wife flees from the circumstances not of her own making. We see how Subir is progressive only to that point that it retains intact his own glory and sense of self. As soon as those are dented, he reverts to the self-involved man-baby he really is underneath.

Male insecurities in the face of female success

The themes of male insecurity are relevant today as well. For instance, women are still told not to study too much, lest they outshine the men in their lives. Wives are made to feel uncomfortable if they earn more than their husbands. In Abhimaan as well, these themes are brought out really well.

David’s character Brajeshwarlal predicts this. When Subir announces that his wife will sing with him, Brajeshwarlal is apprehensive because he can see that Uma is the more talented of the two.

We see how the more successful Uma becomes, the more Subir resents it. Her awards, her earnings start to outstrip his own and he cannot tolerate it.

At one point he is asked to leave the frame by a cameraman (still above from the song ab to hai tum se); something of a final straw.

A film of its time – also not

She is a successful professional but she is still serving him his tea in bed. In that sense it is a movie of its time. However, it is also a hat tip to the strong woman who, after a point has had enough self-respect to leave the man who is becoming unreasonable and abusive. She returns only when he owns his mistakes and makes amends.

5 of my personal reasons to watch Abhimaan

The chemistry – The movie features a gorgeous young couple and works as a just a great love story. The chemistry between the two real life lovers (the movie released shortly after the marriage of the lead pair) is crackling, albeit subtle and understated; in keeping with its times.

All’s well that ends well – I’m a complete sucker for a happy ending – plus, if a movie drives me to sobs I find it cathartic… always love a tear-jerker.

The sisterhood – Bindu plays Chitra, Subir’s friend in the film. Though she loves him, she makes him see the error of his ways and urges him reunite with his wife.

Redemption arc – Subir’s redemption arc – where he goes from all-round a*****e to the man who sees how much he hurt the woman he loved – so satisfying!

The MUSIC – Did I mention the music? The simply ravishing, unforgettable songs are integral to the narrative.

If you haven’t yet – or want to again – you can watch Abhimaan on YouTube.

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About the Author

Reena Daruwalla

A former lawyer, now freelance writer, fauji wife, mother, singer, knitter and lover of my own cooking, I have altogether too many opinions and too few convictions. The more I learn the more I am read more...

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