Anuradha (1960)

While I’m a sucker for masala films that bear not a shred of resemblance to reality, I’m also very fond of the sort of films that directors like Bimal Roy and Hrishikesh Mukherjee sometimes made: films about everyday people and their everyday lives. The protagonist of this film, Anuradha, is one of those: a young woman who gives up her dreams for the love of a man—only to discover eventually that even that sacrifice hasn’t brought her what she wanted.
And this is, of course, a belated tribute to one of Hindi cinema’s most luminous faces: Leela Naidu. If I hadn’t been exulting over Robert Mitchum last month when Leela Naidu passed away, I’d probably have reviewed this film then. But better late than never, I guess. RIP.

Leela Naidu in and as Anuradha

The film is based in a village where the local doctor, Nirmal Choudhary (Balraj Sahni) is much respected and very much in demand. Nirmal does his rounds on a bicycle, accompanied by his talkative little daughter Ranu (Ranu). Ranu does her best to help—by offering advice she’s overheard her father giving to his patients; by holding a scared villager’s arm while Nirmal gives the man an injection; and by generally helping her father pass his time between visits.

Ranu looks on while Nirmal attends to patients

The people in the village are equally endearing. There is the zamindar (Asit Sen), for whom Nirmal has prescribed a strict diet, but who, on the sly, consumes gulabjamuns, samosas and imartis like there was no tomorrow:

The zamindar pigs out behind Nirmal's back

There is Atma Ram (Mukri), who has sympathetic pains every time something’s wrong with his wife:

Atma Ram imitates his wife's symptoms

There is Ram Bharose (Rashid Khan), the conductor of the bus that brings people from the outside world to the village. His is a ready wit, and his favourite bait is Atma Ram—and himself.

Ram Bharose chats with Nirmal

And, in Nirmal’s home, there is his quiet, beautiful wife of ten years, Anuradha (Leela Naidu). When the film begins, Anuradha is introduced through a radio programme in which records from ten years ago are being played. The famous singer Anuradha Roy, says the announcer, is the voice behind Saanwre saanwre.
The Anuradha of ten years later doesn’t look as if she’s a known voice on the radio, or has admirers flocking to her doorstep begging for autographs. This is a sad and lonely woman who spends her time waiting for her husband and child to come home, and is pitifully delighted when Nirmal promises to take her to a local festival that evening.

Nirmal, Anuradha and Ranu at home

While taking out clothes to wear for the celebrations, Anuradha comes across an old sari, and it brings back memories of how she first met Nirmal. The film goes into flashback as we see a vivacious Anuradha with her brother Ashim at a plush store, trying to choose a sari. Anuradha is taking ages (she’s been in the store for two hours) and Ashim, in a fit of impatience, wanders out—only to bump into his friend Nirmal. Ashim enlists Nirmal’s help in duping Anuradha into hurrying up and buying a sari Ashim likes. Anuradha sees through the duo, but is kindly disposed towards Nirmal.

Flashback: Anuradha meets Nirmal at a sari store

Soon after, they end up getting to know each other much better. Anuradha, coming off the stage after a dance and music performance, misses a step and falls, spraining her ankle. Nirmal and Ashim take her home and Nirmal prescribes medication for her. Anuradha’s father, Brijeshwar Prasad Roy (Hari Shivdasani) is sceptical of Nirmal’s skill, but his fears are soothed somewhat by his family doctor, who knows Nirmal well and assures Mr Roy that Nirmal is a brilliant doctor and very competent.

Mr Roy's family doctor praises Nirmal

Within a month, Anuradha is back on her feet and deeply in love with Nirmal. She meets him often, talks with him, and sings to him (the beautiful Jaane kaise sapnon mein kho gayeen ankhiyaan). One day, however, Anuradha has disturbing news to share: Mr Roy wants her to marry Deepak (Abhi Bhattacharya), the son of an old friend of his. Deepak has just come back after higher studies abroad, and Mr Roy is keen that the two of them, already friends, get married.

