Aakhri Khat (1966)

aakhri_khat

This amazing film by Chetan Anand is one of the most unusual movies I’ve ever seen, and maybe the most heart-wrenching. It’s a masterpiece of story-telling; shot largely with a hand-held camera on the streets of Bombay, it follows a 15-month old toddler (Master Bunty—who is so chubby and endearing that he melted even my sticky black heart of non-maternal tar) as he wends his unsteady way in search of his mother, who has died. How Mr. Anand managed to direct a toddler so perfectly I’ll never know (and Bunty gets top billing in the film’s credits, most appropriately)!

It is also Rajesh Khanna’s first or second film, and he is superb, endowing his not entirely likable character with a humanity that makes you root for him, despite his flaws. The film is an indictment on a societal level of the indifference bred by modern urban life, and on a personal level of the wrongs inflicted by selfishness and pride. These points are hammered home by the focus on a little boy who can only say “Mama” and “milk” as he perseveres in his hopeless search.

The movie opens with Lajjo (a luminously beautiful Indrani Mukherjee) walking the streets of Bombay with her baby Buntu, begging for food and trying to soothe him. I should say here that whoever did the sound for the film deserves the highest kudos for his work. The background traffic noise, the sounds of people bustling about their everyday tasks, all overlaid with a jaunty, jazzy music track, lends an upbeat and modern air to the busy crowds, as the destitute mother and child wander unheeded through the city. Despite there being very little dialogue, it is gripping, and Lajjo and her baby are so vulnerable and appealing that I fall in love with them instantly.

aakhrikhat_lajjo_bunty

Lajjo herself seems hardly old enough to be a mother, although her devotion to her child is obvious. She gives any food that she manages to get to her Buntu, and despite her ragged clothing he is clean and well-dressed.

aakhrikhat_eat

The two are mostly ignored by passersby, although one evening a young, obviously wealthy young woman (Naqi Jehan) emerges from a nightclub and sees Lajjo standing in front. She starts to approach Lajjo, but Buntu falls and begins wailing and Lajjo scurries to comfort him. The woman stares at them for an instant; the contrast between her situation and Lajjo’s is stark.

aakhrikhat_naqi

We discover through flashbacks that Lajjo is from Kullu (in Himachal Pradesh) where, after losing her own mother at a very young age, she has grown up with a stepmother who mistreats her. A young sculptor vacationing there named Govind (Rajesh Khanna) sees her and falls instantly in love with her; really how could he not? I think Indrani Mukherjee is one of the most striking actresses in Hindi cinema.

aakhrikhat_flashback1

It doesn’t take her long to reciprocate either (and really how could she not?).

Govind now lives in Bombay, and Lajjo lurks outside his home with Buntu, watching until he drives off. She leaves a letter in his mailbox and then leaves Buntu sitting on some steps nearby and starts to walk away. She’s unable to go through with it, though, and runs back to gather him up in her arms.

Later, as they play hide-and-seek together by the sea, it’s evident that she has a serious illness (it’s never explained, but appears to be a heart ailment). As Buntu plays amidst the litter and dirt, she struggles for breath.

aakhrikhat_ill

At his home, Govind finds the letter and is furious with his manservant Moti (Mohan Choti).

aakhrikhat_moti

She has left several letters already, and there is something clearly wrong in her relationship with him. She tells him in the letter that she is dying of the same ailment which killed her mother, and that she hasn’t got much time left.

aakhrikhat_accept

Agitated, Govind goes to the police to ask them to search for her. At the station, Inspector Naik (Manvendra Chitnis) takes his statement and asks if he has a photo of the missing girl. He is somewhat exasperated at Govind’s negative response—how is he supposed to find her if he has no idea what she looks like? Govind responds that he has made a statue of her, and Naik can use a photo of that. Intrigued by the strange case, Naik goes with him to his studio and photographs the semi-nude statute of Lajjo. He doesn’t have the highest opinion of handsome Govind, and Govind makes no effort to defend himself.

aakhrikhat_trap

Meanwhile, Lajjo sits by the sea as Buntu plays on the sand near her. She loses herself in memories again, and we are taken to her small wedding with Govind: just the two of them exchanging vows in a small temple, alone. Oh honey! You should really know better than that! Plus, the vows strike me as being a little…um…one-sided?

aakhrikhat_vows

They spend the night together, and we are treated to a very lovely song indeed: “Aur Kuch Der Thahar”. The songs (there are only five, and one is shamefully edited out of the DVD—curse you Eagle Home Entertainment!) were composed by Khaiyyam and luckily for me are subtitled, as Kaifi Azmi’s lyrics are as beautiful as the music. I cannot emphasize enough how gorgeous they are; if you aren’t familiar with them do look them up online.

