Saturday, June 21, 2008

The two Parineetas

Continuing with this month's theme - movies from books - here's a look at Sharat Chandra Chatterji's famous romantic story Parineeta brought to life on the silver screen by two exceptional directors, 50 years apart.

1. Parineeta (1953)

Producer: Ashok Kumar
Director: Bimal Roy
Starring: Ashok Kumar, Meena Kumari, Asit Baran, Nasir Hussain, etc.

2. Parineeta (2005)
Producer: Vidhu Vinod Chopra
Director: Pradeep Sarkar
Starring: Saif Ali Khan, Vidya Balan, Sanjay Dutt, Sabyasachi Chakraborty, etc.
The story involves a romance between a lovable orphan and her bossy mentor.

Nabin Roy and Gurcharan's families have lived next door to each other for years in cheerful friendship. Their connecting balconies make it easy for Gurcharan's orphaned niece Lalita to flit to and fro between the two households - both of whom regard her as one of their own.
Shekhar, the younger Roy son is a spoilt, rich, young man who has taken Lalita under his wing. He bosses her and attempts to educate her. She responds by hero-worshipping him, fetching and carrying for him, and obeying his every command. Shades of Pygmalion and his Galatea? This Pygmalion, though he considers Lalita very much his creation and property, does not fall for her until the entrance of the third point in this interesting triangle.
Lalita's beauty, her cheerful helpfulness and sweetly caring ways win hearts everywhere. Particulary afflicted is her friend Charu’s visiting Uncle Girin who begins to find excuses to get closer to her. Shekhar’s jealousy is roused when he hears about this budding friendship and poor Lalita bears the brunt of his unpleasantness.
Then comes the night of the secret wedding. Lalita's young cousin has fixed her doll's wedding for an auspicious time. On the night of the doll's wedding, Lalita playfully garlands Shekhar at the auspicious time. Shekhar, a budding lawyer, lets her know that this constitutes a form of Hindu marriage. He follows it up by garlanding the ecstatic Lalita, completing the wedding ceremony! Lalita accepts Shekhar’s pronouncement as the gospel truth and henceforth, considers herself a married woman – a parineeta. So, they live happily-ever-after? 'Fraid not. In a truly filmi twist, complete with misplaced letters and misunderstandings the love-birds are parted. Considering that the book was written in 1914, you may well wonder how Sharat Chandra knew how to write a masala Bollywood story!
poster_4 Bimal Roy's 1953, B&W version is set in Calcutta of yore and is fairly minimalist. The narrative is simple and sticks to the spirit of Sharat Chandra's writing. Ashok Kumar plays Shekhar with his usual skill - he is possessive, mischievous, jealous and loving by turns, and completely believable. A very young and lovely Meena Kumari plays Lalita. Lalita's part in the story involves much silent despair, which is right up the alley for the renowned tragedy queen. However, there is much more to both Lalita and Meena Kumari, and with Bimal Roy's able direction, you see it! Like Friday's child, Lalita is warm and loving. She is also intensely vulnerable and loyal to a fault. Put this together with her beauty and you can see why two very different men fall in love with her. The third-wheel - Girin - is played by Asit Baran who also does a good job in the limited screen-time he has. The rest of the cast consists of the ubiquitous Nazir Hussain who plays Gurcharan, Badri Prasad who plays Nabin Roy and Pratima Devi his wife, Baby Sheela who plays Lalita's precocious young cousin Annu, a very young Manorama who plays Charu's Mom, among others.