Mr Roy talks to Deepak about his marrying Anuradha

Nirmal is distressed, of course, but tells Anuradha that before he can marry her, he wants her to know what’s in store. Years ago, his mother had died of an illness—not because of a lack of money, but because the village in which they lived had no doctor; there wasn’t one for miles around. Nirmal’s father therefore wanted that his son should become a doctor and practise in the villages; and Nirmal, equally dedicated, has made up his mind to shift to a village. Life in a village will be tough, he warns Anuradha.

Nirmal tells Anuradha about his goal in life

But Anuradha is determined, and is willing to give up everything—the luxuries of her father’s home, the adulation of her fans, and most of all, her single-minded devotion to her music—in order to be with Nirmal. That evening, therefore, when Deepak comes to meet her after being persuaded by Mr Roy to propose, Anuradha tells him the truth.

Anuradha tells Deepak about Nirmal

Deepak is terribly disappointed (he’s very much in love with Anuradha, and tells her so) but is mature enough to acknowledge that Anuradha should marry the man she loves.
Mr Roy, on the other hand, thinks this is sheer idiocy. He throws a fit and forbids Anuradha from meeting Nirmal ever again—so a quietly rebellious Anuradha leaves home, comes to Nirmal, and marries him.

Anuradha leaves home to go to Nirmal and gets married to him

Now, ten years later, the bubbly, famous and successful Anuradha is a mere memory. Nirmal’s wife is a homebody, her musical instruments gathering dust, her life a lonely drudgery centred round her home. Nirmal is so completely preoccupied with his patients and their problems that he has little time for Anuradha. He forgets to take her to the festival she had been so looking forward to; he stays up late in his tiny laboratory, often even sleeping there.

Nirmal slogs away in his little lab

He doesn’t recognise the sari that had brought them together in the first place; he’s forgotten the lyrics of the song Anuradha used to sing to him; he remembers their anniversary only when Anuradha jolts his memory… and even then, he comes home so late, tired and irritable, they aren’t able to spend any time together.

A lonely Anuradha waits for Nirmal to notice her...

One day a surprise visitor turns up: Anuradha’s father, Mr Roy. With Ashim now married to a `foreign miss’ and Anuradha too having married a man of her choice, Mr Roy has realised that his tyrannical ideas about getting his offspring to marry people he’s chosen for them are antiquated. He’s come to make his peace with Nirmal and Anuradha, and they welcome him joyfully. After some chatting about spending time with each other, they finally agree that Ranu can go for a brief holiday with her grandfather, whom she’s befriended easily.

Ranu goes off to spend some time with her grandfather

So Mr Roy takes Ranu off, and a couple of days later, another unexpected visitor arrives—literally by accident. Deepak, older, more cynical and still a bachelor who’s now ardently pursued by an heiress called Seema, is on a trip through the countryside. Seema, who’s driving, gets hysterical when Deepak refuses to explain why he won’t marry her. The car rams into a tree; Seema is badly but not fatally injured and Deepak suffers a few minor bruises. Nirmal, who attends to the two of them, has Seema removed to the zamindar’s haveli, while he has Deepak brought to his own home.

An injured Deepak is brought to Nirmal and Anuradha's home

What effect does the arrival of Anuradha’s once-suitor have on this unhappy household? Will he, like the usual self-sacrificing lover, do his utmost to bring Nirmal and Anuradha back again? Or will Anuradha, acknowledging the end of a dream that wasn’t meant to be, turn to him? Or will events take a different turn altogether?

This isn’t a complicated story with high drama and unbelievable (or even what would have been deemed `socially unacceptable’) actions. Instead, it’s a quiet, sometimes slow but ultimately satisfying film about ordinary people and the ordinary lives they lead.

What I liked about this film:
The acting, especially that of Balraj Sahni and Leela Naidu. They’re restrained and believable, both as the young couple so giddily in love and as the older, much-married Dr and Mrs Choudhary who live in the same house, still loving each other but with the distance between them growing steadily greater with every passing day. Balraj Sahni, in particular, is superb as the idealist who is so completely engrossed in his work that he doesn’t even realise his wife is pining away for his company and for the music that was her life. He is unable to comprehend her occasional sarcasm or subtle expression of misery—not because his love for her has diminished, but simply because he’s too busy to notice.

