Movie Review: Do Anjaane - Relationships Found and Lost

June 10, 2007
Beth Loves Bollywood

The description of the plot of Do Anjaane (1976) had me confused before I even started. Amitabh (Amit) and Rekha (Rekha) (yeah, a big yawn for naming) are married but then something either devious or accidental (depending on what you know) happens and he has is de-train-estrated (like "defenestrated" except not from a window) and loses his memory.

They go their separate ways, only for him to lose his memory again a few years later and slowly realize that he once knew her, at which point he goes on a mission to get their lives to overlap again, although his ultimate goal isn't unveiled until the last two minutes of the film.

One memory loss might be standard filmi or soap-opera goodness; two seems beyond excessive, especially because they're seen in quick succession at the beginning of the movie, leaving most of the film to be a flashback, and because the major plot elements could have worked without either.

That said, the two unknowns of the title weren't nearly as interesting to me as the depiction of gender- and relationship-based expectations. Our female lead - I can't really call her a heroine - is a shallow, unlikable person who makes selfish choices out of materialism and desire for fame.

Her unfaithfulness and fickle attentions upset me because I really didn't want to see a female character who has career ambitions and doesn't long to be a mother labeled as bad. At first I was quite sympathetic to her, convinced to marry by her family even though she had no wish to do so and trying her best to work on her career, but as soon as her eye turned towards someone else's lifestyle, we knew she was doomed.

I was a little frustrated that the filmmakers couldn't just let her be a more complex character - who was "bad" only because she didn't want a family and was interested in her own public passions - but instead they took the simpler route of making her shallow and an in-spirit-if-not-in-deed adulterer, and of such an upstanding man at that. I was frustrated to find myself siding with a man who seemed to want a traditional wifey-wife, especially one he wanted to marry based on physical appearance without even talking to her.

I felt bad disliking a woman who behaved in some ways as a feminist, and I wish we had gotten a more complicated story in which she was kind and considerate yet also driven and somewhat untraditional.

Both leads gave reined-in performances in roles that could have easily brought on histrionics. Rekha was feisty and confident about her ambitions and at the same time child-like in her wonder at expensive baubles. The character of Amit is virtuous, but Amitabh also made him very compelling, compelling enough for me to want him to get his revenge, with a great combination of sweetness towards his frankly undeserving wife and thoughtful realism in his concerns about finances and priorities.

While I have never picked up on the legendary Rekha-Amitabh chemistry, I liked them together here very much.

A tiny, irrelevant point of joy: this movie has both Amitabh and Mithun Chakraborty in it! I have since learned that four others do, too, but somehow I find it very satisfying that in his second film, Mithun finds himself as the neighbor of a huge star. Admittedly this is only delightful because I can look back and see their movie histories behind me - Don and Disco Dancer together! - but it's delightful all the same.

Not remotely Indian, but very, very interested - and completely in love with Bollywood!
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