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Thursday, 6 January 2011

The perfect Parineeta

Here's reason why sometimes it's sacrilege to remake a classic that has stood the test of time. When I saw Ajoy Kar's Parineeta, I realised how hollow and OTT the Pradeep Sarkar film is. How inappropriate is the depiction of the characters in the new-age romance and how absolutely simple yet stunning the 1969 film is. Kar is as faithful to the Sarat Chandra classic, as Lalita is to her book version and Shekhar to his literary avatar. In short, the old Bengali film is flawless, marvellous and a must-watch for those who crave for golden oldies...
By now, thanks to the distorted tale from the Vidhu Vinod Chopra stable, everyone roughly knows the story of Parineeta. But to set matters straight, here's what it is in actuality. Shekhar (Soumitra Chatterjee) is the younger son of the rich Nabin Roy (Kamal Mitra). He is adored by his mother, played by Chhaya Devi. He has tutored Lalita (Moushumi Chatterjee), their poor neighbour, from a very young age. So, even without their own realisation, the two have developed very complicated feelings for each other. Shekhar feels he has a right to order Lalita around. And, Lalita, the naive teenager, feels that she owes every explanation to Shekhar. What the two do not gauge instantly is that the two are heavily in love with each other. The catalyst here is Girin (Samit Bhanja), the sudden presence of whom in Lalita's life makes Shekhar envious. He cannot stand Lalita being close to Girin and at the same time throw his sentiments around while telling her to do whatever she wants. The sensitivity of the emotions is so beautifully depicted by Kar. It's breathtaking to see Shekhar's jealous face as he brushes Lalita aside with, "You are big enough to realise what good for you."
Soon, matters complicate as Lalita's maternal uncle Gurucharan (Bikash Ray) returns the loan that he had taken from Nabin Roy, much to the ire of the latter. Nabin babu was looking forward to confiscating Gurucharan's ancestral house that was mortgaged in return of the loan. Shekhar also does not take it lightly that Girin was the one who gave all the money for the repayment of the loan. Lalita is tormented amidst all these ego battles, as she slowly realises that her relation with Shekhar is jeopardised due to her unintentional proximity with Girin. The rest of the story is as all of us know...
The beauty of this 1969 magical movie is the truth and simplicity in execution. The clothes, set, performance, everything is so easy to believe. The acting is subtle and the rituals remind one of the Bengal of yore. Like, Annakali spends most of her play time getting her dolls married. It is on of one such occasion that Lalita accidentally garlands Shekhar. The scene is beautiful. The dialogues are ethereal. The union of these two young souls is sublime (a world different from the physicality harped upon in Pradeep Sarkar's work).
Every character is well-etched in the film and everyone acts immaculately. The degree of subtlety and perfection really stunned me. For, just concentrate on Shekhar's character here. Soumitra is beyond perfection. He is serious, sober and very, very handsome. That he is steeped in erudition shows from his behaviour. He maintains a certain amount of dignity while dealing with all kind of situations. That he takes time to realise the depth of his love for Lalita is not a surprise. After all, he has always treated her like a younger sister. But when he realises that life without her will be empty, he owns up his true feelings to Lalita on a moonlit night. He trusts Lalita with all his belongings, but at the same time it is his insecurity as a man that makes him distrust her with regards to Girin. But the moment he gauges his error in judgement he takes up the cudgels to educate everyone that Lalita is the girl who he must marry... Let me tell you my readers, a certain Saif Ali Khan can never ever match up to the finesse of Soumitra Chatterjee. Yes, not even Ashok Kumar can give him competition. You have to see this one to believe my words...  
Coming to the title character, Moushumi is the best Lalita I've seen till date. She is soft, sensitive yet extremely mature. Moushumi was terribly young in 1969 but it does not show in her performance. She has the sweetest voice and the most innocent disposition. When it comes to the display of the array of emotions credited to Lalita's persona, Moushumi is absolutely fantastic. Lalita is a 14-year-old girl, stepping into youth gradually. She is coming to terms with the laws of womanhood and of love. Her silent tears will melt you. Note the scene where she runs to her room after suddenly garlanding Shekhar. Arati Mukherjee's Laajey ranga holo (the music by Hemanta Kumar is good) is playing in the background. Taken aback by her own actions, Lalita slowly realises the gravity of what she has just done. A faint smile escapes lips and her eyes light up. She knows now that she is Shekhar's parineeta. She is happy in her heart. And, we are happy that we get to see this brilliant metamorphosis of a young girl to a beautiful woman...

24 comments:

  1. Oh, this sounds so gloriously romantic! Just reading your review makes me want to see this film, ASAP. :-)

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  2. @Dustedoff: Yayyyy more fans for this one. Hip Hip Hurray. I saw it on Youtube but the print wasn't that good. But you can still try it. Here's the link :
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_ojKMOby94&feature=player_embedded

    ENJOY :)

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  3. I'm going to need subtitles. Ami Bangla bolti chaai, kintu ami jaani na. :-(

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  4. Beautifuuly described, Sharmi.

    Have you seen Bimal Roy's 1953 Parineeta with Meena Kumari and Ashok Kumar?

