Sunday evenings are mostly boring for a person like me who doesn’t like to venture out much on holidays. If there is no cricket match then I always turn up to watch some good old Hindi movies ever since the presence of Android TV at home. Yesterday there was a T20I match between India and South Africa but having watched too many T20Is in the last month of so I decided to watch an old Hindi movie that hasn’t been seen for a long time and suddenly I remembered one forgotten movie by Amitabh Bachchan Main Azaad Hoon.
Yes, Main Azaad hoon is Amitabh Bachchan’s biggest flop and a forgotten one in his career and I too watched it on cable TV only once when it got released in 1989. I was contemplating searching for this movie for the last few months on the internet. So after getting a sudden thought to finally watch it last evening, I googled it and found that Main Azaad Hoon is available on the Sony Liv app.
Main Azaad Hoon (1989) Credits:
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan (Guru or Azaad), Shabana Azmi (Subhashini Sehgal), Manohar Singh (Seth Gokuldas), Ajit Vachchhani (Editor), Ram Gopal Varma (Rambhau), Raja Bundela (Anwar), MK Raina (Newspaper editor), Sudhir Pandey (Chief Minister), Anjan Shrivastav (Rastogi), Annu Kapoor (Munna), Avtar Gill (IG), and Anupam Kher (Dulichand)
Story and Screenplay: Javed Akhtar
Lyrics: Kaifi Azmi
Music: Amar – Utpal
Producer: HA Nadiadwala
Director: Tinnu Anand
Run Time: 150 mins (approx.)
Seth Gokuldas has taken over a newspaper that has three editions in English, Hindi, and Urdu, but it is running a huge loss. He has instructed his editor to reduce the staff and other expenses so that the paper can survive, and also make it sensational. Editor fires his senior columnist Subhashini in the process but requests her to write her last article for the paper before going home. Subhashini in anger writes a fake letter in the name of one Azaad to pour out her own feelings.
In this letter, Azaad claims that if the culprits of Sucheta hospitals are not brought to the book by the next 26th of January then he will commit suicide by jumping from the terrace of the same hospital. Suddenly this letter creates interest and excitement among the people and Gokukuldas asks his editor to withdraw his decision to fire Subhashini. Then Subhashini gives a bucket full of ideas on how this fake person Azaad will behave in the coming days to keep the interest of the public going and in the process, their newspaper can expect big numbers of sales.
On the question that if someday there is a demand to see or meet Azaad then? Gokuldas asks Subhashini to find a needy person who is ready to play the character of Azaad. Subhashini finds Guru on the road that is hungry and in search of food. But the same Guru directs the students who are on a strike at the university on the better ways to make their strike much more effective.
Subhashini turns Guru into Azaad. In Azaad, Subhashini finds her job savior, the editor finds his best newspaper salesman, and Gokuldas finds a stepping stone for his dream political career. But slowly Azaad by just acting as Azaad starts to connect emotionally with the poor, needy, farmers, students, and workers and thus he becomes a real fighter for their rights. At one point of time, Azaad and Gokuldas come to a crossroad where only one can survive and one has to demolish himself.
Late Review of Main Azaad Hoon
At first look, Main Azaad Hoon is a movie that is actually meant for actors like Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri to lead, who used to be a part of such movies that affect the sentiments of a needy and poor class of the Indian society during those years. But that doesn’t make Amitabh Bachchan look out of place, or forcefully inserted here.
This movie got released when Amitabh Bachchan’s glorious career was already sliding down and one after another he was giving flops. There were a few movies like Aaj Ka Arjun and Hum that worked well at the box office but most of them were big or small failures. Thus in a try to do something different, one would believe that Amitabh Bachchan has chosen this subject so that he can’t be labeled a hero from commercial cinema only.
This was the reason why there is only one movie and that is Main Azaad Hoon, where Amitabh Bachchan and Shabana Azmi worked together as a pair. In Amar Akbar Anthony too these two were seen together but not as a lead pair. In this movie also they are not a romantic pair but a leading pair for sure. The rest of the artists like Manohar Singh, Sudhir Pandey, Ram Gopal Varma, Anjan Shrivastav, etc are those artists whom you normally see in ‘art movies’ a different genre as claimed by left-leaned producers, directors, and actors.
So, Main Azaad Hoon does give you a feel of an art movie that has been directed by Tinnu Anand, mainly a commercial cinema director, and has been acted by a commercial superstar as a lead. But the movie has been treated just like an art movie would have been during those times. It is slow, in fact extremely slow but yet it touches the core of the problems Indians are facing maybe even today. The problems of students, the problems of farmers, workers plus problems like not getting pure water in remote areas that are shown in this movie do exist even today, maybe not in large numbers as they were in the late 1980s and hence the movie is still relevant.
Amitabh’s bad period might have been at its peak at that time but he must be still busy and this movie must have taken a long time to complete so you can see different hairstyles of Amitabh in a different scenes or sometimes even in the same scene you can see AB in two different hairstyles. But that was fine, ok because during those days as people were more interested in watching movies for happiness and not for criticizing it later.
On the acting front, Amitabh Bachchan, as always leads the pack and he has been terrific in the entire movie. In a scene where he explains how money sent by the government for the poor has been eaten up by politicians and bureaucrats to the chief minister and shows how contaminated water poor villagers have to drink even after 40 years of India’s independence, one can see the ‘height’ of his acting.
Because of Amitabh’s acting and his glory one would think that Shabana Azmi has underplayed her role and you can witness that in each scene where both these actors have shared the screen. Among the rest of the actors, Manohar Singh is outstanding, even though when he loses comfortably against AB in a scene where they are having a verbal battle.
Today’s speed-loving generation might not find Main Azaad Hoon suitable for their ‘taste. But for a movie lover although it is not a must-watch movie, but for old days’ sake or to watch a movie that is talking about India of the last century this could be an enjoyable piece to watch.
And yes, if you are going to watch Main Azaad Hoon then don’t miss the final scene where Amitabh Bachchan or Azaad addresses a huge gathering in a stadium, you will confirm or re-confirm why there can’t be any other actor than him to match his skills.
3rd October 2022, Monday