Cancer is no longer something that happens to other people or to characters in films or, more recently in TV serials when people need to be done away with because they quit the show or moved to another.
Increased awareness , better methods of diagnosis and better access to treatment has seen cancer touch all our lives in more ways than one. And with encouraging outcomes.
When Hrishikesh Mukherjee made Anand more than four decades ago, he reached out with that iconic film in a remarkable manner to his audience. The story tugged at your heart stings with a poignant celluloid tale of this young man living out the last days of his life as he coped with a life threatening and eventually fatal diagnosis of Cancer .
The director peopled the last few months of his protagonist's life with some amazing characters , each one portrayed endearingly and realistically by the brilliant cast he hand picked . The character of Anand , supposed to be based on that of his dear friend Raj Kapoor was unlike any previously essayed and Rajesh Khanna brought his own vulnerable charm that enhanced what the script had already given him. Amitabh Bachhan's Dr Bhaskar was of course the precursor to his Angry Young Man avatar that followed in the years to come .
The empathic Matron , the caring doctor , his loving wife , Jaichand, the man on the street , who of course was not Jaichand but the one who recognises the aching need in Anand to find his one last friend ...all of them were pivotal to the film but in my mind the real two heroes of the film were the city of Bombay and Cancer.
I had no idea of what kind of a place or city Bombay was in those days , I had lived all my life in Delhi and neither did I know anything about Cancer . But still I saw in the manner in which the story unfolded , how the free and easy accepting attitude of the city of Bombay and its people helped Anand not only cope with his cancer but also enabled him to be his own self and not having to compromise any thing he held dear and important for his survival. For, even though the cancer killed him, the city with an unquestioning acceptance of his persona, recognised his desire to live out the rest of his life in unbridled joy and kept him alive.
Bombay is like that . I have found that out myself in over the last 40 years that I have spent in this city. It lets you be . It draws you into it's vortex yes, but it lets you be .
And Cancer ? Well yes...almost 30 of my 40 years living in Bombay , have been spent in working with those who have been diagnosed with cancer and their caregivers : family and friends and their physicians .
What I now know about cancer is surely a marked improvement of what I knew about the disease when i first saw Anand . i also know what it can do in the wake of its diagnosis to all who are affected by it . And then some more.
When I watched Anand all those years ago , it moved me , like it moved almost everyone who saw it , immensely !!! I knew nothing about cancer, nothing about Bombay or the people who lived and loved there. Still, everything rang so true . So real . So correct . So as it was all meant to be.
And today , knowing both Bombay and cancer as I do, well, as much as one can know of both the enigmatic city and the ever changing challenges of conquering cancer , I find Anand still such an exhilarating , liberating and hard hitting chronicle of the cancer experience and an incredibly touching portrait of the large hearted city of Bombay . Not one false note, not one moment in the film of pretentious posturing or pointless pontificating. .
Anand is timeless and true