    I thought that was beautiful though I don't know how it would compare with this one.

    pacifist

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  5. @Dustedoff: Ha ha, yes I can understand. Then I guess you would have to do some tough hunting :(

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  6. @Pacifist: I have heard loads about the Bimal Roy version but somehow I can never accept Ashok Kumar as a romantic lead. BUt Meena Kumari is a favourite of mine. I don't think that one is bad (it's not as distorted as the new one) but this one is outright the best of the lot :)

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  7. Sharmi, I hated the Pradeep Sarkar version. It was so loud and TV serial like. Would love to see this version, but difficult to get by without subtitles. :) As a matter of fact, haven't seen the Ashok Kumar version either.

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  8. @Banno: Ohh is there a Pradeep Kumar version??? Didn't know about that. I think I'm better off ten thousand miles from that film. For the obvious reasons of course ;)

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  9. This one sounds like a must-see. But like Dustedoff, I need subtitles too! :( Till someone can do that I must content myself with the Bimal Roy version. Dada Mani may not be Soumitra Chatterji, but he makes a mean Shekhar!

    And in defence of the Pradeep Sarkar version (produced by Vidhu Vinod Chopra), it's meant to be an adaptation, not a remake. The end was ridiculous, but I love the rest of the film - the cinematography is brilliant, the songs are lovely and the acting is good for the most part. I think it is intentionally OTT because it is set in the 1960s and tries to mimick the flamboyance of 60s films.

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  10. @Bollyviewer: Hmmm. Point taken. Maybe I will have to give the Pradeep Sarkar version another chance. And if even I come across a subtitled version of the Soumitra-MOushumi version, I will put it up here for sure. For yes, I feel it is the perfect Parineeta :)

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  11. I've seen the modern one, i had no idea there was a bengali version with Moushumi since it'll definitely be hard to get my hands on this one i'd watch the Meena one just for her (Meena Kumari that is)

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  12. @Bollywooddeewana: Yes, i think the original Bengali one is long forgotten now that we have more modern versions. I too want to see the Meena kumari version. Please put up a link. I'll be eternally grateful :)

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  13. pacifist

    To whet everyone's appetite here is a clip from Bimal Roy's Parineeta.
    Geeta Dutt's song in the background and a whole lot of stills from the film. You are right Sharmi, Ashok Kumar doesn't look romantic.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52B9bUa9Ksc&feature=related

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  14. @Pacifist: Thank you, thank you. It has whert my appetite but just for Meena KUmari :)

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  15. Well I guess the generation gap is showing up between you and me, ha!ha!.I like the Ashok Kumar version better than Soumitro Chatterjee's, though to be honest I wasn't born when the Ashok Kumar version released and was just a kid when Soumitro's released. But I felt Ashok Kumar's silent jealousy was quite impressive.

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  16. @Shilpi: I have heard that the Ashok KUmar version is very good. But somehow I never liked him playing the male lead. So, even though his character is good, I prefer the gorgeous Soumitra anyday :)

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  17. Hello Sharmi,
    I just checked IMDb for the the chronology of the various Parineetas, and was surpised to see that the one shot in 1942 was a Bengali by Pashupati Chatterjee, Bimal Roy's version was dated 1953, then comes Ajoy Kar's version in 1969, and finally our beloved 2005 version!
    So the question is, of course: who was inspired by whom?
    BTW, thanks for the review, I'm making a dent somewhere with a P. I've only seen the modern version, and sort of liked it, but that was long before I knew anything about vintage Indian movies!

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  18. @Yves: Yes, before Pradeep Sarkar, there were so many who dabbled with this text. I have not seen the oldest one. But this version is superlative. When I saw the 2005 version, I thought it was just about okay. BUt Vidya Balan can never be the perfect Parineeta. She looks old and too mature for the role of a 14 year old who blossoms into a beautiful and sensitive woman. So now, I feel the new version was distorted and OTT. Do try and watch this version. YOU will like it :)

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  19. What a beautiful review of a superb rendering of the film. The Ajoy Kar version brings out all the sensitivity and complexity of the story. The nuances are many - the difference in financial status of the boy and the girl, the greed of Nabin Kar, the whole Brahmo side story which the new version totally missed (and of course it was correct to leave that out because in today's times no one can understand what stress this brought about in Bengali society). Having said that it eliminated a layer of complexity that made this story as rich as it is. Soumitra is superlative - so handsome and restrained. Moushumi is perfect because she was actually the right age at the time for her role. Vidya Balan - I feel bad for her!! Totally miscast for the role. And the Diya Mirza character and the Marwari connection. No idea what they were thinking about!!! No reason or connection tothe priginal storyline. In fact, I wish this new film had not been called Parineeta and we did not have to compare!!!

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  20. @Anonymous: How right you are!! I totally agree with all your points. Thanks for the comment and keep reading :)
    I'm glad you liked the writeup. :)

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  21. Can you provide a link to the Ajoy Kar version? I had it before but it seems to have vanished. Would really appreciate it. Thanks

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  22. @Anonymous: Ooops, the link I saw it is not working anymore. I guess a DVD would be a safer bet.

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  23. Where did you manage to get the DVD? I have not been able to get one. Would appreciate information on where to buy it.

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  24. @Anonymous: Hi... fact is I saw it on the net by chance. I do not have the DVD :(

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