Lajjo awakens from her reverie to find Buntu gone—hey, she’s ill and all alone, what’s a poor mother to do? I can’t get mad at her, truthfully, although by this time Buntu is wandering through traffic and being given sweets by random (though kindly) strangers.

aakhrikhat_babywanders

Lajjo begins a desperate search for Buntu, running and shouting his name. This exertion proves to be her undoing, and she collapses and dies. A crowd gathers (too late!) and her shrouded body is loaded into an ambulance as little Buntu toddles past unnoticed.

Inspector Naik notifies Govind that Lajjo has been found. There is a note on her body asking that her child be taken to Govind, but of course there was no child near her. Govind is clearly heartbroken at the sight of Lajjo.

aakhrikhat_sorrow

He is also desperate to find Lajjo’s child, convinced now that he is his son. He enlists the help of Moti and sympathetic Naik, and spends hours driving the streets, searching.

aakhrikhat_rajesh

When he blows up in a frustrated rage at the police station, Naik points out the obvious: they don’t even know what the little guy looks like and have no picture of him.

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Inspector Naik may well be my favorite character in this film. He is irritated by what he perceives as Govind’s role in this whole tragedy, but can’t help feeling drawn towards him and his predicament. He’s a good guy who is also worried about little Buntu, although he has no idea how they will ever find him.

The odds do seem insurmountable! Buntu continues to search for his mother, crying “Mama” at intervals. Very few people take notice of him, and those who do, do not want to burden themselves by getting involved with this child who is clearly alone. It’s absolutely heartbreaking.

aakhrikhat_buntu

The black and white photography (Jal Mistry) is beautiful; and the camera work, following Buntu with a sort of point-of-view feel as it does, is riveting. I feel compelled to watch as the child blunders along railway tracks and across busy roads, eats whatever he can find off the ground, plays with a hapless little kitten. On Diwali, parents and children play with firecrackers as a frightened Buntu cries, until he finds a sparkler of his own.

aakhrikhat_diwali

At night, he sleeps wherever he drops, until he is startled awake by the random noises of his urban environment. I can literally feel my hair turning grayer as I fret over him. It’s not all gloom and doom—he finds his way into a temple one day, and helps himself to the laddoos left as offerings there. He’s a chubby little Krishna, stealing butter, and my own heart turns into ghee.

aakhrikhat_butter

Tun Tun makes a small cameo as an angry mother protecting her child from poor Moti’s questions.

aakhrikhat_tuntun

And as Naik continues to help Govind search, he begins to question Govind about Lajjo. What happened between them, that Lajjo ended up alone with Buntu on the streets of Bombay, afraid or unwilling to face Govind? Will they be able to find Buntu? Can he survive the dangers that surround him at every turn?

aakhrikhat_chubster

I think—hope, even—that Eagle’s DVD editing did the story an injustice by ruining the flow somewhat. The second half has some holes and a seemingly pivotal role (that of Govind’s friend Rajni) seems to have been deleted almost entirely. Also, as I said earlier, a song has been cut—tragedy! Hopefully one day I can see this in its intact form, because even with this bit of butchering it deserves to be called a classic.

Despite some very grim moments—I sobbed, to be honest—it is amazing. The performances are wonderful: Rajesh is great as the imperfect Govind, Indrani Mukherjee shines as the ill-fated young mother, and I loved Inspector Naik. His was the voice of conscience throughout, and thank goodness for it. But little Master Bunty stole the film—and my heart—away.

aakhri-khat

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106 Comments to “Aakhri Khat (1966)”

  1. Chetan Anand’s films always had these unique story lines. Aakhri Khat was Rajesh Khanna’s 2nd film (1st was Raz), have seen this one couple of times just because of the kid and the direction. Songs are just too good! One of the most underrated films from Hindi Cinema! Glad you reviewed it…

  2. Oops sorry Akhri Khat was Rajesh Khanna’s 1st film followed by Raaz. My Bad!

  3. Wow…this is weird.
    I was thinking about this movie just a few days back. Saw this one a long time back and it keeps coming back to me from time to time. For no reason at all I just think of that poor child walking from place to place. Could never remember the name of the movie or anyone else in it. I remember being absolutely sad as I was watching it and have not been able to shake it off. Being honest here.
    Hope there was a happy ending to this tale. Please let us know.

  4. Srinivas, if there had not been a happy ending, I would have pounded the DVD disk into tiny little mirrored pieces and cut my wrists with them. Hope that helps :-)

    @toonfactory: There seems to be some debate on the Raaz/Aakhri Khat timing. But I don’t much care. Aakhri Khat is a waaaay better film than Raaz, in any case!! And I can’t stop singing the songs. So gorgeous.