The story flows in a gentle stream with no loud dramatics and no unnecessary diversions. Even the songs fit into the narration so smoothly that you barely notice them - they are beautiful but unobtrusive. Girin's visit to the theatre gives rise to the only theatrical touch - the Manna Dey-Asha number Aye bandi tum features great dancing by famous Kathak dancer Gopi Krishna. Bimal Roy uses the other songs - Chali radhe rani and Kab tak rahoge aakhir - in the background at major dramatic moments. This serves to highlight mounting tension on-screen much better than the loud dialogues more often seen in Bollywood. There is also a fourth song Gore gore haathon mein that plays during the dolls' wedding but is inexplicably missing from my copy of Parineeta.
poster The Vidhu Vinod Chopra-Pradeep Sarkar version is a lot more glamorous and over-the-top, both in terms of acting and visuals. The story is set in 60's Calcutta and all the over-the-top excesses are completely in keeping with 60's-style movies. Saif Ali Khan's Shekhar is way more selfish, bossy and jealous than Ashok Kumar's version. I must of course, mention that he is way hotter than Ashok Kumar, too (I do love Dada Mani but he had his limitations.)! By the same token, Vidya Balan's gorgeous Lolita (did they have to turn her into Nabokov's sexually precocious heroine?) is more beautiful, more talented and more active than Meena Kumari's Lalita. She is also shown to be a stronger and more assertive person - which makes her doormatty-suffering-in-silence tolerance of Shekhar's excesses rather inexplicable. The third point of the triangle - Girish - played by Sanjay Dutt gets better treatment in this version. The romantic scenes between Girish and Lalita make you wonder how Lalita can remain blind to him (I guess its Saif-induced blindness, and totally understandable)! Sanjay Dutt looks a bit old and dissolute for Girish, but still does his part well.
Apart from the chief protagonists, this movie takes time to flesh out all the minor characters and add on some new ones, as well. One such added-on character is Shekhar's superfluous friend Ajit (Ninad Kamat) - playing Dr. Watson to Shekhar's not-at-all-Holmes. In a true 60's masala-flick this would have been the comedian Rajendra Nath or Johnny Walker - so, perhaps this addition isnt so superfluous. Shekhar's father as played by Sabyasachi Chakraborty, is a thoroughly well-rounded villain. He not only schemes to rob people by loaning them money, he also ruthlessly suppresses his wife (Surinder Kaur) in his spare time and runs around in large black cars. Raima Sen is cute as Koel and Diya Mirza is super glamorous in her brief appearance as Shekhar's fiancée. The costumes and sets are divine and make for gorgeous visuals.
Shantanu Moitra's music is unforgettable. From the romantic duet Piyu Bole, the fun numbers Kaisi paheli hai, Dhinak dhinak dha and Kasto Mazza hai, to the haunting Raat humari to and Soona man ka aangan - the songs are all beautiful and evocative of a bygone era.
My only complaint with the new Parineeta is the ludicrous last scene which is completely out of tune with the rest of the movie and serves to trivialize an otherwise beautiful film.
So readers, watch Bimal Roy's version for a more realistic depiction of Sharat Chandra's classic romance and Pradeep Sarkar's adaptation for a more spicy and gorgeous look at the same story.


