I have never been a fan of the 'first impressions' theory. There are things like aged whisky or a seminal movie that grow on you, or sometimes you need to grow to appreciate their finesse. When I first watched Anand as a 10-year-old, I sobbed uncontrollably for two things. First was the seeming sadness of death looming over the movie. The second reason was that my adolescent Amitabh fanatic (the American-abridged 'fan' fails to convey what I was) mind was devastated witnessing my favourite action star rue in silence. Thankfully, adulthood brings wisdom along with the unavoidable pimples and since then Anand has become a very different movie for me. For a movie with a terminally ill patient as the protagonist, Anand is anything but gloomy. It is lyrical in the way it treats death: like a poem with which we have a preordained tryst. Death, in Anand, does not cast a dark shadow on any of the delights that the beautiful journey of life has to offer.
'Babumoshai, zindagi badi honi chahiye, lambi nahi': as far as motivational quotes go, this is as good as it gets. Long before Robin Williams preached 'Carpe Diem' in the school halls of Dead Poets Society, Rajesh Khanna, in his career-best performance, used his charm to spread a similar jubilant message. His line about humanity's fixation with dragging tomorrow's pain into today presses us to realise the importance of enjoying the here and now.
Anand is the light of hope in the bleak space that Dr. Bhaskar Banerjee's (Amitabh Bachchan) mind is in. Fighting a losing battle against the illnesses and poverty around him, Bhaskar is disillusioned with his profession and the system in general. Along comes Anand with a brightness inside him that camouflages the malignant cancer. Bhaskar's journey towards a positive outlook begins with Anand's memorable lines, 'Jab tak zinda hoon tab tak mara nahi, jab mar gaya sala main hi nahi'. Anand finds many 'Murarilals' through the movie – complete strangers that he makes acquaintance with. What is 'Murarilal' if not a metaphor for making new connections, tapping into new opportunities – in short, living exuberantly?
There is a poignant moment where we see Anand vulnerable for a second. 'Kya har hasi ke peeche ek khushi rehti hai Babumoshai? Kabhi kabhi gham bhi to…' He stops abruptly, giving a fleeting view of his sadness. Without this hint of weakness, Anand would have only remained a utopian symbol to marvel at. Now, he becomes a flesh and blood person that one can emulate. It seems possible to live our lives with his optimism.
When the dark clouds of daily problems threaten to rain on the parade of my life, Rajesh Khanna's cheerful lines from Anand part the clouds and facilitate the rays of positivity. The closing line of this movie probably sends out the brightest message 'Anand mara nahi, Anand marte nahi'. For hope is eternal, even if our existences are transient. And therein lies the answer to the puzzle of life.