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Raam Tarat

Published June 10th, 2005 | by Raam Tarat

Parineeta Review

Classification: 12A Director: Pradeep Sarkar Rating: 4.5/5

Wonderful, Fantastic, Delicious – This is the ultimate Bollywood movie of the year [so far] and one that can only be written about in superlatives. If you’re looking for a classic Indian musical at your local multiplex in the near future, this is your ticket.

Parineeta is based on Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s novel meaning ‘Married Woman’ and is a love tryst between suave musician Shekhar [Khan], wanton yet demure and unfortunately named – Lolita [Balan] and well-heeled entrepreneur Girish [Dutt].

Shekhar and Lolita have literally grown up together as friends and neighbours. Whilst Shekhar is from a well to do aristocratic family, Lolita is staying with relatives after the untimely demise of her parents. When London-returned steel tycoon Girish enters the fray and warms to Lolita, the real nature of all these relationships are questioned, tested and ultimately realised…

This was originally set at the turn of the century, but for reasons best known to Sarkar the setting has been shifted forward to the 1960’s. Probably to accomodate Khan’s Elvis impersonations, and attempt at the in-jokes referring to his real life Shakespearean great-grandfather Rabindranath Tagore. This is on many accounts similar to Devdas, one of the most prominent Indian films in recent times. The similarities are there for all to see: period movie detail, essence of authentic Calcutta, a cocky arrogant heir apparent (in Khan), Hitler-like father figure, the love story between neighbours, and women with large red bindi’s… Oh, and let’s not forget the most significant link: Chattopadhyay, who wrote both of the novels.

This is at its heart a beautiful story, stunningly lit with breath-taking frames, and sumptuous performances. The leads are excellent as a once breezy, at times broody Shekhar, a playful yet sensitive Lolita and a steely and compassionate Girish. As the lives of our protagonists cross paths time and again… we come to care for and empathize with them, especially Shekhar whom through circumstance of fate, and misunderstanding loses the two loves of his life – music and his beloved Lolita.

The strength here lies in a beautifully crafted script skilfully adapted from a literary classic, and pleasantly engaging. A story about classic love, friendship, old world charm and old world values. In which friendship and trust take on a new meaning and realisation with the advent of a third wheel. What strikes you most about the film is its sheer naturalism. Unlike most Bollywood films it’s understated, under-played and unpretentious, which works beautifully in its favour.

Each of the characters seems to have been overtly understood by the performers and played accordingly, and there seems to be a collective understanding of the story; the era; the essence of the plot, with all faculties working in unison to achieve this. Chopra and Sarkar seem to have gone to great lengths in researching, detailing and recreating 1960’s Calcutta, and have treated the subject with the sensitivity, restraint and respect it deserves.

The climax is a bit of a copout – a tad gaudy and predictable, and it seems the understatement aspect kind of takes a nap in the last reel; the metaphor is truly hammered home. Performance-wise Balan is phenomenal in her screen debut. Khan and Dutt are excellent at underplaying their characters; the former astute and sensitive, and the latter somewhat endearing. Ultimately a wonderfully told story with bucket-loads of integrity.

This would be a good starting point for a beginner to Bollywood, though it couldn’t be classed typical Bolly fare [as it’s a period movie; literary adaptation] but could be seen as one of the more seasoned outputs this year!! A gargantuan leap from Devdas, and highly recommended.


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