  1. As you know, I love the latter Parineeta, but I've never seen the original. I've read it's more true to the source material and your review definitely makes it seem worthwhile. Off to Netflix to add (yet another Bollywood movie) to my queue.

  2. Sabyasachi Chakraborty- I love that man- not quite sure why :)I've always wanted to watch the old parineeta, but with your thorough review, I think I can give that miss now...

  3. @ajnabi: The old one is a masterpiece - something quite atypical of Bollywood. Have to admit that when I rewatched the new one today, I liked it just as much. The newer Parineeta may be more of a Bollywood masala-style drama, but is soooooo pretty that the plot-holes and loud dialogues dont make a whit of a difference!

    @Shweta: I remember seeing a TV series (cant remember the name) way back on DD where Sabyasachi Chakraborty plays the evil genie of the lamp. He was called Deepak Das there, and was evil in the way he corrupted the honest owner of the magic lamp!

    Didnt think my review of the movie would put someone off seeing it - it was supposed to have the opposite effect! ;-)

  4. Perhaps Shweta meant that your review was so thorough that she doesn't NEED to see it now :-)

    I love the recent Parineeta; would love to see the older version. Adding it to my list! Thanks!

  5. Hmm... seems like my review is way too thorough. Have edited out some of the content - hopefully that should make it less extensive! :-)

    Hope you like the old Parineeta as much as the new one, memsaab.

  6. Nothing like a v thorough review! and yeah, like memsaab said i wasnt put off by the review- just felt it was v complete, and i didnt have to go out of my way to find the actual movie :D

  7. Excellent review Bollyviewer! You have inspired me to check out the original. Looking forward to it.

    As for the one from 2005, how fantastic was Vidya Balan's performance?!

    Added you to my blog roll, hope it's okay :)

  8. @shweta: You were obviously not inspired by Ashok Kumar or Meena Kumari love! ;-) Which is just as well, considering that the movie has your absolute favorite ingredient - romance!

    @thebollywoodfan: thanks for stopping by and I am adding you to my blog roll as well.

    Agree with you re Vidya Balan - she was absolutely fantastic. Actually I like her in pretty much everything I've seen her in so far (which is only Guru and Lage Raho Munna Bhai) and I sure am looking forward to Kismet Konnection!

  9. im falling apart laughing- you are so v v right- im just not feeling the romance between those 2 :D

  10. Thank you Bollyviewer!

    I really liked Vidya Balan in Salaam-e-Ishq (2006) as well. The film didn't do too well, but I thought her acting in it was great, as it was in Eklavya, although her role wasn't too elaborate. She was also excellent in Bhool Bhulaiyaa last year.

    About the only film starring her I didn't like was Heyy Babyy. But that film had more issues than merely her wardrobe.


  11. Dear Bollywoodviewer,
    I saw your review and was so excited, but quickly looked away since I don’t want to read it until I see the 1953 version, which I have at home. I’ve seen the recent one and look forward to reading your review after my date with Bimal Roy tonight. Look forward to checking back in with you.

    All the best,

  12. @shweta: I wonder how the romance gene in your body got silenced so effectively?!! lol

    @thebollywoodfan: You appear to have seen everything Vidya's been in (at least in Hindi)! Is she your favorite heroine? I am curious about her costumes in Heyy Babyy - she got the Na-real Award for them in this year's Filmfare awards!

    @Sita-ji: Thanks for stopping by. Bimal Roy is always a good choice for a date - you can never go wrong with him! ;-) Cant wait to see what you think of this one.

  13. DONE! OK I'm in love with Ashok's face. I will write an entire post on it. I've seen him in 4 or 5 other movies, but this one did the trick and I just loved watching the man's face! I couldn't even focus on the plot when he appeared. Dadamoni! Nahin to your belief that Saif’s Shekhar is hotter. Nahin!. But wait that’s OK, as it leaves Ashok for me in my wild fantasy world. Yes, I understand he’s dead. And baby Sheela! She was fabulous. Where was that delightful part in the 2005 version?

    OK, back to the movie. Roy’s seemed rather different from the 2005 version. I think in the Roy version the struggle over finances is played up more, as well as the greedy dirtiness of Sekhar's $ lending father. You make a great point about the seamlessness of the songs in Roy’s version. I did like Sanjay Dutt’s version of Girin much more. What style, pizzazz and kindness he shows. And of course the garlanding scenes are vastly different and the 2005’s is practically pornographic as far as Hindi movies go. The end of the 2005 version where Khan tries to break down a substantial wall with a not so substantial birdbath made me laugh. Vidya vs. Meena = loved them both, but Vidya was spicier. I also wasn’t digging the age difference between Ashok and Meena, but that’s typical. I kept wondering if Meena’s alcoholism had begun at that point already. I know want to refresh be memory of the new Parineeta and see that again. I recall that dramatic scene on the fancy staircase with Vidya and Saif and need to see that again. Darn it bollyviewer, I need to do a post on these 2 movies too!