  5. It seemed a predecessor of sorts of Baby’s Day Out, which incidentally did very well in India in both English and also it’s dubbed Hindi version, Ek Baby Teen Badmash.

  6. On the other hand, if I remember correctly, Aakhiri Khat didn’t do too well.

    • I don’t think those two (or three) films have anything in common at all apart from a baby toddling around on its own. Aakhri Khat may not have done well, but it should have! :-) It was probably too sad, and a little bit scathing too about people’s indifference to what is right in front of their eyes…

  7. The only way I got through this movie was by watching it with my Mother…many hugs were required.:-) I also had to keep reminding myself that it was *just* a movie and that Indrani Mukherjee and the little guy were fine in real life. As you noted, the child’s POV that the camera adopts lends an emotional urgency to the proceedings that resonates wih you long after the screen has gone dark.

  8. Oh God Greta! I didn’t think I could laugh about this film but what’s one to do when you talk of the baby “who is so chubby and endearing that he melted even my sticky black heart of non-maternal tar” and then follow it up with “He’s a chubby little Krishna, stealing butter, and my heart turns to ghee” :-)

    Fabulous wasn’t it? You do a great job of explaining why. After I saw it for the first time I went a bit overboard myself :-) And felt pretty good and non-apologetic about my love for Rajesh, maybe because I started out with his work in the early years when the talent shone forth rather than the mostly starry stuff post ‘Aradhana’. In ‘Aakhri Khat’, it’s all the more remarkable since he was only about 22-23 when he worked on it–the censor certificate date for the film is Dec. 22, 1966, a week before he’d turned 24. The superstar period was perhaps an aberration for the actor barring a few good roles as in ‘Aavishkar’, etc. but as my friend Anaad put it, after he was done being a heartthrob, he got back and ‘acted’ like he’d done in the early films. Witness ‘Palkon ki chhaon mein’, ‘Naukri’, ‘Aaj Ka MLA’, etc. though unfortunately, their fate at the BO is not unlike ‘Aakhri Khat’s’.

    Thought you’d find the attached insight from Chetan Anand’s son (Ketan) on this film of interest. It was in an interview in Nov. 2007 apropos a documentary on Chetan Anand by Ketan.

    “Though his much acclaimed Haqeeqat is commonly hailed as Chetan Anand’s most accomplished work, son Ketan Anand begs to differ.“I feel his Aakhri Khat was a greater achievement, not only for him, but also for Indian Cinema. It was a masterpiece and my father started with a bare outline of a script and a 15-month-old infant who he let loose in the city, following him with his camera,” says Ketan who was in the city to screen his documentary, Chetan Anand-The Poetics Of Film, at the Kolkata Film Festival.

    Indeed, Aakhri Khat, in many ways epitomises Chetan Anand’s sensibilities. Following an infant with his camera as he wandered through Mumbai’s lanes and stumbled into the most unlikeliest of places, Anand brings onto the screen a kind of candidness that was a trademark of his later films.“Even though, Aakhri Khat seems to be a simple film, a true student of cinema will realize that it was actually a biting comment on the loss of innocence in the new, fast-growing material world,” Ketan explains.”

    http://www.expressindia.com/latest-news/chetan-anand-my-father/239819/

    • Rajesh was great in this—I wanted to slap him (well, Govind) at times, and then give him a hug at others. He played it just right, perfect. He is such a good actor when he wants or is required to be. I love how non-heroic and human his character is, how all the characters are!

      And if I’d had some sort of guarantee that my offspring would be just like Master Bunty or Master Raju I might have done it!

  9. Awww i saw this once and i had a BARSAAT cry over it, poor master Buntu, and even Rajesh Khanna was splendid in his acting considering its one of his ealier roles!
    Come to think of it, I must put Master Buntu in the Filmi Baccha Chit Fund and you can adopt him!
    He is one of gorgeous yet completely great little kids, and he’s only a toddler yet he acts sooo well!

  10. Mmm. Have been wanting to see this a long time now (and yesterday I was listening to Hai kuchh bhi nahin oh my darling. And now your review and those lovely screen caps have whetted my appetite even more. Am not sure how I’ll handle cute baby in trouble, though – somehow well-acted child characters all by themselves and in deep trouble (this, or a long-ago Chinese film I’d seen) break my heart. :-(

    • Sadly “Hai Kuchh Bhi Nahin O My Darling” is the song that Eagle edited out of the film. Bastards! Cute baby in trouble is heart-wrenching indeed, but there are moments of lightness that relieve the tension a bit when you most need it. A really compelling watch, would love to read your take on it :)

      • Yikes! Thank you for warning me off. If Hai kuchh bhi nahin oh my darling has been edited out, then I don’t want to see the Eagle version! How horrid. I hate this arbitrary removal/shortening of songs.

