I found about this film in a funny twist of coincidence (don’t know if the wording is right but it feels so). I have been reading the non-fiction articles and essays of Arundhati Roy, loving her way with words and strong opinions. I am slowly making my way into reading everything she has written and I have enjoyed it so far. So, imagine my surprise when I found out that not only had she written and starred in a famous TV movie which was in English, but also that Shah Rukh Khan had been a part of it!
I was able to find a remastered copy to watch it with subtitles on YouTube, which was great. Very easy to find. A slow movie, so much so that I wondered if I could finish it in one sitting. But as it went on I began to enjoy it. Not as an intellectual piece, but just as a meeting with strangers.
In the mid-1970s in the School of Planning and Architecture in New Delhi a group of seniors are planning their thesis. Anand “Annie” Grover is once again repeating his last year, Radha is pushing the boundaries of her desired field, Kasozi – the Ugandan exchange student – studies hard and Arjun, Radha’s boyfriend, is a full blown Hippie. Over them rules their teacher, Professor Y. D. Milloria or nicknamed “Yamdoot” by the students. He is critical and harsh, but he isn’t cruel. As the students go about their studies, they try to push against the boundaries set by their professor, make their thesis, enjoy life and graduate. Life, however has different plans for some of them.
Spoilers from here on!
This is Arundhati Roy’s movie. She produced the film, scripted it and starred in it. The script was also largely based on her own experience in design school, which makes this both a very personal movie, as well as a semi-fictionalised truth. If you are going to remember a face then hers is one to do so. Her character, Radha, seems like an embodiment of both who Roy herself is. Strong, independent, with revolutionary ideals and a proud non-conformist. She wears a hat to her thesis presentation, while wearing a flowery blouse and bright red saree. She wants to change architecture, so that it benefits those below and not just the upper classes. She even later becomes a writer, only to be revealed to have drowned before finishing her story. Her life is full of powerful ideals, snuffed before their time.
Shah Rukh Khan is introduced 3 minutes into the movie, his character is just named Senior. He has very bad hair (like someone tried to do Beatles, but instead got a very bad wig), a white Japanese kimono dressing robe and a cast on his arm. It’s a small intro for such a character, but since you know it is Shah Rukh, he still makes an impression even with the small screen time. This was at a time when he was in college before he got those unusual roles he became famous for, before becoming King of Romance of Hindi cinema. He shows up in the background of some scenes, getting some lines, but nothing spectacular other than his charisma.
Arjun Raina as “Annie” is good, but I could not distinguish between him and Ritutaj Singh as Arjun, because of their similar haircuts. So there was a bit of confusion for me after a while as to who Radha was actually dating. The two of them make a change to the schedule, so that they and Radha, as well as their friends have a better chance.
Annie has noticed that those that pass are usually at the end of the day, when the jurors are tired and hungry, so it gives them more of a chance to pass to be judged in the evening. There is even a plan to get Professor Yamdoot, played by an ever splendid Roshan Seth, on the phone when it is Annie’s turn. When he isn’t judging him, Annie passes the class for the first time. This comes with the realisation that Professor Yamdoot had been the one holding him back all these years, maybe on purpose. Once Annie is judged without him, he succeeds. He even plans to sue him for this case. Yet, in a twist of irony, Annie gets Professor Yamdoot’s job after he retires.
The movie moves with naturalism and it filmed that way. Nothing showy, nothing too over budged for a TV movie. The relatable characters and dialogues are the things that make this film. There are a lot of shadows, natural filmmaking, nothing glamorous at all. It feels like a long mood piece, but one with a message and one that is very much in sync with real life.
Many of the characters we come to know have their photographs at the end, with the story of what happened to them after that last senior year. Some came to succeed in their studied profession, some changed their studies to another, some married and some died before they had a chance to bloom. That is life. It is never set in stone, no matter what you study in school and think life will go afterwards. Success or failure is not measured by grades, but the about what you make out of your life and if it makes you happy at the end.
Thank you for reading!
4 thoughts on “In Which Annie Gives It Those Ones (1989 TV) – Life is Not Made to Be Designed”
Oh, interesting! I had heard of this film, but had no clue that Arundhati Roy actually appeared in it, or for that matter had done any other acting. She looks like such a baby in that screenshot!
“Arjun Raina as “Annie” is good, but I could not distinguish between him and Ritutaj Singh as Arjun, because of their similar haircuts”–this an eternal struggle with me when watching films. I’m slow to learn faces, so I rely on hair XD Or for plays I use the costumes, and then people change costume and I have no clue which actor is which any more.