Had he lived, R D Burman would have celebrated his 80th birthday on 24 June 2019. But R D, the son of legendary music composer S D Burman, passed away at the age of 55 years. When R D Burman composed music for his last movie "1942 - A Love Story", Bollywood had undergone a drastic transformation.
Burman's music was no longer in vogue as other younger music directors had taken centre stage (Annu Malik, Nadeem Shravan,Anand Milind etc). Rumour mills insisted that Vidhu Vinod Chopra who produced 1942- A Love Story didn't accord the respect to Pancham (R D Burman's pet name) that a music composer like him deserved.
To make matters worse, Pancham's relations with his second wife Asha Bhosale had hit rock bottom and they had clearly drifted apart. Reports even appeared in the media suggesting how Pancham used to spend the evenings in his Santa Cruz bungalow sitting in the verandah all by himself. He longed to meet his friends but few turned up.
Though Pancham has been widely criticised for lifting tunes from the West or from the Middle East, there were some compositions that remain immortal to this day.
Pancham had a good working equation with Gulzar and this reflected in the tunes that he composed for Gulzar's films like Khushboo, Kinara and Parichay. Here we review the classic movie "Parichay" that was released on 18 October 1972. Burman's music added to the film's appeal.
The Sound of Music (1965), the American classic that featured Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer spawned many remakes in India. The American movie was actually shot in Austria. The mind blowing locales shown in the movie still haunt you. “Shanthi Nilayam” (1969) a Tamil movie that starred Kanchana and Gemini Ganesh was based on The Sound Of Music and achieved stupendous box office success.
Veteran film maker Gulzar used his creativity and ingenuity to write a script that is loosely based on The Sound Of Music leaving an everlasting impact. However the message in all the remakes remains the same - Love Conquers All. Children need to be treated as friends and one has to demonstrate a greater level of empathy while dealing with them. Today when we have to deal with millennials this message becomes even more relevant. Millennials are supposedly hyper sensitive and behavioural experts say that one has to be careful not to hurt their feelings.
The film begins with two friends (Jeetendra and Vinod Khanna) sharing a paying guest facility and talking about their precarious financial condition and joblessness.
Vinod Khanna makes a friendly appearance in the movie. This may have been his attempt to show his gratitude to Gulzar for casting him in the lead role in the golden jubilee hit “Mere Apne” (1971) that also starred Meena Kumari and Shatrughan Sinha.
Ravi (Jeetendra) receives a letter from his uncle asking him to come to the village to take up the job of a tutor in a retired army major’s palatial mansion. Incidentally, Jeetendra’s original name is Ravi Kapoor.
Ravi leaves for his uncle’s village to meet the major but his first meeting with the disdainful major (Pran) is nothing short of a disaster. Ravi is not so hopeful of landing the job. The major is a strict, no nonsense disciplinarian and Ravi is not so sure about meeting his expectations. Ravi’s aunt (Leela Mishra) warns him that the kids that he is supposed to teach have earned a bad reputation in the village due to their boorishness.
The kids are unruly and have managed to drive away all the tutors who had come to teach them. They are simply not interested in learning. Despite getting a feeling that his job is akin to cleaning Augean stables, Ravi’s intuition tells him that he can achieve success in the job with his fortitude and mental tenacity.
The major and his sister Sati Devi (veteran actress Veena in a brief role) try to be strict with the children but to no avail. The children are adamant, full of acrimony and they are tacitly supported by their elder sister Rama (Jaya Bhaduri) who is equally cantankerous. To Ravi’s pleasant surprise he lands the job as a tutor.
The faithful and loyal servant of the household (Asrani) cautions him against being lenient with the children as then they would take advantage of that situation. But Ravi manages to silence him and says that he knows how to handle the situation.
Mention has to be made of the superb acting by A K Hangal and Leela Mishra as Ravi’s uncle and aunt. Hangal has been a regular in Gulzar’s films and he doesn’t disappoint you. But Mishra is a surprise. Here she gets more screen time and makes full use of the opportunity. You start longing for having an aunt like her. That is the impact of her performance.
Children play truant with Ravi – damaging the chair assigned to him or dipping his towel in black colour. Rama is indignant when Ravi enters the room without asking permission. But Ravi is unfazed. He manages to handle all this with a cool temperament and even apologises to Rama.