Balraj Sahni in Anuradha

The music. Pandit Ravi Shankar composed for Anuradha, and there are some lovely songs in the film. Two of my other favourites (after Jaane kaise sapnon mein kho gayeen ankhiyaan) are Haai re woh din kyon na aaye and Kaise beete din kaise beeti ratiyaan.

I love the little glimpses of domestic life: Anuradha tucking in a mosquito net around Ranu’s bed; the sound of crickets and a faraway dog howling in the night; Anuradha and Ranu listening to one of Anuradha’s old records on the turntable… and the silences that say so much.

What I didn’t like:
A minor irritant, this. Why did Anuradha give up her music? The main crux of the film seems to be that Anuradha, bereft of the music that sustained her (and also, of course, lonely because of Nirmal’s neglect) is going into a decline. Nirmal’s neglect is more easily understood; what I found difficult to reconcile with was Anuradha’s own neglect of her music. Even though she’s a housewife and burdened with all the work that goes with it, she does have time to sit and look out of a window, or daydream—then why not the time to sing again?
On the other hand, there are arguments against that: she has lost the will to sing; or she has lost her audience (Nirmal, most importantly?). And, of course, this is nothing new; in real life too, thousands of Indian women still give up their dreams to turn into sad, lonely housewives. But still—it made me a wee bit irritated with our heroine.

Despite that minor niggle, this is a wonderful film, subtle and poignant—vintage Hrishikesh Mukherjee. If you’ve seen and liked Parakh or Sujata, don’t miss this one.


42 thoughts on “Anuradha (1960)

  1. About Anuradha’s neglect of music- well, I think it’s understandable- sometimes, an art form is a way of life and a means of expressing oneself, so regardless of circumstances, people may cling to their passions. But so many times, and with so many people, a lot depends on what’s going on in their heads and in their lives. I’ve even seen people forgetting their sense of dressing, for example, when distressed over something. So for a not-so-strong individuality like Anuradha, neglecting music is just a reflection of the kind of person she is- emotional. Would like to add here that it’s a misconception that emotional people are weak or something. In fact, they are stronger than the ‘more rational’ types; just that they may care too much about everyone else, so they may neglect themselves, and their passions may take a back seat too.

    Just my two cents!


  2. That is a way of looking at it. And no, I don’t think being emotional is equivalent to being weak – and Anuradha’s emotion isn’t her weak point. In fact, I didn’t think she was even highly emotional, though there was a good bit of repressed emotion which would perhaps have taken its toll on her… but then, as I mentioned, it seemed too that she had lost the will to even try, because she felt unappreciated by her own husband.

    Whatever: it’s still a good film!


  3. Oh I have to see this. I have sadly missed out on Leela Naidu—she is so unbelievably beautiful. Wish I’d discovered that for a different reason than her passing away :( Still, glad she’s preserved for me to see now. This looks wonderful.


  4. I do wish she’d acted in more films; she has a fragile beauty that’s very alluring. Her diction is a little strange (no particular accent that I can identify), but not enough to be irritating. And her acting is good.

    Another interesting Leela Naidu film is Yeh Raaste Hain Pyaar Ke, with Sunil Dutt, Rehman, Shashikala, Ashok Kumar and Motilal. It’s about a man who kills his wife’s lover, and the court case that follows: unusual and with very good performances, especially by Ashok Kumar and Motilal. It was based on a real-life story, the Nanavati case, which was the last case to be tried by jury in India.


