Films that are 50

Films that are 50: ‘Aakhri Khat’ features a baby on its day out and future icon Rajesh Khanna

The debutant actor hunts for his misplaced son in Chetan Anand’s unusual movie from 1966.

Aakhri Khat would have been as intriguing today as it was 50 years ago. Although this was Chetan Anand’s immediate release after Haqeeqat (1964), there weren’t any great expectations from the film since it was the polar opposite of the star-studded war opus in terms of scope and execution. What truly got people interested was the presence of a certain Rajesh Khanna, the winner of the Filmfare-United Producers’ Combine talent contest. Considered the biggest discovery in popular Hindi cinema at the time, Khanna was to have been launched by heavyweights such as GP Sippy, Nasir Husain and Shakti Samanta, but his first release turned out to be a black-and-white experimental film in which he shared the screen with an unlikely co-star.

Rajesh Khanna in ‘Aakhri Khat’.
Rajesh Khanna in ‘Aakhri Khat’.

Made by a filmmaker who was an anomaly in the Hindi film industry, the movie featured a hero who played second fiddle to a toddler and contained a climax that was virtually silent for over 600 feet of film. The story is about Govind (Rajesh Khanna), a young sculptor from Mumbai who falls for village woman Lajjo (Indrani Mukherjee) during a vacation. He leaves her and returns to the city, and when she shows up at his house with a child in tow, he doubts her intentions. The plot was unexceptional for Hindi films of that period. But Anand’s screenplay and the narrative structure infused something extra into Aakhri Khat. Unable to take Govind’s rejection, Lajjo leaves behind a final letter, or “aakhri khat,” and walks away with her son. She ends up dying a few moments later, leaving behind the infant (Master Bunty) all alone in the big bad world.

Play
The song ‘Rut Jawaan Jawaan’.

A significant portion of the film is intercut between the guilt-ridden Govind frantically searching the city for his son and the toddler ambling along the bustling streets of Mumbai. Anand’s cinematic experiments includes numerous sequences of Govind reacting to Lajjo reading out her letters as well as lengthy non-choreographed shots in which the camera follows the child’s natural actions. Shot by Jal Mistry on actual locations, including overhead bridges and traffic intersections, across mid-1960s Mumbai, the experimental streak overpowers the narrative to such an extent that the proceedings seem boring after a point.

One of the doyens of the Indian People’s Theatre Association, Anand found it liberating to work outside the star system. He inspired Mistry’s camera as an active participant in the proceedings as well as pushed his lead actor. Anand got a complete greenhorn such as Khanna to delve into his own stage background by giving him scenes in which the debutant could express a range of emotions in a single take. Among the standout sequences is the one in which the “aakhri khat” is read out, leaving Khanna alone on the screen for over two minutes to relive the entire relationship. The other is the climax in which Govind hasn’t slept for three days and is almost about to give up when his fifteen-month son miraculously saunters into his studio. For the climax, Anand kept Khanna awake for three days, calling him in the middle of the night to break his sleep and even getting his assistants to keep the actor up.

The director’s son, Ketan, was in college when his father was shooting Aakhri Khat. In an interview to the writer for his book on Rajesh Khanna, titled Dark Star, Ketan Anand recalled how the crew was instructed to debar Khanna from eating or meeting anyone. When Khanna arrived on the sets three days later, his nerves were shot through. During the nearly five-minute long climax in which the infant totters into Govind’s studio and stands before a statue that looks like his mother, Anand was constantly instructing Khanna. The actor does waver every now and then and give hints of the king of melodrama that he would later become, but he still delivers a restrained performance.

The film barely made a mark commercially and critically, but apart from Khanna and Mistry’s cinematography, Aakhri Khat has another silver lining in the form of a lilting Khayyam tune, “Aur Kuchh Der Thahar.” Written by Kaifi Azmi and sung by Mohammed Rafi, the song is one of the few instances in Hindi cinema in which the hero displays as much sensuality as the heroine. Looking back, it’s hardly surprising that Khanna went on to wreck havoc among female fans.

Play
The song ‘Aur Kuchh Der Thahar’.
Gautam Chintamani is the author of Dark Star: The Loneliness of Being Rajesh Khanna.
We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Putting the patient first - insights for hospitals to meet customer service expectations

These emerging solutions are a fine balance between technology and the human touch.

As customers become more vocal and assertive of their needs, their expectations are changing across industries. Consequently, customer service has gone from being a hygiene factor to actively influencing the customer’s choice of product or service. This trend is also being seen in the healthcare segment. Today good healthcare service is no longer defined by just qualified doctors and the quality of medical treatment offered. The overall ambience, convenience, hospitality and the warmth and friendliness of staff is becoming a crucial way for hospitals to differentiate themselves.

