Human relations are complex, especially the male-female romantic relationship which sees no bar. As a song of Jagjit Singh from the movie Prem Geet (1981) says – Na Umr Ki Seema Ho, Na Janm Ka Ho Bandhan, Jab Pyar Kare Koi To Dekhe Keval Mann (love sees the heart only and not any bounds of age or birth or the like wise). In the new millennium, two movies dealing with the romantic relationship between an aged male and a much younger female, have been in news – 1. Joggers’ Park (2003) and 2. Nishabd (2007). However around two decades prior to these movies, one movie dealt with this issue through a highly sensitive and touching story. This underrated movie was Anokha Rishta (1986).Anokha Rishta (unusual relationship), perfectly harmonizing with its title, is the story of an unusual relationship between Mary (Sabeeha) and Robert Brown (Rajesh Khanna). Teenager Mary is an orphan and lives in an orphanage run by nuns. Her education had been sponsored by Robert’s father in his lifetime. After the demise of his father, when Robert takes independent charge of the family business, he comes to know of this sponsorship. Being benevolent by nature, he decides to continue it in his father’s name itself. Mary has never met her sponsor and she even does not know him by name. For her, the identity of her sponsor is -‘uncle’ only whom she regularly writes letters and her uncle (earlier Robert’s father and now Robert) always responds to them. A youth (Karan Shah) loves her but she ignores his advances because of his image of an irresponsible and loafer boy. On the other hand, Robert has always been in love of Dr. Pramila (Smita Patil) but due to following different religious faiths and their parents not allowing them to marry someone from a different religion, they could not marry. However being mature and true lovers, they chose not to marry somebody else too and decided to remain bachelors only.
The twist in the tale comes with Mary coming across Robert in a party and despite himself being more than double of her age, falls in love with him. She expresses her feelings to him but he discourages her from making advances towards him in this way. On the other hand, maintaining a benevolent attitude and wanting her to lead a happy life, Robert helps Mary’s lover to come closer to her and guides him to grow up, besides giving him a job in his own office. Mary, being mad in Robert’s love without knowing that he only is her sponsor and ‘her uncle’ whom she writes to and gets letters from, keeps on living in her dreamy world of a married life with Robert. Her problem is that she cannot share her feelings and mental agony (of not getting positive response from Robert) with ‘her uncle’ because all the incoming and outgoing letters (written to ‘her uncle’) of Mary are screened first by the head of the orphanage (called ‘mother’).
Finally, when Robert breaks her heart (in her own interest only), she decides to become a nun and writes a final letter to ‘her uncle’ with a special and last request to the head of the orphanage to deliver it to ‘her uncle’ without opening it and reading its content. Dr. Pramila, knowing all these developments, tries to stop Mary but she remains firm on her decision. Now her lover (the youth, now an employee of Robert) also gets desperate upon knowing this decision of hers. Finally the onus falls on the shoulders of Robert only to do something to prevent Mary from taking this drastic step and that leads to the highly emotional and impressive climax.This story written by P. Padmarajan has been presented on the screen in a manner par excellence by the director, I.V. Sasi. The narrative flows freely and keeps the viewer guessing about the climax. In this movie, the love of a teenager girl towards a much elder male is one-sided because he looks upon her in a fatherly way only. And I feel that such type of things happen on the part of the young girls quite often because they search for their father in their beau or their husband. Nothing shown in this movie is unnatural and all the characters are real flesh and blood human-beings only. Tender feelings and sentiments, both are in abundance in the movie. The internal loneliness, stuffiness and heartache of Mary becomes lively on the screen as the story proceeds scene-by-scene.Yash Chopra made a movie – ‘Lamhe’ with somewhat similarity in the story in 1991 in which he showed that the much younger girl finally wins the heart of the elderly man and he marries her, ditching his lady-love of his own age-group. However in this movie, I found the things as more realistic with the elderly man, instead of bowing before the wish of the much younger and immature girl, helps her by showing her the right path to lead a wedded life with a young man of her own age-group who truly loves her and preventing her from playing with her life under the frustration of not getting the first crush of her life.Anokha Rishta is a very interesting emotional movie in which relief has been provided at places through the character of Satish Shah, an old employee in Robert’s office and his informal adviser. There is no unnecessary dragging of the story and technically also this movie is okay. R.D. Burman’s music does not boast of any chart-buster but it is in accordance with the mood of the movie.Rajesh Khanna has delivered a mature performance in the mature role of Robert. Smita Patil is, like always, at her very best. Karan Shah as Mary’s lover alongwith Satish Shah, Shafi Inamdaar and other supporting characters are also all right in their respective roles. However this movie belongs to debutante Sabeeha who is the daughter of Ameeta, a Bollywood heroine of the black and white era. She looks quite fresh and has performed naturally, infusing life into the role of Mary. This is definitely her best performance in her short-lived career and perhaps the only lead role done by her.Anokha Rishta did not gather any headlines or controversies or hailing reviews like Lamhe or Joggers’ Park or Nishabd. In fact, this admirable movie went virtually unnoticed. Released in 1986, this is one of the last movies of Smita Patil. I doubt, even several of the die-hard fans of Smita Patil may not have watched this movie.Anokha Rishta is not a classic movie. It has its own share of mediocrity and flaws. Still, it’s much better than several overhyped movies. Emotional people like me can definitely relate themselves to it in many ways.
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