        On the other hand, this film sounds so very attractive, I think I just might go ahead and get it, even without the song.

        • I hate the arbitrary editing too, believe me. And as I said, the story has been cut up a bit too I suspect. BUT. It’s the only option I had, maybe there are other versions on VCD but I needed subtitles :-) And I am so happy I got to see whatever is left of it on the Eagle DVD.

  11. Thanks for the review, this was really a beautiful movie with lovely songs. ‘Baharon Mera Jeevan’ is especially haunting …

    Here’s some trivia for you (in case you didn’t know), Baby Bunty grew up into Bunty Behl & was ‘re-introduced’ in the mid-’80’s by Dev Anand in the the movie ‘Hum Naujawan’. This was also the 1st movie of Richa Sharma (Sanjay Dutt’s 1st wife) & Tabu.

    Bunty then appeared with Rajesh Khanna & Smita Patil in ‘Amrit’, this time as Rajesh’s grandson. How time flies ! ‘Amrit’ is a tearjerker in the full sense of the word & would probably require a box of tissues.

    Asli Jat

  12. Thanks memsaab. It was one of the master peace movie ever made. Super Star Rajesh Khanna always very great. This was first movie of Super Star Rajesh Khanna but it was released after Raaz. Its not under rated film it was best movie.

    AAKHRI KHAT

    Year of Production : 1966
    Year of release : 1967
    Genre : Drama
    Producer : Himalaya Films
    Director : Chetan Anand
    Music Director : Khayyam

    Star Cast : Super Star Rajesh khanna, Indrani Mukherjee, Nana Palsikar, Maruti, Tun Tun & Master Bunty.

    Aakhri Khat is the tale of toddler on the streets of Dehli as he goes on a searching quest for his mother who passed away. The child oblivious to the fact that his mother is no more retraces his steps to the last place where he saw her thinking his mother is playing an elaborate game of hide & seek. In the meantime he survives on the crumbs that he finds on the streets & of the leftovers of others.

    Very good movie and completely different movie from other movies.

  13. Wow. I could already cry. Memsaab, have just spent 3 months working on a documentary with street children, and those stories wrench your heart out of your guts.

    I must confess I didn’t even know of this film. But just reading about it, makes my respect for Chetan Anand go up a few notches.

    I think he’s one of the most sensitive directors Indian cinema has had.

  14. Great songs of Aakhri Khat:

    1. Aur kuch der theher – Mohd. Rafi

    http://www.youtube.com/watch

    2. Baharon mera jeevan bhi sawaaro – Lata M.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch

    3. Mere chanda mere nanhe – Lata M.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch

    4. Rut jawaan jawaan raat meherban – Bhupinder Singh

    http://www.youtube.com/watch

  15. ‘Aur Kuchh Der Theher’ – one of my favourite Mohd. Rafi songs! Although I find Rajesh Khanna’s body language in that scene a bit exaggerated.

  16. Love your blog which I recently discovered. Someone has posted this movie on youtube and I was trying to decide which Rajesh Khanna movie to watch–so you’ve helped me decide.

  17. Wow, memsaab! i’ll definitely look for this movie & watch it. No doubt the movie is a classic, from what i read in your post plus the readers’ comments — but your writing is also truly on-the-spot: I could feel the emotions even without watching the movie!!! truly fab!!

    • Oh that’s so nice of you Ranya…I didn’t/don’t feel like the film can be done justice with mere words. Do see it, and let me know what you think of it. And thanks :) You made my day.

  18. I love this one ! Although all the songs are fab, I like Rut jawan jawan, with the inspector practically asking Rajni to go and console Govind. It is one of my favorite scenes ever !

    • I think Rut Jawan Jawan is my favorite too, along with the deleted one which I would LOVE to see picturized…according to one person who posted Rut Jawan…on Youtube, Bhupinder (who is the playback singer) is also the guy playing the guitar and singing onscreen! He’s very cute!

  19. What timing! I just got Chetan Anand’s first film as a director – Neecha Nagar – after I read about it in Balraj Sahni’s biography. This one I caught on TV years ago and didnt see more than a few minutes because I found it too slow (?!!) – need to try it again, now that I’ve grown to like slow films! I dont know how I’ll bear to see a lost child wandering around looking for Ma, though, since it used to be my recurring childhood nightmare!

    • I have that one too although ironically—since it won THE award at Cannes—it has no subtitles, being only available on VCD. What a crime.