    All the best,
    p.s. added you to my blogroll :)

  14. Sita-ji, I am so glad you liked Bimal Roy's Parineeta! I had exactly the same reactions as yours when I finished watching and sat down to write the review. But then I had to get screen caps of the new one for this post, and kind of got sucked into its awesomeness!

    I agree with you about DadaMani's face - he seems to have a charisma that is soooo attractive. You must admit though, that he's hardly the body-beautiful that Saif is! Not that it makes any difference - I love both equally! :-D

    Have you seen many movies of Ashok Kumar, the leading man? They are usually great but hard to come by these days. Check out my review of Bandish where he is great as the comedic lead.

  15. I also want to revisit the 2005 Parineeta now too. LOL on the body variations, it's a win/win. With a healthy guy like Ashok, the woman is free to enjoy her food, but with Saif, I think one would really need to avoid all carbs, and skip meals and have tiny portions. Poor Kareena. :). I do remember in the supplementary video for the '05 Parineeta, Khan was doing lots of push up to buff up before a shot. I enjoyed your review of Bandish and will try and get that to watch. The other movies I’ve see Dadamano in are Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1958)
    Jewel Thief (1967), and Pakeezah (1972). I love finding these huge stars and experiencing them
    as new! The fact that we can get the movies fairly easily in most cases and pick and choose the best is wonderful. I do want to see him now in Achhut Kanya (1936), Jeevan Naya (1936) and
    Mahal (1949) Thanks IMDB for the list. What else would you recommend?

  16. Opps! In that last post I meant to write Dadamani, not Dadamano.
    All the best,

  17. You're right about Saif being a lot more hard work - thankfully only film stars need to worry about eye candy. :-)

    Ashok Kumar is great in Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi, and Jewel Thief but as a hero he was even better. My favorites apart from Parineeta and Bandish are Ek Saal and Kismat. Memsaab reviewed Kangan and Humayun which also looked great. And, he was really good in Mahal as the possessed (by love) lover. Wish I could watch more of those 40s and 50s movies of his. I remember watching Achchut Kanya long ago, but couldnt really take to 30s movies - they were too rough technically and visually for my taste.

  18. I've added Bandish, Ek Saal, Kismat as well as Kangan and Humayun to my list.
    Thanks for your tips!

  19. Hi Bollyviewer: Vidya Balan is indeed my favorite actress (alongside Tabu). She admitted her wardrobe in Heyy Babyy was a disaster. I just wished she wouldn't be in that movie at all (which speaks volumes of what I think of the movie).

    Her upcoming film opposite Shahid Kapoor -- Kismat Konnection -- should be interesting. She had to learn to dance (she's excellent at classical, not very good at Western), and although it's not a persona I would prefer, of course I am curious to know how she does!

  20. Full credit should go to the great writer Sharat Chandra Chattopadhya.Anyway i hvn't seen the earlier movie in which shekhar character was played by Ashoke kumar but hv seen later one and Saif did exceptionally well.

  21. Sita-ji, you'll have fun watching them. :-D

    theBollywoodFan, Vidya is also one of my favorites. She has such screen presence and charisma, not to mention good looks. If Kismat Konnection doesnt turn out well, I am sure it wont be due to her!

    Crazy_on_Bollywood, Sharat Chandra's writings tend to be too much on the traditional side of things to always appeal to me. But, they are always fun to read and Parineeta makes for such beautiful movies... :-D. Agree that Saif did exceptionally well. Having seen him in the likes of Hamesha and Main Khiladi Tu Anari, I am constantly surprised by his great acting!

  22. If I could I would kill the makers of the new Paineeta.The old one was a classic.Soft, romantic, sublime.The new is vulgar and insulting to Sharadbabu.

  23. Oh come on! What did you find "vulgar" in it? I could've done without the silly dramatics at the end, but for the rest, it's a pretty good modern adapatation!

  24. Meena Kumari's silence is more powerful than Vidya's dialogue s. I don't think that Vidya has done a better role than Meena Kumari.