  5. It was a pretty quite and nice film. I saw this years ago on DD and have been meaning to rewatch since it appeared on the Rajshri site. I too felt that there was no need for her to have given up everything – surely she could have sung, even professionally – after marriage. But I guess, it was socially unacceptable for women in those days to keep ANY of their own interests alive after marriage. And Leela Naidu didnt exactly strike me as ideal neglected-housewife material! ;-)

    Have you seen Yeh Raaste Hain Pyaar Ke? I LOVE the songs and have been tempted to pick it up in my local DVD store, simply because of Sunil Dutt+Leela Naidu. But then, in Hindi movies, stories of adultery where the woman does the deed, can lead to a lot of preaching and sermonising of the extremely irritating kind. So, I’ve resisted the temptation. Do you recommend it?


  6. Thank you for reminding me of this one…I have seen it once a long time ago, and only have vague memories of it.

    Well, coming to the question of neglecting music, surely the kids in any village would benefit from a little musical education themselves? Just an idea for any other Anuradha…


  7. Thank you, dustedoff. I have been in two minds about this film.
    For Leela Naidu I would love to watch it in addition to the fact that it has my all time favourite song ‘Jaane kaise akhiyon se..’

    But I never found the story very attractive. Housewives sitting around pining for their preoccupied husbands …bah, I used to think.
    Very clichèd.
    But after reading your review I think that whatever the story it is a well made film. So I’m thinking of getting it. :-)

    I’m still wondering why she couldn’t assist her busy husband – who was gentlemanly enough to warn her about how it would be.
    After all their daughter seemed to be accompany him on his rounds.

    If she gave up her career the least she could do would have been to take part/show an interest in his, if housework and a child wasn’t keeping her occupied enough.


  8. bollyviewer: Yes, I have seen Yeh Raaste Hain Pyaar Ke, though a while back. I don’t recall any sermonising, though – the bit that really sticks with me are the courtroom scenes with Motilal and Ashok Kumar, and the unravelling of how it all happened. Not bad, but not one of those awesome mysteries either. I’d suggest renting it rather than buying it, if you can swing that; it’s not the sort of film I could watch again and again.

    bawa: That is an idea! And despite ten years of having given up music (and presumably riyaaz too), Anuradha’s voice is still gorgeous, so she could’ve started again.

    pacifist: Yes, the idea of a wife sitting around waiting for her husband is dumb, but the way it’s portrayed helps take away from the clichèdness of it all.
    Anuradha’s angst doesn’t stem from a lack of things to do – so her helping Nirmal out isn’t a solution (though I suppose it could have helped her spend more time with him!). She’s eaten up by the fact that her music is no longer part of her life. From someone consumed by music, she has descended to someone who cringes when people insist she sing for them.
    It’s actually a good woman-oriented film, even if the heroine isn’t a terribly strong-willed character.


  9. Wow another Leela post, i had never heard of her till about a week ago when bollywoodfoodclub did a post on her

    from what i’ve heard so far as well as your review, seems she was an exceptional actress R.I.P Leela, i’ll be checking out your work soon

    P.s. is pandit Ravi Shankar the same as Ravi (the music composer) or are they different


  10. Thank you for that link to bollywoodfoodclub’s post. Leela Naidu was very beautiful, and she fitted the part of Anuradha to a T. Unfortunately, she acted in just a handful of films, so there’s not a huge corpus of her work!

    Pandit Ravi Shankar is not Ravi; instead, he’s the very famous classical musician whom George Harrison once called ‘the Godfather of World Music’.


  11. “she had lost the will to even try, because she felt unappreciated by her own husband.” I think you said it there- ‘wordly acclaim’ means nothing; its illusive and fleeting too. Appreciation from the loved ones, on the other hand, is something more substantial and more ‘nourishing’.

    Similarly, neglect from a loved one might make one feel worthless. Arguably it’s not the right thing to do- living with our weaker selves serves no purposes after all, but as far Anuradha’s characterization is concerned, I find her neglect of music quite justified from the story and characterization perspective. In other words, I’m of course agreeing that it was a nice film….. :)


  12. You put it so well, worldly acclaim is illusive and fleeting; what really matters is appreciation from loved ones. Too, too true.

    I wish there were more Hindi films that tried to explore human psychology this well – the number of films I’d put on the same level as Anuradha are too few and far between!