      This is slow, and I hate slow films generally—but this one is so gripping, and the intensity grows so perfectly apace, that you don’t notice. And it’s less than two hours (thanks to some butchering). Keep tissues handy though :)

  20. Thank you memsaab.

    I remember watching it with tears and fears.
    Even though I know it ends well I don’t think I can watch it again. I’ll be able to watch Mother India, but not this. :-(

    • Oh I would watch this again before Mother India. Not that that is saying much, but I actually didn’t find this depressing—harrowing yes, but not depressing.

      • No it wasn’t depressing but heart rending, and yes very very harrowing.

        When his mother dies I was so stunned, I wanted to get inside the TV and get the child out.

        • That’s how I felt too—I suspect most people watching would feel that way (especially since even I did!)…when the ambulance carrying her body passes him toddling along I just DIED.

  21. Memsaab, your review was enough to make me choke. I am glad I have never seen the movie. Somehow, scenes showing children suffering and in pain are too much for me to handle (I had my eyes shut during some scenes in Slumdog Millionaire!). I love the songs, though.

    • There’s enough cuteness to leaven the worry somewhat, although it is very nail-biting. He is such a sweet little fat cherub. I can’t watch animals suffering in the same way.

  22. ‘am sobbing…o.m.g. i’am in the office….o.m.g..men are not supposed to cry…. but hearing this story just reminded me of a small boy i overlooked today in the morning…..!!! absolutely brilliant story, brilliant filming and brilliant review…

  23. Yeah, that screencaps alone tell me one thing: I’m NEVER going to watch this movie.

    If I watch it with my mother, we’ll both bawl our heads off.

    If I watch it alone, I’ll bawl my eyes out.

    If I watch it with a friend, we’ll both bawl and then eat tubs of ice cream.

    If I watch it… well, you get the idea.

    Too bad. It sounds like a wonderful movie. I’m glad I got to read about it. And I’ll send you the bill for my uppers. :P

  24. If you have seen Jafar Panahi’s Iranian movie “Mirror” made in 1997 there is some
    kind of similarity. Particularly the second part where the girl refuses to “Act” in the movie starts on her own to get back to her home….I find some similarity in the art of movie making here…..Would be interested to know if Jafar saw Akhri Khat….

    From Movie making point of view, Akhri Khat stands out as a brilliant effort from Chetan Anand…..Haven’t seen any think like that in Indian movies with same effect….

    Always held the opinion that Rajesh Khanna attracted the best of the talent in the movie making business ….. right from start…..Amazing…

    • I haven’t seen Mirror. But this is just a brilliant and unique film :)

      • You can find some info on Mirror here….

        http://www.utvworldmovies.com/index.php?option=com_movie&view=movies&Itemid=50&id=38

        Mirror of course cannot be compared to Akhri Khat…….but i found some similarities….and just wondered if Hindi movies had been prominent in International scene in that era, how many awards it would have reaped!!! At least this one deserved many…

        • Oh it looks wonderful!!! I will get it. It does seem similar in many ways to this, and the little girl looks adorable. One of the nice things about this film is that the little boy—although he cried on occasion, and got scared, and wanted his mom—was also sort of blissfully unaware of really how much danger he was in, and he was quite cheerful a good deal of the time. So cute.

          Yes, there are more than a few Hindi films that should have been recognized internationally but weren’t. I’m glad to have found them, anyway :)

  25. Um, could you post something please? Anything at all. Watching that baby’s tear stained face everytime I refresh the main page is doing strange things to my ovary region.

  26. Thanks Memsaab for the review. I have not seen the movie & that not a good thing being a Rajesh Khanna fan.

  27. Memsaab,

    i did a little searching around the internet. Couldn’t find too many Bolly bloggers who review Rajesh Khanna fillums. So thanks. Shashi Kapoor, on the other hand, seems to be quite popular among the blogerati.

    • You are welcome :-) Yes, Shashi is popular! and deserves to be…although I personally (if you didn’t figure it out yet) much prefer Shammi.

      I am not sure why poor Rajesh is so neglected in the blogosphere. But I will keep watching him and writing his films up!

  28. Thanks to your review, saw this yesterday.
    Buntu was sooooooooooooooooo cute !!!!
    The rest of the movie was OK but this kid was just mind-blowing.
    The songs were also good (“baharon, mera jeevan bhi sanwaaro” is a pretty famous song).
    But Buntu will remain in my mind for a very long time.
    He alone takes the movie to a different level altogether.

