I recently watched Anupama, perhaps for the first time in one sitting. The movie is a poignant classic with a treasure trove of soulful songs. However, this one son—"Ya Dil Ki Suno" had me enraptured; I think it is a masterclass in movie direction. Although I had heard and seen this song a million times before, watching it as a part of the movie was a surreal experience. Even after the movie ended, the song, along with its sublime visuals, stayed with me.
While the song is a combined genius of a high-performing team—Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Jaywant Pathare (a cinematographer par excellence who won the Filmfare Award for Best Cinematography for Anupama), Hemant Kumar, Kaifi Azmi and, of course, Dharmendra—the credit must go to the visionary captain of the ship , Hrishikesh Mukherjee!
The first thing you will notice about the song is the static, Michelangelo's David-like stance of the protagonist, with an ominous shadow cast on the floor. Throughout the song, the hero remains transfixed—Dharmendra doesn't move an inch! In fact nobody moves except Sharmila Tagore, who seems to be in a distant parallel world. What also moves in the song is the camera and, with it, the audience's perspective. A brilliant creative gambit. The stillness of the protagonist anchors the viewers, pulling them into the song, forcing them to listen, to appreciate the depth of the words, to decipher the metaphors and their meaning. The camera moves and the angles change but the hero stands and delivers.
If you think about it, isn't that how people sing songs in parties? I have never seen a real person singing like a typical '70s Bollywood hero—roaming around the room with a glass of Scotch and crooning about their pain while looking at the floor, the ceiling, or at a distant VAT 69 bottle. No! Normal people sing like Dharmendra sings in Anupama. Also, notice the people in the song—they are enthralled and engaged. Some are even surprised at the sombre tone of the song in a lively party like that. You can almost feel they understand there is pain but they can't fathom the reason. The only person who understands what those words mean, and whom they are for, is Shashikala, who looks from behind a partition, separated from the crowd, literally and figuratively. It's all so real yet so surreal—an ordinary moment depicted extraordinarily. And that's where the genius of Hrishikesh Mukherjee lies. A brilliant director is not one who can make things interesting by making them larger than life but one who can make the mundane interesting with a uniquely tasteful perspective.
And then there is Tagore, who brings a sharp contrast to the melancholy of Dharmendra in the song. A duality emerges. A duality of sorrow and happiness, of hope and despair. The hero is a humble guy of cheerful disposition from the lower strata of society. But right now, he is sombre after learning the sad fate of the princess in the castle—Anupama. Anupama, a diffident, gloomy girl, on the other hand, has just found a glimmer of hope, happiness and love. She's restless and fidgety. Both of them in two different states of mind deviating from their natural selves. They complement each other. The hero is bold, audacious, expressive and lyrical; the heroine is soft, subdued, passive and musical. So is it a coincidence, then, that Hrishikesh Mukherjee pictured the lyrical portions on Dharmendra and the musical interludes on Sharmila? Maybe not. One, too sad to move, the other, too moved to stand still. Emotion, simplicity and precision—Hrishikesh Mukherjee's three super powers on full display.