What drives people to struggle with the most inevitable reality of life – death? What makes others accept death happily and cheerfully as a passing phase in the cycle of life? How has mainstream cinema treated these parallel tracks to focus on this issue?
WILL TO LIVE, an American-Indian film released recently, talks about a desperate father's courageous search for a rare herbal cure for cancer to save his son's life. The father journeys from America to India and into the Himalayas, making friends who empathise with his condition and extend help to him.
Looking back at mainstream Hindi films, the first unforgettable treatise that involves impending death as a way of celebrating life even though one is afflicted with a terminal illness is ANAND (1971) directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee. ANAND is a cult film that consolidated Rajesh Khanna's phenomenal stardom. It is also remembered for its feather-light flourishes of humour, bonhomie, a touch of romance tinged heavily though with melodrama, as it runs along several tracks, involving a deep friendship between Anand and his young doctor Bhaskar Banerjee (Amitabh Bachchan), his self-constructed 'family' relationship with doctor friend Kulkarni (Ramesh Deo) and his wife, the elderly nurse who mothers him and Bhaskar's wife. The grave and silent Bhaskar watches Anand draw the last drop of life's juices while there is still time. For him, it is a learning experience. Karan Johar produced a lavishly mounted, loud, glitzy but rather watered down poor imitation of ANAND in the name and style of KAL HO NAA HO (2003) starring Shahrukh Khan and directed by Nikhil Advani.