One director who is known for his great films based on middle class urban society is Hrishikesh Mukherjee. Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s films shunned any form of violence and crime and were untouched with glamour which are the basic ingredients of most Indian Films. He proved beyond doubt that a director could make a series of hit movies without masala formulas. His films were based on comedies arising from real life situations, touching human relations, had a simple plot and carved out a middle path. Very few Directors apart from Hrishikesh Mukherjee can be attributed to really understand the middle class and highlight their problems, values through their movies.
Hrishikesh Mukherjee effortlessly made movies after movies that was neither ‘art’ nor ‘commercial’ movies and had a blend of both of them. He consistently proved even in 60’s, 70’s, 80’s that even with low technology and many challenges such as finances, a good cinema can be financially rewarding. Alas, now there is no one talented enough to care for this legacy.
Nearly all of his films are still best suited for family viewing. His films were devoid of any vulgar item numbers, obscenity, and crime. His films had a strong storyline, mellifluous music, and probed deep into the human relationships which kept the audiences constantly gripped. Nearly all of his films focused on basic values of human nature like honesty, friendship, sincerity, compassion etc. Hrishikesh Mukherjee best used the medium of films and its ability to bring social consciousness. Besides his films offering light hearted comedy they also left space for audiences to think.
The songs of many of his films like Anand and other films are still popular even after several years. Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s films achieved significant success and gained popularity without the glitz and glamour that is present in today’s films. His films gave a new face to middle class society in films by unfolding the humor, tragedy, nuances in the life of a middle class person. The characters of many of his films were inspired from educated urban middle class.
Hrishikesh Mukherjee made his directorial debut through “Musafir” in 1957 which could not taste success at box-office. His next film Anari (1959), starring Raj Kapoor and Nutan, won him critical acclaim and the film won five filmfare awards. His next film Anuradha (1960) earned him much success. This film also won the National Film Award for Best Film.
Some of this later films like Asli-Naqli (1962), Anupama (1966), Aashirwad (1968), Satyakam (1969), Guddi (1971), Bawarchi (1972), Mili (1975), Chupke Chupke (1975), Khoobsurat (1980) and Bemisal (1982), got immensely popular and touched the heart of many. In 1970, he made Anand, in which Rajesh Khanna played the role of a cancer patient facing certain death but maintaining the vivacity in life. The character of doctor played by Amitabh Bachchan also won the actor healthy criticism and established him as a successful actor. 1970’s was the golden era for Hrishikesh Mukherjee with hit films like Anand, Abhimaan (1973), Namak Haram(1973), Bawarchi (1972), Golmaal (1979), Chupke Chupke (1975) catapulting him to the ranks of most successful directors.
Hrishikesh Mukherjee also had a stint with making serials for television and made Hum Hindustani, Dhoop Chhaon, Ujjale Ki Or etc. Through these serial he also commented on various contemporary issues and programs and schemes launched by government in that period.
Another dimension of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s personality was that he firmly believed in team spirit. Most of his film crew remained constant in every film and atmosphere on film sets was akin to family bonding.
Many of us today will feel the void of typical Mukherjee films which attempted to bring the real common man in films. Some of the directors like Priyadarshan and actors like Aamir Khan can be credited with making films in present on the lines of Mukherjee’s films- movies which are refreshing and have subtle comedy.