Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Anupama: Unraveling the Complicated Web of a Father-Daughter Story


Hindi cinema has praised the mother-child relationship. So much so that when the character of a mother appears humanly imperfect, one cannot help praising her “realism”. While mothers have a god-like status, fathers in our films have often had the short end of the stick. They are either absent, or strict, and quite monotonous. It’s rare for a film to base its emotional arc on a father-daughter relationship while examining its nuances, and also humanizing its flaws. Hrishikesh Mukherjee rose to the challenge with his 1966 film Anupama, where Tarun Bose played father Mohan Sharma, and Sharmila Tagore played daughter Uma.

Mukherjee, who was known for delicately handling relationships in his films, focused on the emotionally fractured relationship of a father and daughter who never had the chance to blossom. Entering the world of Anupama, we witness the all-consuming love Mohan has for his wife. The kind where their world belongs to each other, so when his wife dies in childbirth, Mohan is lost. From then on, he can’t even look at his daughter unless he’s drunk. Mohan becomes an alcoholic and every night Uma shivers as she hears her father’s stumbling footsteps enter her room. “Tera kasoor kya hai? Principal tujhse kyon nafrat karta hoon? (What’s your fault? Why do I hate you?),” Mohan muses drunkenly as he cries sitting by Uma’s bed as she pretends to be asleep.

anupama movie After Uma meets Ashok, she finds someone who can hear her silences.

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Anupama is not as wordy as Mukherjee’s other films. In fact, there are long periods of silence where the director relies solely on the expressions of the actors. When Hrishikesh Mukherjee cast Sharmila Tagore in the film, many told him she was the wrong choice for the role. “There were howls of protest when I signed Rinku (Sharmila Tagore) for Anupama. She was busy doing an Evening in Paris in a bikini! I was told to take Nutan instead. I said “Look, Rinku has the expressive eyes of my Anupama. I had to instruct her very closely, she didn’t know what she was doing. When she saw the rush print, Rinku kissed me,” said he told Filmfare in a 1998 interview.

When Uma meets Ashok from Dharmendra, she finds someone who is willing to hear her silences. She finds the courage to be his inspiration, and he finds his muse in her. He shows her the way out of her situation, builds her confidence so she can take this step, but doesn’t actually save her. The director makes a point of pointing out the same in the film, so you know Uma’s victory is his alone. At one point, one of the other characters challenges Ashok’s notion and argues that not everyone is capable enough to get out of their own mess, and that they might need some help, but Ashok sticks to its principles. He thinks it’s up to Uma if she wishes to change her situation. When Uma finally chooses to break the chains, you celebrate for her because she deserved this victory.

Hrishikesh Mukherjee, in that same interview with Filmfare, had shared that the story was based on a real incident. “It was based on the life of my cousin sister. My aunt died during childbirth, my uncle became an alcoholic, he couldn’t stand his daughter. I had seen that with my own eyes. For her relationship with the poet who saves her, I used my imagination. Although they are in love, they never touch,” he said.

anupama Sharmila Tagore plays Uma in Anupama.

Anupama is dominated by a strong love story but it is essentially a father-daughter story. As Uma finds her way and leaves her father behind, he finds peace in letting her go. He is aware that he should have let her be the person she was meant to be but his pride gets the better of him. Mukherjee insists no one here is a bad person. They make bad decisions that affect their loved ones, but the audience isn’t being asked to judge these characters. On the contrary, we feel empathy towards them and we even forgive them.

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Anupama touched on a subject that was covered years later by Mahesh Bhatt’s 1989 film Daddy. Mukherjee’s film was about the emotional damage of his childhood years and the scars he leaves behind that never heal really, which was pretty unique for a mainstream movie director making movies with mainstream stars.



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