A Life Affirming Experience
By MovieTalkies.com, 21 July 2008
The NC Sippy and Hrishikesh Mukherjee combination has contributed greatly to the small, middle of the road, Hindi cinema of the Seventies. Their contribution to sensible, sensitive cinema cannot be over stressed. These two giants came together and gave us some of the most memorable films of that decade. The best thing about these so called small films which came out from this banner, was that big stars like Rajesh Khanna, Sharmila Tagore, Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bhaduri (now Bachchan), composers like SD Burman and RD Burman and writers like Gulzar, all came together to give us some of most touching and memorable films ever. Mili produced by NC Sippy and Hrishikesh Mukherjee, who also directed it, is one of the gems from this treasure house. The film is still remembered today for its music (SD Burman), the brooding presence of Amitabh Bachchan, the effervescence of Jaya Bhaduri and the simple but touching story. Of course there are many other actors who populated this universe, like Ashok Kumar and Aruna Irani, who all came together to make this a classic. Lastly, one cannot forget the haunting quality of the music composed by Burmanda to which the legendary Kishore Kumar lent voice.
Mili is a masterpiece from Hrishikesh Mukherjee who takes a simple story about normal, ordinary people and creates sheer magic with it. The story of the film is about Mili (Jaya Bhaduri), an effeverscent, lively young girl and the brooding recluse Shekhar (Amitabh Bachchan), and their unlikely love story. While one is all about life, the other has withdrawn from life and is struggling to come to terms with life. Mili is about what happens when two such disparate individuals meet and fall in love. It is about how Mili teaches Shekhar to live, how she infects him with her never say die spirit, even when she herself is immersed in a struggle for her life. It is ultimately a film about the victory of life itself. Life is the winner in this movie. And despite the open ending, you know that the two protagonists, Mili and Shekhar have won, no matter what the consequence. It is this life affirming message which truly lifts the film from its ordinariness and makes it one of the all time classics and a favourite with many cinegoers. It is amazing how simply Hrishikesh Mukherjee gets across his message about life. That is the beauty of his art, it is so seemingly artless and simple that one almost misses the complex cords that he cuts across and lays it out in the most simple and accessible terms possible, creating an entertaining yet highly emotional experience. One cannot remain untouched.
But to get back to the actual story, Mili lives in one of those many nameless building complexes in Bombay with her father, aunt and brother. She is a favourite with all, specially the child as she takes out time to play with them every evening, in the terrace. But this pastime gets interrupted when Shekhar moves into the terrace flat of the building. He is a recluse and does not welcome this intrusion into his privacy. He has a very troubled past, a scandal which refuses to leave him and most people leave him alone. But not Mili. He is the perfect challenge for her as he is apparently so unmoved by her exuberance. Her warmth and straightforward ways did not cut any ice with him initially. But Mili is unperturbed by his behaviour till he finally starts melting. What leads him to lower his guard with her is the fact that she does not look at him as a specimen but as a human being. In time they become friends and gradually become quite close to each other.
In Mili's warm company, Shekhar is finally able to shed his fears and learns to trust and love again. But before he can actually tell her his feelings, Mili falls sick. She is diagnosed with cancer and seemingly has every day to live. But love conquers all, and Shekhar is determined to marry her and take her to Switzerland for treatment. The two marry and fly off to meet the future with open arms and hearts. The last scene is extremely touching when Mili's father, played by Ashok Kumar, rushes up to the terrace to look out for Mili's plane and wave goodbye to his daughter, unsure if he will ever see her again or not.
The performances in this film are extremely natural and of a very high standard. Amitabh Bachchan excels in his portrayal of the angry young misunderstood man, a role he went onto play with perfection all through the seventies in film after film like Anand, Zanjeer, Trishul, Kala Pathar and later even Laawaris. His silence speaks volumes and he gives a very controlled and nuanced performance. This is the Amitabh Bachchan that women fell in love with during the Seventies. Ashok Kumar as the father of Mili is excellent as always. He anguish at Mili's sickness, how he tries to hide it from his daughter, and his turmoil when Shekhar and Mili want to get married, all these shades of a doting father are brought out excellently by this veteran actor. His is, truly a very moving performance, and cannot leave one untouched.
And finally, Jaya Bhaduri in and as Mili one feels that this is easily one of her best films. Enough has been said about her natural style of acting. What is also great about the actress in this film is her controlled performance. At no point does she allow her portrayal to become maudlin. It is a heartfelt, emotional performance. She is great as the effervescent Mili playing with the kids. But she is also superb in her portrayal of Mili, the cancer stricken girl, who wants to live. Her anguish is brought out perfectly by the actress.
SD Burman continues to weave his brand of music in this film as well. The music is touching and so apt for the situations in the film. Besides being so well suited to the particular situation in the film, they have a universal quality about them. These are songs which are very much a part of our living subconscious, songs like Kishore Kumar's 'Aaye Tum Yaad Mujhe' or 'Badi Soonie Soonie Hai' or Lata Mangeshkar's 'Maine Kaha Phoolon Se'. Just the two Kishore Kumar numbers are enough to immortalize Dada Burman and this film as well.
Finally, the man who made it all happen. Hrishikesh Mukherjee, who honed his art under another extremely sensitive and skilled director, Bimal Roy. Only someone like him could take the most simplest of subjects and make such touching films on them, films like Satyakaam, Abhimaan, Anand, Namak Haram, and of course Mili. His films touch that special corner in our hearts and speak to us emotionally, just like his mentor's films did before him. It is impossible to remain untouched by the film. That is the kind of enduring classic it is!