A study by the Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions in fact indicates that good patient experience is also excellent from a profitability point of view. The study, conducted in the US, analyzed the impact of hospital ratings by patients on overall margins and return on assets. It revealed that hospitals with high patient-reported experience scores have higher profitability. For instance, hospitals with ‘excellent’ consumer assessment scores between 2008 and 2014 had a net margin of 4.7 percent, on average, as compared to just 1.8 percent for hospitals with ‘low’ scores.

This clearly indicates that good customer service in hospitals boosts loyalty and goodwill as well as financial performance. Many healthcare service providers are thus putting their efforts behind: understanding constantly evolving customer expectations, solving long-standing problems in hospital management (such as long check-out times) and proactively offering a better experience by leveraging technology and human interface.

The evolving patient

Healthcare service customers, who comprise both the patient and his or her family and friends, are more exposed today to high standards of service across industries. As a result, hospitals are putting patient care right on top of their priorities. An example of this in action can be seen in the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. In July 2015, the hospital launched a ‘Smart OPD’ system — an integrated mobile health system under which the entire medical ecosystem of the hospital was brought together on a digital app. Patients could use the app to book/reschedule doctor’s appointments and doctors could use it to access a patient’s medical history, write prescriptions and schedule appointments. To further aid the process, IT assistants were provided to help those uncomfortable with technology.

The need for such initiatives and the evolving nature of patient care were among the central themes of the recently concluded Abbott Hospital Leadership Summit. The speakers included pundits from marketing and customer relations along with leaders in the healthcare space.

Among them was the illustrious speaker Larry Hochman, a globally recognised name in customer service. According to Mr. Hochman, who has worked with British Airways and Air Miles, patients are rapidly evolving from passive recipients of treatment to active consumers who are evaluating their overall experience with a hospital on social media and creating a ‘word-of-mouth’ economy. He talks about this in the video below.

Play

As the video says, with social media and other public platforms being available today to share experiences, hospitals need to ensure that every customer walks away with a good experience.

The promise gap

In his address, Mr. Hochman also spoke at length about the ‘promise gap’ — the difference between what a company promises to deliver and what it actually delivers. In the video given below, he explains the concept in detail. As the gap grows wider, the potential for customer dissatisfaction increases.

Play

So how do hospitals differentiate themselves with this evolved set of customers? How do they ensure that the promise gap remains small? “You can create a unique value only through relationships, because that is something that is not manufactured. It is about people, it’s a human thing,” says Mr. Hochman in the video below.

Play

As Mr. Hochman and others in the discussion panel point out, the key to delivering a good customer experience is to instil a culture of empathy and hospitality across the organisation. Whether it is small things like smiling at patients, educating them at every step about their illness or listening to them to understand their fears, every action needs to be geared towards making the customer feel that they made the correct decision by getting treated at that hospital. This is also why, Dr. Nandkumar Jairam, Chairman and Group Medical Director, Columbia Asia, talked about the need for hospitals to train and hire people with soft skills and qualities such as empathy and the ability to listen.

Striking the balance

Bridging the promise gap also involves a balance between technology and the human touch. Dr. Robert Pearl, Executive Director and CEO of The Permanente Medical Group, who also spoke at the event, wrote about the example of Dr. Devi Shetty’s Narayana Health Hospitals. He writes that their team of surgeons typically performs about 900 procedures a month which is equivalent to what most U.S. university hospitals do in a year. The hospitals employ cutting edge technology and other simple innovations to improve efficiency and patient care.

The insights gained from Narayana’s model show that while technology increases efficiency of processes, what really makes a difference to customers are the human touch-points. As Mr. Hochman says, “Human touch points matter more because there are less and less of them today and are therefore crucial to the whole customer experience.”

Play

By putting customers at the core of their thinking, many hospitals have been able to apply innovative solutions to solve age old problems. For example, Max Healthcare, introduced paramedics on motorcycles to circumvent heavy traffic and respond faster to critical emergencies. While ambulances reach 30 minutes after a call, the motorcycles reach in just 17 minutes. In the first three months, two lives were saved because of this customer-centric innovation.

Hospitals are also looking at data and consumer research to identify consumer pain points. Rajit Mehta, the MD and CEO of Max Healthcare Institute, who was a panelist at the summit, spoke of the importance of data to understand patient needs. His organisation used consumer research to identify three critical areas that needed work - discharge and admission processes for IPD patients and wait-time for OPD patients. To improve wait-time, they incentivised people to book appointments online. They also installed digital kiosks where customers could punch in their details to get an appointment quickly.

These were just some of the insights on healthcare management gleaned from the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott. In over 150 countries, Abbott is working with hospitals and healthcare professionals to improve the quality of health services.

To read more content on best practices for hospital leaders, visit Abbott’s Bringing Health to Life portal here.

This article was produced on behalf of Abbott by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.