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Nina is the rich and spoiled daughter of a rich businessman. One day while horse-riding she loses control of her horse and is rescued by a young man named Dilip. Dilip instantly takes a liking to her and starts to frequently visit her house where he entertains her with his singing along with Nina's friend Sheela. Nina's father dislikes this and tries to make Nina realize that spending so much time with Dilip is not wise as Dilip could misunderstand her friendship with him for love. On the day of Sheela's birthday party, Dilip realizes he has fallen in love with Nina and tries to tell her. However tragedy strikes when Nina's father dies of a heart attack that same day and this leaves Nina devastated. Dilip comforts her and tries to reveal his true feelings for her but is shocked by the arrival of Nina's fiancé Rajan who has returned from London. Dilip is shocked that Nina never mentioned that she was already engaged and in love with Rajan. Rajan and Nina eventually get married and ... Written by
Excellent film with superb performances by Nargis and Dilip Kumar
Andaz is considered one of the all-time classics of early post-independence Hindi cinema, and the 'original' love triangle of Hindi film. Set among the (at least superficially) extremely Westernised upper-crust of metropolitan Indian society, Andaz tackles the perennial question of the feasibility of a purely platonic friendship between members of the opposite sex. This is a valid issue, but where I think the film errs is in equating one possible answer to the question with Westernisation and the other with Indian-ness, which to me is simplistic and therefore unsatisfactory. This flaw apart, however, Andaaz makes for very satisfying viewing, and feels fresh and topical , and very modern, in terms of both content, characterisation, and presentation (extremely glossy!) even today, 53 years after its release.
Neena (Nargis in a breakthrough performance that established her as the reigning female superstar of Indian cinema)is the headstrong, slightly tomboyish, and wonderfully free-spirited (and perhaps slightly naive) only child of a milllionaire. Out riding one day, she loses control of her horse and is rescued by Dilip (Dilip Kumar) with whom she becomes fast friends, in spite of her father's misgivings about such a friendship and its potential for misinterpretation. Dilip proves to be a reliable friend, to whom Neena turns when her father passes away, making him a partner in her business; but it is clear from the start that Dilip's feelings extend beyond friendship; he is falling in love with this charming young woman. However, Neena is in love with Rajan, who is away in London; and when he returns she picks up the threads of their relationship. Dilip reveals his love for Neena to her on her wedding night, though she loves only Rajan. However, the path of true love is rarely smooth, and Rajan's suspicions about his wife's relationship with Dilip lead to tensions between him and Neena, leading eventually to the melodramatic (but surprisingly effective) tragic denouement.
Andaaz has a sparkling script, peppered with witty conversations between both the lead pairs which is pitched just right, and Mehmood's direction is polished and intelligent. The ostensible theme is a conflict betwen tradition and modernity (equated here with 'India' and the 'West', with the director firmly on the side of the former) but although I was not convinced by this premise, it worked wonderfully as an engaging romantic comedy for the first half, and a dramatic tour-de-force in the second.
However, the key to Andaaz's success in my opinion is a virtually perfect central performance by Nargis. She plays the many shades of the complex character of Neena to perfection, growing from the carefree, tomboyish girl of the beginning (just watch her in the charming opening sequence as she gets dressed in her jodhpurs and strides out to go riding - this is masterful filmmaking and acting, establishing a character in a few frames) to the intense, morally conflicted yet steadfast woman of the latter half with elan. Her body language is pleasure to watch - immensely confident, especially in her interaction with the male leads, yet wonderfully controlled in the moments of high drama. Rarely have I seen such a well-modulated, self-assured performance, though it helps of course that Nargis had a complex, not entirely unambiguous character to play with, and that the film revolves around her. Nonetheless, for me watching Nargis in this film was added confirmation of her immense talent, and it is amazing to think that she was barely a few films old and 19 years old when it was made! Watch her in the scene where she and her father discuss the central dilemma of the plot; her use of her body language to situate her mental state and their relationship is very polished. Of course, she looks luminous, aided in no small measure by Faredoon Irani's glossy cinematography, and her on-screen chemistry with both heroes is a pleasure to watch. She had a beautiful speaking voice too, capturing shades of emotion with ease without overacting or sounding shrill or screechy. Her singing voice is a young Lata, imitating Noorjehan, which to my mind is a good thing since it's a better fit than Lata's later, shriller, vocals.
The male leads are a great foil for each other, and for Nargis. Raj Kapoor is good, though he does overplay sometimes. Dilip Kumar is, as always, magnificent in his restraint and the depth he brings to his character. Although his character is not entirely a pleasant one in the final analysis, one sympathises with him. The supporting cast are good too, especially Cuckoo as Neena's friend Sheela (who is given to dancing sexily at parties, an added bonus), and the guy who plays Neena's father. Even the mandatory comedy track involving an old Professor of Rajan's, is actually funny and actually makes some of the points the director is seeking to make, only with humour thrown in. Perhaps a bit redundant, especially given that the interaction of the principal characters is often funny enough, peppered as it is with witty lines, but it isn't annoying as these things sometimes can be.
This is a great film, strikingly modern in tone and feel though it is over half a century old. Whether or not one is convinced by its eventual rejection of 'the modern West' in favour of 'traditional India', it is well worth a watch, not only for itself but because some of the set pieces and situations from this film have come over time to be part of the stock-in-trade of the Indian commercial film-maker (though rarely has this level of accomplishment been achieved), so that if you're interested in seeing how the grammar and vocabulary of Hindi films has evolved over time, this is crucial reference viewing. Great actors, great script, great direction, great film.
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