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16 May 2017

Parvarish (1977)

Directed by: Manmohan Desai
Music: Laxmikant-Pyarelal
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
Starring: Amitabh Bachchan, Vinod Khanna, 
Neetu Singh, Shabana Azmi, 
Shammi Kapoor, Indrani Mukherjee, 
Amjad Khan, Kader Khan
Ever since I read of his demise, I have been on a mission to watch Vinod Khanna movies – both ones that I’d inexplicably not watched in my misbegotten youth, and ones that I had watched and liked very much indeed. (Or at least, I’d liked him in those films very much indeed.) There was a niggling little voice, however, that told me I was being unfaithful to my original idol. To quieten that irritating voice, I decided to watch a film that starred both of them. That was easy enough. After the Kapoors, Shashi and Rishi, Amitabh co-starred with Vinod in the maximum number of movies. In fact, my husband used to refer to Shashi and Rishi as ‘Amitabh’s favourite heroines’ – they were indispensable to the Bachchan phenomena. (More so than the actual heroines.) 

So I went through their filmography to see what suited my mood of the moment. Parvarish not only fitted the bill, it had an added bonus – Shammi Kapoor in his Papa Bear avatar. Besides, it is a Manmohan Desai film, so one is assured of a decent dose of masala, in the right proportion (including a locket to identify the real son).

Parvarish (Upbringing) is based on the age-old dilemma of nature vs. nurture. DSP Shamsher Singh (Shammi Kapoor) captures dreaded dacoit Mangal Singh (Amjad Khan) after a deadly raid on the latter’s village. Mangal Singh’s wife, used by him as armour against police firing, gives birth amidst the chaos. When Singh meets her, the dying woman hands her new-born over to him, pleading that the boy be brought up as a law-abiding citizen.
Feeling more than slightly responsible for the boy being orphaned, the kindly DSP decides to bring the baby up as his own. His niggling doubts about the matter are put to rest by his loving wife (Indrani Mukherjee). 
However, it becomes quite clear that while Amit (Master Tito), Mangal Singh’s son, is a sweet-natured kid, Singh’s son, Kishan (Master Ratan) is not exactly the good son – he skips school, he lies, he steals, and persuades Amit to cover up for him. He is punished often, and Kishan, broody and introspective, is convinced that he is not loved.
It is a feeling that deepens when Mangal Singh, returns from jail to ask for his son. Shamsher Singh refuses. He’d promised to keep the boy away from Mangal’s malignant influence. Overhearing his parents’ conversation, Kishan mistakenly assumes that he is Mangal Singh’s son. Mangal Singh returns despondently, but Kishan, who’s managed to escape from his room, accosts him, avowing that he’s Mangal’s long-lost son. 
Mangal Singh is ready to leave with the boy, but his brother’s sage advice makes him leave Kishan behind.

Cut to twenty years later. Amit (Amitabh Bachchan) is now a police inspector himself, while Kishan (Vinod Khanna) runs a school for blind boys. Their childhood cops-and-robbers game is continuing, albeit not so innocently as before. One day, Amit, hot in pursuit of smugglers, runs into his brother. 
Kishan misdirects him while the smuggled goods are discreetly carted off to Mangal’s residence. The police are left with fake gold, and while Shamsher is furious, Amit wonders how the smugglers seem to always be one step ahead.

