Achanak- 1973

Author: Dr. Mandar V. Bichu
Year: 1973
Story/Direction: Gulzar
Cast: Vinod Khanna, Lily Chakraborty, Om Shivpuri, Iftekar
Gulzar’s uniquely mellow and mature cinematic sensitivity as a writer-director comes across through this excellent film, which must rank as one of the best works of this much- celebrated artiste. For this film, Gulzar adapted Khwaja Ahmed Abbas’s short-story called ‘The Thirteenth Victim’ but so different was Gulzar’s interpretation that even the original author had complimented: “I could never have imagined that such a film could be made out of my story’!
Achanak is a story of a man who has loved and lost and it is also a story about vagaries of life in general. The man at the center-stage is a Veer Chakra-decorated army officer Major Ranjit Khanna (Vinod Khanna), who is now a death-row convict for a double murder- of his wife (Lily Chakraborty) and his best friend (Raviraj)! He is just recovering in a hospital from complications of a potentially fatal gunshot-wound sustained while escaping from police! With doctors trying their best to save his life and with legal authorities waiting patiently to snuff out his life when he recovers, the drama unfolds the intriguing life-story of the man, a fun-loving brave soldier who loved his wife dearly but found himself betrayed!
Through a wonderfully complex use of flashbacks, Gulzar tells this intricate story with different emotional layers. Vinod Khanna skillfully portrays the complex central role and the supporting cast (Om Shivpuri as the veteran doctor, Asrani as the young doctor, Farida Jalal as the nurse, Iftekar as a senior army-officer who also is the Major’s father-in-law) also leaves a lasting impression. Except for a very realistic and sparse use of Sachinda Burman’s old classic Sun Mere Bandhu Re, the soundtrack is without any songs but Vasant Desai’s taut background score never lets you feel that absence. 
Achanak is a must-see film to experience Gulzar’s ability to create a colorful mosaic of conflicting emotions and complex relationships. Like most Gulzar-classics, Achanak makes us ponder over various social, moral and ethical issues and as usual, the clever film-maker refrains from offering any soapy solution and leaves us groping in the dark for answers!
1. Achanak was the first Hindi film to employ a Triple Flashback technique.
2. Since the film had a shorter than average running time, it was released along with a documentary – Sagar Teerth, which was made by Hrishikesh Mukherjee.
3. To get the permission of K.A.Abbas’s story rights, Gulzar and producer N.C.Sippy practically caught the writer just before he could reach airport to go to Delhi!

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