Koimoi Recommends Mili: Where Jaya Bachchan Personified Grace & Hrishikesh Mukherjee Used Amitabh Bachchan’s Angry Young Man Act For Good
Koimoi Recommends Mili: Cinema reflects life. Three words worth defining a term so mysterious that one definition does not suffice. But what the phrase does is full justice to is Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s filmography. A filmmaker so close to reality, that he ended up becoming a synonym to simplicity. The year was 1975, and Bollywood was still playing safe, catering to a mass audience and what they binged on; masala. Amid this was Hrishikesh Da, who bloomed like the most delicate but joyous flower with three films, of which two are his most acclaimed films Chup Chup Ke & the one we are talking about today.
So as we head to another glorious anniversary of a film so delicate, I on Koimoi Recommends today suggest you watch Mili, a film starring Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bachchan (Bhaduri then).
Director: Hrishikesh Mukherjee
Available on: Amazon Prime Video & YouTube (For Free)
Written by the legends Bimal Dutta, Dr. Rahi Masoom Reza & Mohini N. Sippy, Milli starring Jaya Bachchan in and as the titular part, was about a girl so full of life that she blew some in everything she touched. Comes in an ‘angry young man’ (pun intended), who is walking with the heavy baggage of his past. Mili rescues him too, but destiny has its own plan as it doesn’t forsake the girl who becomes the lifeline for the people around her.
Understanding a Hrishikesh Mukherjee film is a sweet exploration in itself. He wasn’t someone who relied heavily on his actors; instead, he made them a small part of a bigger universe. Take the geography in Mili, for example. A film set in a high rise building amid the city. A highly influential man lives with his daughter and sister on a higher floor. Everyone with a lesser influence stay below. Until a rich man comes and occupies the most luxurious of the apartments above the influential man.
All of that is never used to pull anyone down but to make a point subtly. Coming back to the larger context. One of Jaya Bachchan’s best and delicate performance in Mili for me is about its women. Ones you see and even the ones, you don’t. It is 1975, Basanti was still a damsel in distress, a helpless mother was a trophy for a thief who turned it into an iconic dialogue. In that case, watching Jaya Bachchan as a girl who had a voice for her own good was a change in the tide.
Or take Aruna Irani’s character, for instance. She is openly talking about being in several relationships with consent and no one making a fuzz out of it. Is it really 1975? But Hrishikesh Da isn’t delusional to not address the social stigma attached to women who dare to speak. We see the gaze through various things. How Shekhar’s (Amitabh Bachchan) mother is criticised and labelled a villain for a choice she made years ago. Or how Shekhar demeans Irani’s character for the type of clothes she is wearing.
Or when Shekhar tells Mili to leave because she chooses to come to his house while no one is at her home. It is all real. But Hrishikesh Da, with his writers, is making a simple point about the evolving world and women being a part of it too.
That brings me to the subtlety of love the director with Bimal Dutta and team create. Mili and Shekhar fall for each other, but they never really confess it for us. It is by the end we see the do so. Amitabh Bachchan was the poster, angry young man, by now. Thanks to Deewar he was also this mass masala hero. Breaking his complete persona, he becomes a hurt and dented Shekhar. Also, keep in mind when you watch this film, that it released just 2 months before Sholay.
There are no villains in the Hrishikesh Mukherjee universe, and we must thank our stars for that. The villain is an internal conflict. And in Mili, it is her health that takes the narrative ahead. But here, he isn’t taking expected Anand (also directed by Mukherjee) way; rather, he chooses hope over closure.
Watch Mili; I can’t tell you how the climax unfolds. But one thing that I can promise you is the fact that the film has aged in the most glorious way. It holds up to date, and you won’t regret watching it. Besides, one must worship the beauty and grace Jaya Bachchan personified in her times; surreal!