Gulzar’s Aandhi Isn’t Just ‘That Indira Gandhi Movie’, Sanjeev Kumar-Suchitra Sen Explores How Lack of Ambition Can Ruin Relationships
When Gulzar’s Aandhi was released in 1975, the film was said to be based on the life of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. While the director continued to insist that Suchitra Sen’s star Sanjeev Kumar had nothing to do with Gandhi, comparisons were made based on how the character played by Sen was styled in the fashion of Indira Gandhi , how she looked like an ambitious woman, how she walked with purpose. It’s not like Indira Gandhi had a trademark on any of these not-so-specific traits, but there were so few female politicians at the time that the introduction of a fictional character brought the people to compare her to the Prime Minister. The film was shown in theaters for a while, but was later banned as it was decided the film could affect the outcome of the 1975 general election.
In the years that followed, Aandhi is remembered for how he caused the aforementioned controversy, music lovers remember him for his music by RD Burman which had classics like ‘Tere Bina Zindagi Se Koi’, ‘ Tum Aa Gaye Ho’, ‘Is Mod Se Jate Hain’ and while those are all things that could describe Aandhi, that’s not what the movie is about. Aandhi is the story of a highly educated and ambitious woman, Aarti (played by Sen) who falls in love with a man, JK (played by Kumar), who doesn’t want much out of life. As long as he earns enough to pay the bills and can write poetry, he is content. Aarti comes from a wealthy family, so there is an obvious economic and class divide between the two, but that’s not what bothers her, she’s affected by the lack of ambition that plagues JK.
When Aarti decides to get married and shares this with her father, he is disappointed with her and not because JK is not from the same social class, but because he knows marriage is the end of the road for a woman in this society. He wants her to be someone important, not just a woman who runs his house. At Aarti’s insistence, she and JK get married and it is here that Gulzar begins to understand how a partner’s lack of ambition can drive a wedge between the two.
Sanjeev Kumar’s JK doesn’t want Aarti to be involved in politics, and she wants him to do better in life. After ignoring their petty disagreements for a few years, they break up when she decides her dreams are worth more than her life as a housewife. She packs her bag and leaves. JK, who never supported Aarti in his endeavors, doesn’t want to be an obstacle. All he asks is that if she had to leave, she would do it quietly. In a farewell note, she writes, ‘Agar hum ek dusre ki taraqqi ki vajah nahi ban sakte, toh ek dusre ki barbaadi ka kaaran bhi kyu bane (If we can’t be the reason for each other’s success, then why be the cause of each other’s tragedy)?
Gulzar goes on to point out that women aren’t supported by their partners when they want to work, but he also doesn’t explicitly despise JK. On the contrary, he keeps coming back to how they continue to love each other even a decade later. Aarti likes to revisit these little pockets of memories where she would cook in the kitchen, JK leafs through an old photo album to revisit these first chapters of her life. The two share a daughter and in a very unorthodox move, the film chooses not to frame Aarti for his “duty” to his daughter. This is where the film’s other unorthodox choice also appears – JK, too, has no qualms raising her daughter alone and has never complained about Aarti leaving the child with one parent. There are no right or wrong choices when it comes to fictional character decisions, but it’s almost unbelievable to see a man not complaining that his wife left him and his daughter behind.
As the film jumps between flashbacks and the current timeline, it’s evident that little has changed in their personalities, and their current relationship soon begins to mirror the one they shared years ago.
In the film’s most powerful scene, Aarti and JK stare silently at each other as she has just won the election. He knows that this time too, Aarti will leave him. She looks at him with a grace that makes her proud of her accomplishments and a desire that makes her realize that her love will be missed. He looks at her with a quiet understanding that he might not appreciate her professional space, but he understands that’s where she should be. In this scene, Gulzar conveys the essence of the film.
Sanjeev Kumar and Gulzar received numerous accolades for the film. With plenty of awards to come, the actor won acclaim for his sensitive portrayal of a man considered “progressive” at the time. Gulzar was praised for highlighting a story set in the cutthroat world of politics that has no place for love, as the central idea of the film explored how relationships need more understanding. what love.
For Suchitra Sen, it was one of her last films as an actress as she stepped away from the screen shortly after Aandhi. After being embroiled in many controversies, Aandhi came out on television after the emergency ended in 1977 and is still often quoted when a mainstream Hindi film runs into political controversy.