Tuesday, June 21, 2005

In Bengali, parineeta means betrothed or spoken for. The root of the word is 'parinato', which means mature. It’s a word I would hesitate to use about the latest Bong weepie from Bollywood everyone's talking about. Sarat Chandra's novel, which has been ‘adapted’ for the film -- and Vidhu Vinod announces this cleverly before the Bong purists can cry 'cholbe na cholbe na' -- was a mature love story. Yes, even though the protagonists were ridiculously young by our standards. In the novel, Lalita is 15 and Shekhar barely older. (It's a different debate how on earth they could be so bloody precocious and that's a problem I've always had with Sarat babu but we'll settle that later.)

In all respects, Parineeta is a well-researched, well-shot and considerably moving and engaging film. But I have a few irreconcilable problems with it. Firstly, it is a tad too well-shot. I completely agree with my friend Sumit Bhattacharya who reviewed it for Rediff that it is just too pretty-pretty. It's a montage of set-pieces, each very eye-catching and picture perfect -- yet not really soul-satisfying. It is all very well to do that in a music video where you have to grab viewers in the split second before they switch channels to AXN Dhamaka, but Pradeep Sarkar seems unable to get over the music video hangover.

Which brings me to my second problem. Why are Hindi film heroines ALWAYS so well-dressed? I mean, it's a great change to see film-makers pay so much attention to the look of a character and not dress all the girls uniformly in frumpy frocks or loud salwaar kameezes, no matter who they are playing -- tough policewomen or idiotic college girls -- as was the trend in numerous Madhuri Dixit/Sridevi starrers till as late as the late nineties. But now they've gone and overdone it. These days, all the women look so bloody well-groomed it's difficult to imagine they are for real and do real things like take the bus to work.

All great directors pay attention to how their characters are dressed, but the difference between them and the mediocres is they do it without looking like they've tried really really hard. With these guys -- and you take any of them: SLB, Farhan Akhtar and now Pradeep Sarkar or Vidhu Vinod -- you just know they’ve spent hours with the image consultant to decide whether the heroine should wear a red-bordered dhakai saree in that scene or the plain blue one.

This happens in Parineeta too, besides the fact that Sarkar gets quite a few period details wrong. Back in the sixties, young girls wore short-kurta churidar ensembles but they were NOT crystal-encrusted J J Valaya rip-offs (so says the veteran fashion hack in me). There were Ambassador cars on the roads and people did not zip around in vintage baby Austins.

And once and for all, Bengalis have no pre-shaadi sangeet ceremony with old fat aunt singing bawdy songs. Not now, and certainly not fifty years back. What was Sarkar thinking? He could just have asked the many mashis and pishis and kakimas that abound in any Bong phamily! He is a Bong himself, though after seeing the film, I doubt it. How could he have let most of the actors get away with their own interpretations of how the name Lalita ought to be pronounced? They all have their own versions and not one, apart from the Bengali actors, gets it right. To put the record straight (on the off chance that Sarkar or any of his diction-challenged actors are reading this), the Bengali 'Lolita' is not pronounced the same way as the Nabokov Lolita is, which is how we hear it through most of the film and which really game me some serious ulcers. It's not Lolly-ta, it's Loli- (rhymes with goli, as in to ab goli kha)ta.

Finally, I hate this habit film-makers have when making a Bong-theme movie of interspersing the dialogue, which is mainly in Hindi, with choice phrases and snatches of dialogue in Bengali. What does that mean – that the rest of the time the characters are actually speaking Hindi? In a Bengali family in sixties Calcutta? They might as well be shown speaking Zulu.

I won’t even talk about the overdone climax here. It’s just too ridiculous for words and completely spoils the tone of the rest of the film.

But I do long to see one contemporary adaptation of a Bengali literary classic that doesn’t make me cringe every few minutes or want to get under the seat in sheer embarrassment.

6 Comments:

At June 21, 2005 6:55 PM, Blogger Saptak said...

I agree with you.

Shekhar[saif] portrayed the vulnerable egoistic character well. I felt Girish[sanjay dutt] was a let down, although I do not entirely blame Sanjay Dutt. He just does not look the character.

Very well written! The story off course, but also this blog post.

 
At June 21, 2005 7:00 PM, Blogger Saptak said...

If we get more such posts, everytime you watch a movie, I am willing to pay for the tickets and drop you home too after the movie.

 
At June 21, 2005 8:52 PM, Blogger Tridib said...

Agree with all that you have to say. One small quibble. If the director spends hours with the costume designers it is not necessarily a bad thing. But when, presumably after hours of consultation, they get a Bengali groom to dress up in a black sherwani, something's definitely wrong!

 
At July 07, 2005 2:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for telling me what parineeta means. i have asked every possible bong in my office and nobody knew! thanks.

 
At July 07, 2005 9:32 PM, Blogger The Marauder's Map said...

Hey anonymous, would be nice if you left your name.

 
At October 29, 2005 12:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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