Any film—but especially a Hindi film—in which a dog co-stars is okay with me! Annadata is no exception, and in fact even without the dog it would still be a lovely little fairytale of a movie. Directed by Asit Sen, two great performances by Jaya Bhaduri and Om Prakash embellish a sweet story about love and compassion versus money and greed. The subject is a little hackneyed (poor=love=good and rich=money=bad) but so well done that it doesn’t matter.
It also has very melodic songs by Salil Chowdhury, which unfortunately aren’t subtitled. A movie like this requires song subtitling; I definitely missed nuances in the story. Must…learn…Hindi………
The story begins with the announcement of a plane crash which has killed millionaire Seth Amba Prasad (Om Prakash). Relatives swarm out of the woodwork for a piece of his wealth, and the greedy parents of Ratna, a girl whom he took in as a child and educated, concoct their own plan.
When Amba Prasad calls his lawyer and friend Pestonjee (Krishnakant) to say that he had missed the plane that crashed, Pestonjee is pretty much the only person happy to hear the news. When Amba Prasad returns home and hears the tale woven by Ratna and her parents, he is devastated. He has always treated her as a daughter, and cannot believe that she and her parents would stoop so low just for wealth (to be fair, Ratna is not happy about the deception either, but succumbs to her parents’ coercion). The avarice of his relatives disturbs him too, and in despair he leaves home with his dog Moti as his only companion (dogs, as we all know, care nothing for money, and will love you unconditionally; that’s what makes them so great).
He travels by boat, bullock cart and on foot, relying on strangers for water and food. One day, exhausted, he falls asleep against a tree. When he wakes up, a young man has set up an easel and is painting his portrait. He is initially indignant:
but the painter gives Amba five rupees for posing, despite being a poor man himself. In the village, Amba gets some lunch for Moti and we get a short glimpse of the actor Asit Sen as a daruwallah arguing with a policeman.
The heat and exertion get to Amba Prasad, and he passes out. Clever Moti runs to the doctor’s clinic nearby to get help.
Aarti (Jaya Bhaduri) is the late doctor’s daughter. She and her brother Kundan (Bobby), who has been crippled by polio, live together. She brings the unconscious Amba Prasad home.
When he recovers consciousness, he wants to get on his way but Aarti convinces him to stay until he is completely better. As the next few days pass, he discovers what a good, kind person Aarti is, and how hard she works to provide for her little brother and herself. She continues to give out free medicines as her father did, while taking sewing and typing jobs to keep body and soul together.
Arun (Anil Dhawan), the painter, arrives to show Aarti his latest painting. When he finds out that she is caring for the old man and his dog, he is upset. He wonders how Aarti can feed two more mouths when she already struggles to feed herself and Kundan. Amba Prasad meanwhile is heartened that he’s found someone so generous and unconcerned about money. He writes to Pestonjee.
Aarti and Kundan soon feel like they have another father in Amba Prasad. He tries to give Aarti money, although she refuses it; and he helps Kundan with his leg pain. He also quickly realizes that Aarti and Arun love each other.
Arun, however, feels that he is too poor and has too few prospects to propose to Aarti, and wants to find a rich groom for her. Aarti herself feels that she has too many responsibilities to impose on a husband (besides Kundan, she owes a local moneylender a great deal of money), and that she will never get married.
Her brother Kundan, too, wishes he were not a burden on Aarti. Amba Prasad narrates a story to him one day (it’s picturized as a play) about how Kundan will relieve his sister of all her burdens and get her happily married.
When Amba runs into Arun one day, Arun scolds him for taking advantage of Aarti’s generosity and tells him that he should find a job if he’s going to hang around. Amba tells Aarti that he must leave, that he is old, sick and useless and doesn’t want to be a burden to her. Her response is very sweet:
So Amba pretends to start work polishing shoes all day so that he can give Aarti food and extra money. She reluctantly accepts it. He also arranges for an art buyer to see Arun’s paintings.
The buyer takes the portrait of Amba (Arun refuses to sell the portrait of Aarti) and gives him Rs 500. Arun uses the money to buy an artificial leg for Kundan, and to pay off the interest on Aarti’s loan from the moneylender. He also goes to see a marriage broker and asks to see pictures of boys.
Hilarious! But when Arun tells Aarti that he has found a rich husband for her, she is not amused. In a great scene, he tells her he loves her but is sacrificing that love for her sake because he is poor.
The great part is that this makes her seriously angry:
and of course also disappointed and heartbroken. She tells him that if he wants to wallow in his poverty, it’s his choice, but he cannot wallow in hers too, and she storms off. Yay Aarti!
What will happen to them? Will they find out who Amba Prasad really is? Can he help them, or will they be too proud? This is a really nice film, with wonderful performances and lots of little details that add up to a great watch.
And also, can you believe that our hero Anil Dhawan is director David Dhawan’s older brother (according to imdb.com)?