Sunday, November 1, 2009

Parineeta - the one with Meena Kumari!

Yes, I'm transferring another review - Bimal Roy's Parineeta! This one solidified my love of the Ashok Kumar - Meena Kumari jodi.

Parineeta is a wonderful film. Directed by Bimal Roy, it combines a very filmi story with understated ‘world cinema’-style direction. I think with other actors I would have found it very dull, but as it was Ashok Kumar and Meena Kumari had me glued to the screen… and I may have shed a few tears of anxious worry towards the end, despite knowing exactly where things were going. “What if they changed the end from the Saif Ali Khan verion?!”

The story revolves around two families who live next door to one another. One is wealthy and the other not. The beloved and indulged younger son of the wealthy family and the orphaned niece of the poor family are best friends. She is in love with him and he… well, he loves her but doesn’t know it. I will spare you the plot summary, which is complicated and involves many tangled family relations.

Unlike the Saif Ali Khan version, the only one I had seen until this, the 1953 version of Parineeta is much more concerned about the ethics of poverty and of lending money and much less with the star-crossed love.

Ashok Kumar’s father is vilified for lending money at high interest and for being greedy in general. This is in contrast to both of Meena Kumari’s suitors. Girin Babu (a limp Asit Baran) and Dadamoni are both more concerned with using their money to help people than in acquiring wealth. Ashok shares his pocket with Meena Kumari freely – he never forces her to ask and she never has to justify what she is using it for or thank him. What is his is hers – no questions asked. Girin Babu, on the other hand, and with the best of intentions, lends Meena’s uncle money – creating a debt that Meena’s uncle feels the need to repay with Meena Kumari. Selling her.

He didn’t the message that Ashok’s mother so carefully spells out for us in the beginning: Parents can no longer just marry off their kids without the approval of the one’s being married. So, what happens when Meena and Ashok playact the wedding ceremony?

(SO CUTE!!!!)

Well, I’ll you figure that out while watching the film!

Meena Kumari and Ashok Kumar are wonderful together. They are one of my favorite on-screen jodis and this film plays up their chemistry for all it’s worth. Ashok’s character is indulged and a bit spoiled, yet he never comes across as bratty – which Saif Ali Khan really did in his version of Parineeta. Ashok’s Shekhar is just sheltered from real-life consequences and has an idealistic view of things. He doesn’t realize that he loves Meena Kumari until he is confronted with it – perhaps thinking his interest in her was just friendship. And even when Shekar is being petulant, he’s never mean.

Meena Kumari’s Lalita is really angelic but in a good way. She’s totally dependent on her aunt and uncle and is grateful to them for taking her in. She does not want to be a burden, yet she wants certain things for herself. We see her try to cram in studying – with the encouragement of Ashok Kumar (Shriman Shrimati could take some lessons from Dadamoni).

She repays his support of her the only way she can – by taking care of him. There is a telling scene towards the end when Lalita has gone to the country and Shekhar’s room is a total mess – he cannot find anything – and we see just how much he depended on her.

Ashok’s father hates Lalita and everything she stands for – LOVE… the human kind not the love of money, which is modus operandi. He builds a giant wall between the two houses to keep her out. It’s all very compelling viewing and unfolds at a slow pace which had my stomach in knots – “Are they going to get together or not?!” Bimal Roy’s camera work was distracting at times in the Hollywood ‘realistic’ approach. I missed the extreme close-ups and filmi declarative speeches.

We got a few close-ups of paining faces but I can’t help but think that Guru Dutt would have been a better choice for filming this movie or that Bimal Roy had taken the story in more of a Madhumati-style direction. I think this is the only Meena Kumari film that I’ve seen which didn’t feature at least one shot with her eyes filling the entire screen. Still, I really did enjoy it.

Those with a quick eye can also pick out a young Manorama! She is as understated as I’ve ever seen her here…


myrna-nora said...

I love Ashok Kumar. I will have to add this to my next DVD purchase.

Bollyviewer said...

Love this film to bits! It was the first Parineeta I saw and though I love the Saif one too, this is soooooo less filmi (and better, IMO!).

Much as I love Meena, I think Dada Mani had much better chemistry with Madhubala - they were awesome together in Ek Saal, Howrah Bridge and Mahal.

Filmi Girl said...

@bollyviewer I like him with Madhubala, too, but Meena/Ashok really just pushes all my buttons. She matches his intensity really well, I think.

moviemeh said...

I've seen both now, and I actually like the filmi one with Vidya-Saif better, even though I hate the match-fixing between the birdbath and the wall at the end, and even though I hate the words "Moulin Rouge" ever since sitting through 30 minutes of the movie of that name.

Why? I like the way the conversation on the staircase at the beginning completely changes its meaning after the flashback loops around. And I like the wedding song at the beginning. :)

Note from Filmi Girl:

I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.

If you don't like my sense of humor, please just move on by - Trolls are not appreciated and nasty comments will be deleted.

xoxo Filmi Girl
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