  13. I wish Leela Naidu had acted in more films. I have no idea why she didn’t. Because of marriage? No offers?
    Whatever the reasons, it’s very sad.

    Regarding her accent, as you have mentioned, dustedoff, I believe Leela Naidu’s mother was French. That could account for it, perhaps.


  14. Yes, it does surprise me that Leela Naidu acted in so few films – as one can see in films like Anuradha, she was a good actress, and she was (as seems to be a standard requirement for leading ladies in Hindi cinema!) also very beautiful.

    And yes, I believe her mother was French (or was it Irish – I don’t remember, but European, at any rate). I didn’t think, at least in Anuradha that Leela Naidu had a discernible accent; there was just something sort of flat about her diction that sounded awkward. As if she wasn’t comfortable speaking Hindi.


  15. Anuradha!
    Alone the name sounds so…. I can’t express it in words!
    Leela Naidu looks so beautiful! And Balraj Sahni!
    I have wnated to see thsi movie since such a long time, but couldn’t find it in Bombay this time!
    maybe next time!


  16. It’s a wonderful film, harvey… very quiet and understated. The music’s superb, Leela Naidu is lovely, and Balraj Sahni is (as always) awesome. Definitely a film worth owning!

    Shemaroo have a DVD of this, and it’s available on induna – not sure if they deliver to Austria, though. (By the way, I recently saw a lovely wartime film set in Austria – Miracle of the White Stallions, about the Lipizzaner horses of Vienna’s Spanish Riding School. Very nice!)


  17. Excellent write up on the film. I had only see Naidu in “The Householder” and loved her performance there, so after news of her death I watched Anuradha and Trikal. I did a write up with mostly images on those here:

    Thanks for reminding me about the sari flash back scene, which is one I liked a lot. If you haven’t see Trikaal,

    I think you’d enjoy Naidu’s performance in that as well. Once again the self sacrificing wife (so what else is new in Indian cinema?) who ends up gathering much wisdom thru her suffering and becomes a comfort to others and herself.

    All the best!


  18. Unfortunately, Anuradha and Yeh Raaste Hain Pyaar Ke are the only Leela Naidu films I’ve seen – not even The Householder, though I’ve heard so much about that (and it has Shashi Kapoor too!!). Must amend that ASAP.

    I love your pictures from Anuradha and Trikaal – she was luminously beautiful, even when past her heyday…


  19. Sitaji, thank you so much. Had a look, and now I so badly want to see The Householder. How am I ever going to make time to be able to call myself house-proud if I spend all my time watching films? ;-) [On second thoughts, I’d rather be a bad housewife and a good film buff]. Hah!


  20. I’m so glad you saw and reviewed “Anuradha”, dustedoff. It’s *such* a lovely little film which uses restraint and quietness with devastating and touching effect. I love it.

    What did you think of the ending? It left me bemused…


  21. Thank you, Shalini!

    But yes, the ending isn’t quite as good as the rest of the film, I think… there’s a sort of ‘let’s do this to solve the immediate problem’ thing about it – even though it’s a happy ending, I got the impression that it was just a case of sweeping things under the carpet, and not perhaps a real end.

    Still, such a lovely little film, as you so rightly say.


  22. Saw this film today on your recommendation and I agree completely with what you have written.
    *sigh* It was really beautiful (I did like Parakh ans Sujata :-)

    How lovely Leela Naidu was. They found a girl who looked every inch her daughter.

    I was glad with the ending, wasn’t happy with the decision she made in spite of everything.
    But I guess that acted as a catalyst :-)


  23. Pacifist, I’m so glad you liked it! I really like films like this one – so easy to relate to, and just generally so touching… and yes, even though Anuradha’s decision at the end wasn’t great, I could understand why she’d do something like that – and as you say, the end was nice. :-)


  24. Even as I reread my post I realised my confusing last sentence.
    What I meant was that I felt really bad that she was going away for her music and sort of felt sorry at her decision. Agreed the situation was bad, still.