    • I think the whole film is mind-blowing. What a theme, what an idea, what execution! The ending is a bit facile, but I was crying so hard by then that it didn’t matter. Certainly most of the film rests on Buntu’s shoulders though—maybe not such a big burden if you’re only three and have no idea that you are the central character, but he’s amazing (and Chetan Anand’s direction has to get a lot of credit for that too). And I really loved the songs, am still humming them :)

  29. Thnx a ton for this one!!! I’m a die-hard rajesh khanna fan but cud never lay my hands on this movie. u’ve done a wonderful review of it. i cud actually feel the emotions just going thru what u’ve written and looking at the screen caps. someday, i will watch this movie for sure.
    i adore the songs of this movie, but never knew what the movie was based on.
    and it was the songs that led me to ur blog. i’m so grateful :-)
    [i have the songs of this movie in my cell, and i listen to them very often. day before yesterday i happened to see the video of baaharon mera jeevan on youtube, but the video wasnt very clear. my boss was on leave n didnt have much to do at work, for a change. so i googled for indrani mukherjee and landed up at dustedoff's blog reading his review on shaadi. and he led me to this page. i had already read ur review on mohabbat zindagi hai, but havent had time to go through all ur reviews]

    i have watched most of his movies. everytime i go to a video store, i ask for this one, but my bad luck, havent got it yet.

    this was his first movie and raaz was second. but raaz was released before AK.

    u know wat, u’ve made my weekend with this one!!! and i’m going to read ur other posts for the rest of this weekend :-)
    will search for rajesh khanna and shammi kapoor’s movies first

    • There is a lot of Rajesh and Shammi here! Not as much Shammi as there should be though, since I watched all his films long before I started this blog. Need to catch up.

      Do look for Aakhri Khat. I think it’s just been newly released with subtitles (the version I have)—I had no trouble finding it at my usual online places.

  30. I read your review in the morning and I got the DVD the same evening.
    But it was Eagle DVD, I knew few scenes were deleted, but I still couldnt resist not buying it.
    And finally saw it….What an amazing movie it is!!!! I was speechless when the movie ended. Beautiful story.

    • I know—speechless is just the word to describe how heartrending this is, from start to finish. I think Eagle is the only one to have put this out, and at least I must thank them for subtitling it. But it just could be SO MUCH BETTER.

      Glad you enjoyed it :)

  31. Watched this again and discovered the reason for Bunty’s being well dressed.

    In her letter to Rajesh, Lajjo had written that she had somehow managed to get some good clothes for Bunty so that he, Rajesh, would not be ashamed of him.

    Rajesh felt ashamed when she lands at his place during that party, because she was not looking presentable.

    • Yes, it is very sweet how she makes sure he is “presentable” for Govind—but of course then she herself can’t give him up (and I don’t blame her). Her one “selfish” act when it comes to Bunty is not being able to let go of him!

  32. I have come to know about the story by reading the reviews in imdb, where I was searching to find the names of characters in this movie while gathering data for a song (sung by Bhupinder Singh). And I must say that the story is too heart rending for me to be able to watch. I cannot bring myself to watch “Masoom” (1984) a second time. There is no way I can watch “Aakhri Khat” (1966) even once.

  33. Oops, double post ! Please delete the first one with typo.

    Just imagine a movie so well made that one would not like to watch it ! What an irony !

  34. Who played Baby Bunti??

  35. I love your blog! You watch so many interesting movies! I’ve kind of become addicted to this blog. Saw Aakhri Khat with my mom. She bawled her eyes out. Barely in my teens, I found it all very sad but didn’t cry. Now some 8-10 years later, I think I’d probably sob through the whole movie. Baharon mera jeevan bhi sawaaro is such a beautiful song. I find myself humming it from time to time. What a haunting melody!

  36. This is so cute. I had a friend when I worked out in India who claimed to have known the grown-up Master Bunty. It’s such a heart-warming yet sad film. I reckon Rajesh Khanna looked much better here then he ever did!!

  37. Aakhri Khat was such a great film.
    I loved rajesh khanna always as he has seriously done a lot of variety of characters and just for sake of giving a hit , he never ever did roles repeatedly.
    janata havaldar,kudrat,aaj ka raam avtaar mla,babu,shatru,dil e nadan,ittefaq,dard,avtaar,dharam aur kanoon,phir wohi raat,redrose,chhialla babu,tyaag,maqsad,anokha rishta…..all of them were completely different from the other films which other actors were doing .

    memsaab hope you do justice by reveiwing these films and posting more fotos from the films of rajesh

  38. Greta – Have been on a quest to obtain a copy of the unbutchered ‘Aakhri Khat’. In that context, came across the following article which had some interesting information. Am copying and pasting it in its entirety as some times these tend to get erased from archives. Could you prevail on your fabulous readers to see if they can dig out a VHS copy perhaps and look for the edited out Manna Dey song ‘Hai kuch bhi nahi my darling’? If the song exists, then the rest of the edited out parts do too :-) Many thanks in advance.

    The following is from ‘The Hindu’ from its ‘Blast from the Past’ series.

