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23 November 2017

Parichay (1972)

Directed by: Gulzar
Music: RD Burman
Lyrics: Gulzar
Starring: Pran, Jeetendra, 
Sanjeev Kumar, Jaya Bhaduri, 
Asrani, AK Hangal, Leela Misra, 
Master Raju, Baby Pinky, 
Master Ravi, Master Kishore, 
Veena, Vinod Khanna
I’ve just realised that the blog is nearly seven years old, and I haven’t reviewed as many of Gulzar’s films as I would have liked. While Ijaazat and Mausam (two of the three films I have reviewed – the third being Angoor, an out-and-out comedy) are among the more serious of his films that deal with relationships, Parichay – his second film (along with Koshish the same year) was a lighter look at the same. Supposedly inspired by The Sound of Music but in actuality based on Rajkumar Mitra's Bengali novel Rangeen Uttarain (which was brought to Gulzar's notice by Raakhee, his wife), and with four delightful songs by RD Burman, Parichay was a lovely little film that provided simple, wholesome entertainment. 

Ravi (Jeetendra) is an unemployed young man who agrees to take on a job as tutor to the four younger children of Raisaheb AP Rai (Pran), while waiting for a real job to materialise.
 
Warnings about the children ring in Ravi’s ears from every quarter – his aunt (Leela Misra), the Raisaheb's manservant Narayan (Asrani), and even the Raisaheb himself are quick to point out that they are the Devil’s spawn. It is clear to Ravi that the Raisaheb doesn’t display the love he feels for the children – though he does ask Ravi to instil some human values in the kids if he can – and even clearer that his strict demeanour has not endeared him to the children.
Ravi begins his job in the morning, and soon finds out that the children really do not want a tutor. In fact, he’s the latest in a long line – his pupils have managed to chase everyone else away. Ravi soon learns just how far they are willing to go to chase him away.
 
A prank played by the younger children leads to Rama (Jaya Bhaduri), the oldest of the grandchildren getting punished; because she’s sent to bed without dinner, the other children follow suit. 

The next morning, Ravi's relationship with the children improves, however, when they realise that this tutor is not going to mete out corporal punishment. Just the fact that he removes the cane from the schoolroom makes them like him a little bit.
 
Upon learning that the children had not eaten breakfast (because their sister was still on hunger strike), Ravi points out to Rama that her obduracy is hurting her siblings – she may well be able to starve for ten days, but the youngest children cannot. If her grandfather is to blame for her attitude, then Rama will be the one responsible for her siblings falling ill. 
 
Rama is taken aback – she hadn’t thought of that at all. Much to her grandfather’s surprise, Rama appears at the dinner table.

The next day, Raisaheb leaves for the city to take care of his business. He may be away for a week or a fortnight, he tells Ravi, as he leaves the latter in charge of the house and the children. In the manner of mice playing while the cat is away, the kids ditch their lessons as soon as their grandfather’s back is turned. Ravi merely laughs and lets his students play truant. In fact, he orders a whole set of books, games and sports equipment for the children, much to Diwanji’s consternation. The children are beginning to like this new tutor very much indeed. Being allowed to laugh and play improves the children’s disposition no end – it helps them be more attentive to their lessons as well.

The more Ravi stays on in the house, the more curious he becomes about Nilesh, Raisaheb’s estranged son. Narayan fills him in on the back-story. Nilesh (Sanjeev Kumar), Raisaheb's only son was always more interested in music than in business, much to his father’s dismay.
One day, when the Raisaheb had wanted Nilesh to accompany him to a friend’s house (so Nilesh’s marriage could be arranged with the friend’s daughter), Nilesh had quietly left for a music concert. and had not come back for a year. When he finally returned, it was a wife in tow. Sujata (Geeta Siddharth) is Nilesh’s ustaad’s daughter, and upon her father's death, Nilesh had married Sujata in a hurry.
 
Though taken aback, Raisaheb had been polite and welcoming to his daughter-in-law. However, in a private conversation with Nilesh after dinner, Raisaheb had informed Nilesh that he (Raisaheb) had made his own way in the world so that he could live his life on his own terms; now, perhaps, Nilesh should do the same – in his house, the Raisaheb could not countenance anyone who defied him.

 
Nilesh and Sujatha had left quietly. And they had never returned. When the Raisaheb had finally gone to visit his son, it was upon hearing of his illness; he had returned with his son's orphaned children. Nilesh's room had been locked up since. Songs, music, laughter had all been banned in the house. Ravi has a lot to think about, and Narayan leaves him to his musings. 

The next day, Raisaheb leaves for the city to take care of his business. He may be away for a week or a fortnight, he tells Ravi, as he leaves the latter in charge of the house and the children.

When Ravi turns to go back to the school room, he notices Narayan surreptitiously opening Nilesh’s old room to clean it. Despite Narayan's objections, Ravi enters the room. Seeing Nilesh’s old sitar, Ravi plays it – the notes bring Rama and the children running. As Rama points out, this is the first time she's heard any music in this house.
 