    But was happy that she didn’t carry it out, and it shook sense into him. :-)

    Is there a way of finding out whether there are posts for older entries?
    Like there is this sidebar at memsaab’s where one can read the latest posts no matter for which entry.

    I mean no criticism, just eager. :-)


  25. Oh, okay. Yes, I think I agree with that… her leaving her music was bad, but at least his realisation that she was giving that up for him was something. :-)

    On my blog, you can check the side bar for the ‘Films I’ve reviewed’ pages. There are three of these, each with an alphabetical list of films I’ve reviewed so far: Hindi, English, and Other Languages. For lists, check the ‘Ten of my favourite…’ category under the Categories section of the side bar.

    I hope that was what you wanted to know! (Or did you mean the ‘recent comments’ section on the side bar of memsaabstory? If that was it, then thank you for the suggestion – I’m off to try and see how I can add it to my blog too).


  26. >Or did you mean the ‘recent comments’ section on the side bar of memsaabstory? If that was it, then thank you for the suggestion – I’m off to try and see how I can add it to my blog too).

    That was it!
    Thanks. :-)


  27. I found this film once in the DVD store but did not buy it. Your review convinces me that I must go and pick it up at once. And, Leela naidu is so breathtakingly beautiful. Thank you :)


  28. Oh, yes – you must see it. Beautiful film, and so different from the usual 50’s and 60’s fare. For a change, the woman, though she does sacrifice herself and her talent for her husband’s profession, isn’t the weepy and self-sacrificing sort: just a normal woman who has twinges of remorse but doesn’t spend all her time crying over it. Somehow reminded me of a lot of housewives I’ve known and been related to…


  29. I recently found your blog and some of your reviews are so hilarious. Fun reading ! While I was reading several of your reviews and lists, I had comments, but found others have already expressed them. So it is good to find that there are many people who share your views. I would love to read one of your books, soon.

    Have you seen Anubhav with Tanuja and Sanjeev Kumar ? It has a similar theme to Anuradha, almost felt like a remake but set in a different decade and city setting. Wonderful music by Kanu Roy and songs by Geeta Dutt, perhaps her last movie.


    • Neeru, thank you so much! Your appreciation has made my day. :-)

      I haven’t, unfortunately, got around to watching Anubhav yet, though I adore one particular song from the film – Mujhe jaan na kaho meri jaan: so simply lovely.


  30. as on the occasion of woman’s day on vividh bharti this movie was played previous friday in bioscope ki batein. i listend this movie. i felt leela naidu voice like it is of a child. not of mature one. one the other hand liked the dialogue delivery of Ranu . i liked especially this one kya shaadi k baad naam bdal jata hai pitaji ?? mera naam kya hoga shaadi k baad ?? i find her more emotive in dialogues than leela naidu.


    • I very rarely listen to radio, but last Friday, I happened to be travelling in a taxi from Gurgaon to Delhi when this programme you mention came on. It was very well done; I liked it. Do watch the film – it’s good.

      As for Leela Naidu, while she was a good actress, I don’t think much of her diction.


  31. leela naidu was more good in The householder. i didn’t understand one thing in the movie anuradha has time for missing her husband ,sitting looking out of window. but she has left singing. why ?? the reason is not as much as solid that it was in guide. i wondered this you have time for brooding but not for your passion.


    • I don’t think it’s so much a question of her having time or not. She used to sing on radio, or on stage. Here, tucked away in the village, she has no access either to the stage or the radio station. If she wants to get back to that career in music, she’ll have to go back to the town.


  32. Anuradha,..complete film is available at


    In Householder, Leela looks lovely but despite guidance from Sathyajith Ray himself, the film is not very interesting. partly because the focus is on Rishi Kapoor and not on Leela Naidu. Still, there is an endearing scene where Leela tries hoop dance! ( if that is the word).
    yeh radthe hai pyar ki…Leela committed a blunder in accepting that role.
    He last film may not be liked by people like me who adore her chiselled beauty of her twenties. but reviwers praise her role and acting in that last film.


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