Meanwhile, Kishan is demanding of the gang leader, Supremo (Kader Khan), that their share be increased to 50%. After all, they had never lost a consignment yet. Supremo’s bid to make him change his mind, blows up spectacularly (not literally).
Impressed, Supremo gives him another assignment – get a packet of diamonds to their fence. The next day, while carrying out the trade (by an ingenious method of switching the white sticks of the blind), Kishan makes the acquaintance of Shabbu (Shabana), a petty thief and con woman. While Kishan is sympathizing with her (Shabbo is pretending to be blind), she manages to flick his wallet. At the same time, Shabbo’s sister, Neetu (Neetu Singh), is busy conning Amit with a sob story of a sister with cancer, just when he’s arrested her for stealing. He falls for it, however, and is relieved of his watch. 
The intrepid sisters also manage to con both (now-) Commissioner Shamsher Singh and his wife, apart from sundry others. (They are good!) Though they are caught, eventually, the girls don’t believe in giving up – this time, however, they have their eyes set on a bigger prize. Willthe men agree?
You haven’t forgotten the smugglers, have you? Well, the police’s plan to capture the big fish is foiled by Kishan, but Amit has another plan up his sleeve. This time, the Trojan horse is a rare, antique time piece to be exhibited at the Safarjung Museum. Mangal, who’s informed of it sends Kishan to get it for him. A deadly fight in the darkness and Neetu’s unexpected intervention (the girl sure has a penchant for watches) leads to Kishan getting away.
While Kishan manages to foil Amit’s plan, thanks to Shabbo, he’s worried that Amit has not only seen his face, the bullet wound will leave a scar – what if Amit tells the Commissioner? Mangal takes a hand.

But the matter doesn’t rest. Amit, who’s sure Kishan is upto something nefarious confronts him before their parents’ anniversary party. 
Their love for each other notwithstanding, Amit is forced to put his duty before sibling relationships; but Kishan, knowing his brother had already taken precautions.Amit is forced to back off, but that doesn’t stop him from keeping a close eye on his brother’s activities. On one such occasion, Amit loses his eyesight while saving Kishan from the vengeance of a gang member.
Can Amit save his brother from the path he’s treading? Will they ever find the smugglers, or will Kishan always remain one step ahead? How will Amit balance his dual duty – his obligation to his profession with his obligation to his foster parents? And the girls? They have a vengeance of their own to fulfil.

Parvarish is not as much of a madcap ride as Amar Akbar Anthony, for instance, but it’s also a rather sweet film, and the heroines had a definite narrative arc of their own, instead of just providing the heroes with arm candy. They get three songs of their own – one, a lovely diatribe about socialism (their style) as they generously ‘sell’ their ill-gotten gains to other people; the other a song where, miffed at their lovers, they threaten to kill themselves in inventive ways, only to find that the men, instead of repenting, are providing them with the means to do so; the third, a ridiculously over-the-top (is there such a thing as that in Desai’s dictionary?) qawali in the villain’s presence. (No one asks how two strange girls can become a part of a professional troupe at the last moment, or change the steps to incorporate their props.) 
Neetu Singh also gets a ‘naughty’ song, as she role-plays a maid to Amit’s cop-in-disguise-as-a-smuggler. 
The songs are cleverly placed too, and provide just the right distraction amidst all the action. It is also interesting to see two heroines in a 70s commercial film who take charge of their own lives, are pro-active in their romantic liasons, and even propose (to their prospective in-laws) that they are the perfect brides for the sons – this, after having looted them. I’m loving it!
What also makes the film interesting is that it takes a look at the dynamics of familial relationships, both filial and fraternal. The interaction between Bachchan and Khanna, as well as with their parents, Shammi and Indrani Mukherjee, is warm and loving, even after Amit suspects Kishan is up to no good. The bid to save his brother from himself, Kishan’s reaction to Amit’s accident, etc., were all finely etched out within the constraints of a commercial film. Both Bachchan and Khanna are suitably restrained, even while the madcap action around them is going ballistic.
Of course, Desai’s films wouldn’t be what they are without villains’ villainy to match up to the heroes’ heroism. While Amjad Khan bites into his role with relish, Desai also had to add Kader Khan as ‘Supremo’, his boss. And of course, he gets to live in a submarine, while Amjad gets a super-fantastic villain’s lair all to his own, and Vinod gets a trapdoor inside a chest in the school’s basement. 
It’s crazy! Like all Desai films, Parvarish is replete with gags, giggles, twists – the more improbable the better – that keep us engrossed. Pretty fluff it may be, but it’s as entertaining as hell. 

And because I can, here's some eye candy. 

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