Learning from the children that they aren't allowed outside the grounds, Ravi takes it upon himself to broaden their horizons. The next few days are filled with games and laughter, and the children are beginning to like this new tutor very much indeed. Ravi even takes them home to his uncle and aunt where, for the first time, his aunt expresses something that Ravi hadn't allowed to coalesce into concrete thought.
 
One day, Ravi catches Rama singing. Later, Rama reminisces about her final days with her father, and bursts out with recriminations against her grandfather. Her resentment is palpable. It is Ravi’s chance to tell her a few home-truths.
 
Rama is beginning to be drawn to this kindly, affectionate young man. Ravi is not immune to Rama either, but they are both too shy to say anything. What will happen to them when Ravi has to leave? 

While one strand of the story is similar to The Sound of Music – a tutor coming in to reform recalcitrant children, and falling in love with someone, while also changing the taciturn adult – Parichay was unusual in that it looked at the viewpoint of both the children and the grandfather, apportioning equal (and gentle) blame to both for the state of affairs.

What I also liked were the nuances that shaded the minor characters – Asrani’s Narayan, AK Hangal’s Mamaji and the actor (a very familiar face though I cannot place him) who played the Diwan. These characters were fleshed out so that we got a sense of who they were as people, apart from their relationship to the protagonists. Veterans AK Hangal and Leela Misra, for instance, played Ravi’s uncle and aunt, and their relationship with each other, and with Ravi, is affectionate and humorous.

Narayan, as Asrani plays him, is not only a loyal servitor, but someone who genuinely likes his employer and is grateful that Ravi is doing his best to help him. He gets a wonderful scene to himself, where he begs Ravi to bring back the Raisaheb’s laughter – he doesn’t have the right to ask that, he says, and he has nothing to give in return, but if Ravi were to ask him his life… the sincerity with which he says that takes away the corniness of the lines.
 
As does a later scene, where he watches Raisaheb laugh delightedly at the children's antics and wordlessly turns away to hide his tears.

Veteran Pran stole the show as the somewhat rigid father, whose unbending principles lead to an estrangement with his only son, and as the grandfather who loves his grandchildren but does not know how to handle their resentment and anger. The guilt and regret, as well as the love he feels for the children were all subtly underplayed in a film that rarely revved up its drama quotient. The grief he feels at the estrangement from his grandchildren bursts out in one unguarded moment: 'Pyaar agar dava ki tarah gholkar pilaya ja sakta, toh main woh bhi kar deta.'
 
Of the kids, who all behaved naturally, all honours go to little Raju Sreshta, who played Sanju, the youngest of the children. In what was surely one of his first roles, he was brilliant. Not the ‘cute’ kid you usually see on screen (who generally evokes all my homicidal tendencies), but a genuinely endearing little tot who’s not beyond sneaking the red coin off the carrom board. He's equally charming in the 'langda bhoot' segment.
 
Sanjeev Kumar and Jaya Bhaduri (as she was then) must have been the most unusual mainstream actors ever – they acted as lovers (in Koshish that same year, as well as in Anamika and Nauker in later years), as father and daughter in Parichay, and as in-laws in Sholay. It didn’t seem to matter to either of them, and consequently, it didn’t matter to the audience, who accepted them as they were – two fine performers. For all that Jaya is the ‘heroine’ of the film, Sanjeev Kumar’s role was probably just as long.
 
Jaya was a natural, whatever role she played. Here, as a slightly reserved young woman who blames her grandfather for her father's death, and who realises, later, that what she presumed to be the truth was not the whole truth, she traverses a gamut of emotions.

Jeetendra, in his turn, might not be a thespian, but there's a certain niceness about the actor that makes him a perfect fit for this universe. In fact, I much prefer him in these roles as compared to his 'jumping Jack' ones. He is rather endearing as the gentle Ravi who refuses a job because he feels sorry for the man he's replacing, and then walks into a temporary situation that he's not completely prepared for - he makes a success of it because of the kind of person he is.
 
What is unusual about the film is that the ‘hero- heroine’ do not really get to romance. Their growing affection for each other is understated, and their relationship unfolds gradually and mostly silently. They are both too shy to express their feelings for each other, yet seem to understand each other without words.
 
In one of the best scenes in the film, Ravi returns (on his friend, Amit’s (a fine cameo by Vinod Khanna) urging) to visit Raisaheb and, ostensibly, the ‘children’. However, when he learns that Raisaheb is trying to arrange Rama’s marriage (and overhearing Rama allude to her affection for him), he leaves without meeting her. He does so because of his deep respect for Raisaheb.

When Rama learns of Ravi's arrival and departure, something in her face and voice makes her grandfather suspicious. It is a wordless scene – the next moment, he’s hurrying her to the railway station. If you want to see how to film a climax scene at a railway station (or airport), then watch Parichay and learn. (Yes, I’m looking at you, Aditya Chopra!) This is how normal adults behave.

On a quiet evening, when you are in the mood for a clean family film, do watch Parichay. I guarantee you will have a lump in your throat, even while you are smiling for the most part.

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