Reviewed By Abhishek Bandekar
Posted 06/10/05 22:00:31

"Ode To Everything Calcutta!"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

The first thing that strikes you upon watching Pradeep Sarkar’s cinematic telling of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyaya’s less celebrated, but just as admirable as his popular works, ‘Parineeta’ is the painstaking effort that has gone into creating a feel of the Calcutta of the 60’s. Calcutta around that decade(this story takes place in 1962) was a city brimming with cultural awakening, and Amitabh Bachchan’s voiceover poeticizes that feeling. The camera captures the morning in a yellowish hue that is instantly nostalgic. Besides, such detail has gone into the production design that you are at once transported into Chattopadhyaya’s world. One only wishes that a contemporary Saridon strip were avoided!

Amidst this beautiful set-up do two individuals, Shekhar(Saif Ali Khan) and Lolita(Vidya Balan), find love, despair, anguish and all the accoutrements of a young relationship. Lolita, an orphaned girl, is raised by the wealthy Narain Rai(Sabyasachi Chakraborty) and his family. Shekhar, Rai’s son, and Lolita become close friends and their bond only gets stronger as they grow. They share a tacit co-existence(she is free to borrow his money and he can count on her to listen to his musical compositions) but are unaware of their love for each other. Lolita is also loved by Girish(Sanjay Dutt), a London-returned businessman, who makes his intentions known in implied statements. Things take an ugly turn when Lolita comes across a disturbing fact and is in immediate need of financial aid or she can risk losing her family mansion. Girish helps Lolita, which fuels Shekhar’s already consuming suspicion about Lolita and Girish. Shekhar confronts Lolita, but their face-off only acts as a catalyst for realizing their unspoken love. However, the situation worsens further when Shekhar learns that Lolita will be wedded to Girish. Otherwise a simple love story, it is the symbolism that Sarat Chandra injects into the story which makes it all the more interesting.

Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Pradeep Sarkar miss the point however, when they opt to rush to the finish. For a movie that moves at a luxuriating pace in the first half, it unnecessarily gets hasty post-interval. And in doing so, they reduce the impact of the all-important climax. Nonetheless, ‘Parineeta’ is a notch above the other love-stories that we’ve been made to endure in recent times. Comparisons to Bhansali’s ‘Devdas’ are inevitable but while Bhansali’s was a futile exercise in grandeur, Sarkar’s is a more simplistic and less garish endeavour. In that sense, the movie harks back to Satyajit Ray’s style. Pre-interval, the movie seems like a tribute to Frank Capra and Ray where the story unfolds at its own tempo. Even the three songs in the first thirty minutes of the movie do not seem out of place. That to me is a sign of a good narrative.

For Saif, this is his most author-backed role till date and he doesn’t disappoint. Sanjay Dutt, in a supporting role, looks older and matured. He’s never looked this debonair too! The movie is worth the ticket just for his spirited dance at the Durga puja. Vidya Balan makes a confident debut. She adds layers to a role that could’ve run the risk of being insipid at the hands of a less competent actress. That she is also in Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s next feature ‘Yagna’ says a lot. Sabyasachi is at home in a role that requires him to be haughty and worldly.

Technically, the film scores on all counts. The art direction(Creative Structures, Pradeep Sarkar and Tanushree Sarkar) is probably the best we’ll see this year. The cinematography(N. Nataraja Subramanium) is top-rate. They are the true victors of this film and deserve to claim the film’s success as theirs! The music by Shantanu Moitra is refreshing and will please the connoisseurs. That his compositions are sung to beautiful lyrics(Swanand Kirkire) add to the effect.

‘Parineeta’ is a film that needs to be seen without wearing any glasses of cynicism. It is like watching the pages of a novel unfold and take life. Sigh! If only the movie were longer in the second-half and less eager to reach the end-post!

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