Hrishikesh Mukherjee's best films
August 28, 2006
Hrishida had always dared to take up box office challenges -- he made Anadi with huge stars (Raj Kapoor, Nutan) and tasted big-time commercial success; but he had no major marquee names in his next two films -- Anuradha and Mem Didi (the latter had Lalita Pawar in the title role).
Similarly, in the late 1960s, he cast 58-year-old Ashok Kumar, long-established as a character actor, as the protagonist of Ashirwad... and steered him to a Filmfare Best Actor win.
Hrishida cast Ashok in his favourite mould -- as a man of upstanding principles. Ashok prefers to break his marriage to an autocratic landlady (Veena) rather than be part of her exploitation of the poor. But he has to pay a heavy price -- he is separated from his beloved daughter, Nina. Ashok makes a living in the city by entertaining children (the famous song Rail gaadi can be said to be India’s first rap number) and seeking substitutes for his daughter. But destiny lands him in jail for rescuing the daughter of a friend.
Hrishida evocatively captures the passage of years while Ashok composes philosophical poems in prison. His redemption is however not complete -- a grown-up Nina expresses her distaste for criminals. Aashirwad's tear-soaked climax however reaffirms the pristine nature of the father-daughter bond.
Also Read: The common man lure of Hrishida's films