    “AAKHRI KHAT (1966) – SURESH KOHLI

    Though it was neither officially acknowledged nor openly talked about, two of Chetan Anand’s landmark films, “Neecha Nagar” (1946) and “Aakhri Khat”, drew considerable inspiration from K.A. Abbas’s neo-realist “Dharti ke Lal” (1945) and “Munna” (1954). Both later films have a child as a pivotal and deal with lost innocence in a heartless metropolis. In the stylised treatment both were directors’ films, though approached through different perspectives. This, incidentally, was Rajesh Khanna’s first release; his debut film “Raaz” came a year later. Originally, Bhupinder, who had made his debut as an actor-singer in “Haqeeqat”, had been shortlisted for the main lead but did not muster enough confidence and quietly bowed out of the race. Sanjay Khan had been the next choice before the die was cast in debutant Rajesh Khanna’s favour. The rest is history.

    The film begins in a somewhat routine melodramatic fashion. While holidaying in the Kullu valley, Govind (Rajesh Khanna), a sculptor, comes across a gypsy girl, Lajjo (Indrani Mukherjee), secretly marries her in a temple before returning to the city in pursuit of further education but not without impregnating her. After some predictable sequences, that include unanswered letters, the realisation that she is suffering from tuberculosis lands her in Bombay with a son Bantu who is by now a year old. A misunderstanding ensues when she finds Govind with another woman. She leaves the child at the doorstep with a letter pinned to his shirt. On second thoughts, she takes the child along but leaves the letter behind, the aakhri khat (last letter), and finds refuge on the street where she eventually dies, leaving the infant to fend for himself in the big bad world.

    Contrasting dramatic images are juxtaposed with reality footage to depict varying aspects of life as the 15-month-old toddler stomps the streets — eating whatever comes his way, including a sleeping pill — in search of his lost mother while a desperate father having discovered the letter converges all over with the help of a sympathetic cop. Scenes inside discotheques florescent with dance and jazz music, the rich flaunting their riches, are deployed to show lack of concern and emotions, as the have-nots demonstrate concern for the desperate child who can only utter ‘mamma’ and ‘Bunty’. For most sequences the child was left alone while the camera chased and captured his moods and actions, while the soundtrack generally relied on the original sounds, except the tracks of the hero and the heroine.

    Khayyam’s compositions once again demonstrated his inventive genius, making Kaifi Azmi’s simple lyrics a hypnotic cadence. Lata Mangeshkar excelled in the Indrani Mukherjee flashback number, “Baharon mere jeevan bhi sawaron”, as she walks through the woods and meadows, as also the lori, “Mere chanda mere nanhe”. Bhupinder surprised everyone with his rendering of the fast paced “Rut jawan jawan”. Jal Mistry’s superb black and white camerawork, especially in the reality shots — the moving locals, the street traffic, the panoramic zooming into the solitary in normal light — gave the film a natural fervour which could have resulted in disaster in the hands of a lesser cinematographer.

    Rajesh Khanna’s restrained performance lifts the character several bars, especially the scenes depicting his agony. He simply excels in the climactic moments when he hears the child’s ‘mamma’ as he embraces the mother’s statue, or when earlier he is reading the letter, or when he is stomping the streets. The vacant looks must have been a delight for the cameraman and the director.

    Chetan Anand made a shortened two-and-a-half hour film as it was selected for the Oscars in the best foreign language entry, but for some obscure reason it never arrived in time for the festival.”

    http://www.hindu.com/fr/2010/01/01/stories/2010010150410400.htm

    • I love that song…I’ve never seen a video of it though…consider this a request! If anyone has a version of this fabulous film containing the song could you let us know? :)

  39. This was too heartrending to watch – we saw it in the VCR days, when our favourite rental place used to be called Sona Video. Then it became Sona DVD and now, it’s online only, I believe.
    I nearly went out of my mind because my child was under three then and I just couldn’t bear the `adventures’ of this toddler, I wanted to bring him home and take care of him.
    Yes, I did get the urge to slap Govind several times and desperately hoped for a happy ending. Then I remembered Priya Rajvansh’s gruesome murder and hoped that it was not this toddler who grew up to be the one behind it – the credits merely listed `Bunty,’ if I remember right.
    Wish Indrani Mukherjee had starred as leading lady more often. Luminous, Devi-like face she had and acted well too.

  40. Interview of Bunty Bahl (Master Bunty), who started as a child star with this film

    • Oh thanks for sharing! How nice to see what happened to him, glad that he seems to have led a happy life :)

      • Don’t think it has come up anywhere. Did you know that Manvendra Chitnis is Leela Chitnis’s son? He also played a major role in Kantilal Rathod’s Priya.He settled in the United States after these two films since he could not make much of a headway in the glamour-oriented film industry.

        • CORRECTION: Kantilal Rathod did not make Priya. It was Govind Saraiya who made it. The correct comment is given below.