Ravi manages to successfully change from a city youth aspiring for a job to a private tutor in a mansion. Within no time, his forgiving nature and cherubic demeanour wins the hearts of the children.
Ravi’s approach is different from the other tutors. He teaches the children the importance of values in life, takes them for an outing and plays indoor games with them. The transformation in the children does not miss the attention of the major.
When there are skirmishes between his sister Sati Devi and Ravi, the major takes the side of Ravi as he believes in Ravi’s abilities to transform the children for the better. Ravi capitulates to the children’s demands but he knows where to draw the line.
Eventually Ravi learns about the tragedy in the major’s life from the faithful servant. The major’s son Nilesh (Sanjeev Kumar in a brilliant cameo) is a great lover of music, much to the consternation of his father. But the major’s cavalier attitude puts him off. Despite the fact that Nilesh doesn’t agree with his father, he loves and respects him. There is no trace of animosity here. When his father chooses a bride for him, Nilesh resents it and leaves home to pursue his passion for music. He returns after a while with his new bride (Geeta Siddharth in a miniscule role).
Though the major blesses them and things seem hunky dory for a while, reality soon emerges.
In one of the classic scenes between the father-son duo, the father subtly indicates to the son that he should branch out on his own and not depend upon his father.
The expression on Sanjeev Kumar’s face in this scene is ample evidence of his versatility as an actor and his legendary histrionic abilities. It is clear that the father’s hubris is hurt and he chooses a benign way of demonstrating it. The father and son never meet again for 17 years.
After 17 years, Nilesh writes a letter to his father to take care of his children after his death. On receiving the letter from his son, the major rushes to his son’s aid.
Alas, his son has already passed away. With great difficulty the distraught major manages to convince the children to accompany him. The children are resentful that their grandfather did not take care of them when they needed him the most.
Ravi unearths all this information and he educates the children about their grandfather’s plight. He also tells Rama that she should appreciate her grandfather’s predicament and develop a greater sense of empathy towards him.
The children begin respecting and loving their grandfather now. Soon enough the major has to leave on an exigency for a few days and he manages to entrust the responsibility of managing the household to Ravi.
Ravi’s positive approach and kindness endears him to the children. Much to their chagrin, Ravi gets a letter informing that he has landed a job in the city. He has to leave immediately to take up the new job. Ravi leaves the mansion but not before entrusting the responsibility to Rama who has now begun to develop a soft spot for him.
The rest of the movie is about how the major senses that Ravi and Rama like each other and his attempts to unite them. The last scene in the movie is poignant reflecting Gulzar’s inimitable directorial competence and his chutzpah as an avant garde script writer. The characterizations in the movie are well-etched out and each actor performs his or her role with the sincerity demanded by the script.
This is one of Jeetendra’s best performances ever (alongside other memorable performances in films like Khushboo, Kinara, Jeene Ki Raah, Caravan and Mere Hamsafar). It is rather unfortunate that the actor never got enough opportunities to take up similar roles that could do justice to his acting talent. Kudos to Gulzar for showing to the world that even Jeetendra can act when presented with an opportunity.
Asrani, Veena, Leela Mishra and A K Hangal lend good support. The narrative though slow in the beginning manages to gain momentum soon after. Jaya Bhaduri is at her usual best. None can deny that she is one of the most talented actresses on the Bollywood skyline and the best student that FTII has produced.
Pran delivered one of his career best roles and the scene where he thanks Ravi for reintroducing his grandchildren to him stands out. Thus the film’s title “Parichay” gets justified. The child actors have performed well but mention must be made of master Raju and his childish antics.
The music is by R D Burman. The film boasts of evergreen and immortal songs like “Saare Ke Saare”, “Beeti Na Bitai Raina” and “Musafir Hoon Yaaro” that will continue to be popular a hundred years from now. After watching Parichay, one wonders why such scripts are missing now?
(After working in the corporate world for close to two decades, Bhagyalakshmi Seshachalam started her second career innings as a head-hunter. She is passionate about Hindi movies and loves retro music. When her family shifted to Chennai in the 80s, Bhagya had a taste of Tamil cinema too. In the long term, she plans a book on two of her favourite directors – Guru Dutt and K Balachander. She travels across the country on work and is based in Mysore.)