I suddenly remembered this film while watching Goutam Ghose's Paar. Needless to mention I'm immensely fond of Naseeruddin Shah and Shabana Azmi and think that actors like them will never ever be. But despite Ghose's hard-hitting drama being one of the most acclaimed films, I failed to be engaged by it. Only the last half an hour kept me glued to my seat. Depicting the final struggle of the village couple through the Ganges while taking 36 pigs across really was a masterstroke by the director. And of course the last scene of hope and renewal. Other than that, Paar was a tad slow for my taste.
But the good soul that he is, he doesn't grudge Pesi the happiness. In fact, he advises Pesi that marriage is all about give and take. When Pesi tries to tell him of some niggling problems with Jeroo, Phirojshah almost always takes Jeroos's side and makes it clear to Pesi that he is indeed lucky to have such a beautiful and sweet wife. He almost vicariously derives the happiness from Pesi's 'happy' life.
But what is devastating for him is how Jeroo has changed. She is no more the pretty girl who Pesi married. She is brash, brazen and unkempt. The softness to her has disappeared and she treats her family members with rudeness. Phirojshah decides that this is Pesi doing. But he doesn't know that Pesi himself is suffering for marrying Jeroo.
As secrets tumble out of the closet, Phirojshah learns that Jeroo loves to dwell in her sadness. In fact her miscarriage was her doing because she did not want a baby. She knows of Pesi's affair and is even remotely not affected by it. She loves living in her own selfish world, a world that has hurt Pesi immensely. It has brought him enough turmoil, dejection and loneliness. And yes, it has driven him to the arms on Suna Mistry (Kiron Kher). There is enough sadness in Pesi's life. Yes, Phirojshah's prayers remained unanswered...
Years pass and Phirojshah tries drifting away from Pesi's life. But he cannot do that totally. Somewhere in the heart if heart he is too attached to Pesi's life. Even when he is trying not to think about them, his mind drifts towards the subject of Pesi and Jeroo. Does that mean that Phirojshah is a loner, with nothing else to do but live a life that belongs to others?
The narrative is engaging despite being a tad slow. But I guess, that's because Mehta wanted to draw a lifelike picture of the Parsi community. The speech (supervised by Ratna Pathak) is in chaste Parsi Hindi, so chaste that I sometimes desired subtitles. The performances are brilliant, as usual.
Shabana's role is miniscule but she is kickass. No one could imagine that she would start off as a sweet Parsi girl and turn into a depressed soul in dire need of help. She is definitely my favourite actress belonging to the art-house genre of cinema.