Ankush (1986) was co-produced, directed and edited by N Chandra. The movie was a surprise hit of the year even when some big-budget Bollywood films bit the dust in the same period. The film is still remembered for a realistic portrayal of a set of angry youth and Ghanshyam Vaswani’s bhajan – “Itni Shakti Hamein Dena Daata.”
Ankush was shot on real locations in Bandra, Mumbai (Chapel Road, Bandra and Machimar Colony in Mahim) and this is what gives the film a unique appeal. The film reminds you of Gulzar’s Mere Apne (1971). Chandra assisted Gulzar during this film and the resemblance of the plot cannot be missed.
This is one of Nana Patekar’s early roles as the angry young man and his dialog delivery is commanding, though it is hard to miss the Maharashtrian accent in his voice.
Four lower middle class youth in Mumbai feel disconnected with society and are simply wasting their lives, unable to get suitable employment. Ravi Kelkar (Patekar) who is part of this truculent group is put behind bars simply because he exposed his college principal who was encouraging a student Gupta (Mahavir Shah) to cheat in the exams.
Arjun (Arjun Chakrabarty ) is a qualified engineer but can’t manage to get a job. He helplessly watches his sister (Kamini Bhatia) roam with her boss. When he questions her, she asks him to shut up and get a job instead. She reminds him that the house runs on her monthly salary and jeers at his meandering ways as an unemployed youth.
Shashi (Madan Jain) is at loggerheads with his brother (Gajanan Bangera). Shashi, a trade union activist, is dismissed from his job for his activism. His past comes in the way of his employment opportunities. Laalya (Suhas Palshikar) is an orphan who is part of the gang. He is a bootlegger, selling film tickets in black. Master Bobby is also part of this gang and acts as the informer.
Soon enough they have a new neighbour – a young beautiful girl Anita (model Nisha Singh in her big screen debut) and her grandmother (Ashalata). The group is vitriolic towards the duo and harass them for some time. But they soon thaw when they realize that Anita and her grandmother bear no animosity towards them – rather they are caring and sympatheric in their affection. Their empathy transforms the group who slowly begin to realize the value of being gainfully occupied. They start doing small chores like painting, carpentry etc. Notwithstanding their skirmishes with a rival group in the locality which keep cropping up in between., the bonhomie between the group and Anita engenders a convivial atmosphere.
Anitha is a labour officer in a factory that is owned by Saxena (Raja Bundela). His friend Gupta (Mahavir Shah) warns him that Anita’s earnestness may land him in trouble later. Soon enough Gupta’s prophetic words turn into reality. Saxena unfairly dismisses a worker and Anita takes up cudgels against Saxena to fight for the worker’s rights. It is interesting to see Anita speaking up for workers using the principles of organizational behavior.
She tells her boss, “If you punish the worker now, then other workers won’t take any risk and productivity will diminish which in turn will affect the profitability of your business.” Saxena does the obvious. He fires Anita who would have none of this nonsense. She reaches Saxena’s home only to be told that Saxena is in his private guest house. Livid with rage on being dismissed unfairly through false and malicious allegations, Anita lands in the guest house to question her boss – all alone! A war of words ensues between Anita and Saxena, creating a kerfuffle of sorts. Thereafter Saxena, Gupta, their business partner Dave (Dinesh Kaushik) and a henchman rape Anita.
Anita fights the case in court but the culprits are freed by the court for want of sufficient evidence. A despondent Anita commits suicide. Six months pass by. The culprits are killed one by one by hooded/masked gunmen. Finally they surrender to the police and present their argument in the court. However, the court awards them capital punishment.
Actress Ashalata who still resides in Mahim finds it easy to travel to the shooting locales close by. Mala Jaggi has a forgettable role. Mahavir Shah plays the usual notorious character that he always portrayed in Hindi films until his tragic death in a car accident in the USA, at the age of 40. Shah was also an actor in Gujarati theatre.
Rabia Amin (more famous as actress Jiah Khan’s mother) is charming as a Maharashtrian girl Manda who is Arjun’s neighbour. Arjun falls head-over-heels in love with her but the tetchy Manda scoffs at his joblessness and questions him if he can afford to provide her the luxurious lifestyle that she really desires. Gajanan Bangera as Shashi’s brother doesn’t have much to do except admonish his brother. Madan Jain as Shashi delivers an impactful performance. Veteran actor Nana Palshikar’s son Suhas strikes a chord as Laalya. Nana Patekar steals the show but Bengali actor Arjun Chakrabarty has his moments too.
What made Raj Zutshi accept a miniscule role as a gay, is puzzling mystery!
The elderly woman who plays Arjun’s mother deserves special mention – she doesn’t appear to be an actress. The synergy between all the four actors manages to hold the film together. The film has a gripping pace. The songs “Itni Shakti Hamein Dena Daata” and “Aaya Maza Dildara” are worth humming. The prayer song “Itni Shakti” was composed by well known singer Ghanshyam Vaswani and sung on the screen by Marathi singer Pushpa Pagdhare (from the koli community) and Sushma Sreshtha. Shekhar Sawkar, Ghanshyam Vaswani, Muralidhar gave their voices for the male actors but none of them got any mileage after the film hit the jackpot.
Those who have grown up in Mumbai will identify with the movie’s premise. N Chandra who grew up in the Worli Naka precincts has very intelligently woven his experience of growing up in the city on the screen. Chandra’s attempts to explicate the connection between unemployment and the youth’s disenchantment with society have been brought out adroitly on the screen.
The original choice for Ravindra Kelkar was Marathi actor Ravindra Mahajani. Chandra couldn’t afford him and Nana Patekar volunteered to do the movie for a meagre Rs10000. Mahajani, a popular name in Marathi cinema, quit movies to set up his construction firm.
Ankush is now considered a cult classic just like Mere Apne. While in terms of the economic scenario, nothing much has changed since then. Chandra had to sell his house and his wife’s and sister’s jewellery to make the movie. Ankush provided the change that the audience was eagerly looking for. Made on a shoestring budget of Rs12 lakh, Ankush managed to mop up Rs95 lakh. Whether Chandra rewarded his star cast and production team after the film’s success is still not known. But his efforts to catch a tiger by its tail (making a low budget film and hoping to strike gold at the box office) achieved stupendous success.
But after the success of Pratighat and Tezab, apparently N Chandra’s fortunes dipped. It is also remarkable that except for Patekar, none of the star cast actually benefited from the film’s success at the box office.
(After working in the corporate world for close to two decades, Bhagyalakshmi Seshachalam started her second career innings as a head-hunter. She is passionate about Hindi movies and loves retro music. When her family shifted to Chennai in the 80s, Bhagya had a taste of Tamil cinema too. In the long term, she plans a book on two of her favourite directors – Guru Dutt and K Balachander. She travels across the country on work and is based in Mysore.)