      • I don’t this has come up anywhere: Manvendra Chitnis is son of the early talkie actress Leela Chitnis. He also played a role in Govind Saraiya’s Priya and then migrated to the United States.

        Naqi Jehan is the daughter of the feisty early talkie actress Pramila and elder sister of Hyder Ali (who was there in the tv serial Nukkad). This was her first film. She played the lead in Mr Murder (1969/N A Ansari) and then Ek Khilari Bawan Pattey (1972/Ravi Khanna, the noted fight master who also played the villain in the film opoosite Dev Kumar and Vinod Khanna). She married the scion of Kamdar Furniture and became Mrs Nandini Kamdar.

        • I did not know that he was Leela Chitnis’ son—thank you. And thanks for the info about Naqi Jehan too! I have seen Ek Khilari Bawan Pattey, although I could not make heads or tails of it without subtitles (probably not with them either) but I didn’t put her together with that :)

          • Manvendra Chitnis was named after the noted freedom fighter and Marxist: Manbendra Nath Roy (M N Roy). Leela Chtnis’s husband Dr Gajanan Chitnis was a noted freedom fighter who fought against the British. He was close to M N Roy and had once even given shelter to the noted leader when he was underground. Dr M N Roy’s followers came to be recognised as Royists and there were many Royists in the freedom struggle including the noted Indian filmmaker J B H Wadia, elder brother of Homi Wadia (Fearless Nadia’s husband).

          • Ah, and JBH has a grandson named Roy ;)

  41. where can i find the dvd or video of akhri khat?

  42. After reading this review I had to buy the movie since it is not available online anywhere. Got the same one from Eagle so is missing the song I suppose but really really good movie, a little contrived end but Rajesh Khanna’s acting is amazing. You are right, the character is hard to feel sympathy for but I ended up rooting for him. The closeups, the dialogs and of course Master Bunty. As a mother of a teenage boy, watching him cry for his mother was simply heartbreaking. Great movie, great songs (love ‘thodi der aur thaher’) and fabulous acting. Thanks for writing the review, I had no idea what I was missing!

  43. Excellent movie, beautiful songs and superb acting by Rajesh Khanna.

  44. It is a wonderful movie…

  45. Aaakhri khat was kaka’s first flim but raaz released earlier. I have wateched Raaz & surprisingly kaka has a double rolew though one role comes for just 1 scene.

    It is a pity that chetan anand did just 1 film with kaka after many years – kudrat.

    Waheed rehman was so impressed with kaka’s performance in aakhri khat that she recommended his name to producers & that is how khamoshi happened.

  46. Hi, just stumbled upon your blog. well written. i just finished watching the movie (all by myself, no mom besides, sniff, sniff) and could not stop myself from feeling terrified about the baby halting walking all over the heartless city. yes, Rajesh was great. I have not seen too many films of Indrani though.

  47. Hi Memsaab, long time no see…I’ve been meaning to comment on this post for quite some time now, but somehow the opportunity failed to present itself…
    I just want to say that among many of your posts on Hindi films, this one on a relatively obscure film by the great Chetan Anand is my favourite, simply because I just love your insightful write-up of the plot and not to mention your keen observation on the minutest of details, eg. the camerawork, casting and such…this is perhaps my third or fourth time reading this post, and I must say that your take on this film always impresses me! :D
    Personally for me, the most memorable highlights of the film are its nonlinear plot structure and Khayyam’s music, especially Lataji’s spring ballad “Baharon…”
    that being said, thank u for such a beautiful, well-written piece…

    best regards,
    Gaby

  48. Grihasti 1963 is one of Indrani’s films, she stars alongside Rajshree. Think she had a fairly decent size role in it, although it’s been many, many years since I saw it

  49. Thank you memsaab for introducing this movie. I always thought that RK’s first two movies must be crap. Since you know (I know very well that you know it), he got them because he won a competition. These kinds of offerings are mostly crappy. I loved your review so much that I had to watch immediately. Since I have a fractured hand and on leave from office, I had time. Watched it with my mother. Oh, lovely, heart-wrenching movie this is. Mom got so much immersed in it that she almost unconsciously said she would have picked the baby and got him home. The plight of the baby moved her so much.You know, this a very big statement from a person who believes in caste system (being old and traditional you cannot her) but the cuddly baby changed her heart, even if hypothetically!!

    Wonderful movie. Why don’t they make such movies now?? Climax was a bit contrived, still the movie is very good.

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart …..

  50. Your blog is doing a splendid job because we come to know about erstwhile actors and actresses and what happened to them….
    Sanjit – Grateful if you can tell me about actress Alka who acted in Khilona and Thokar, you seem to be knowing so much

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