Parineeta is the high drama, mature and sexy debut Bollywood feature for advertising and former music video director, Pradeep Sarkar.
The film is somewhat of an anomaly in the cinema: It's largely a restrained pace, with dialogue and acting indebted to its Bengali roots as both a novella and a 1953 film of the same name, by the acclaimed diretor Bimal Roy. At the same time, parallel editing and moments of intense, frenzied musical scoring and action, ensure that Parineeta is true to the manifesto of contemporary Bollywood melodrama.
Sarkar's Parineeta translates to “the married woman”. It stars Saif Ali Khan as Shekhar Roy and Vidya Balan as Lolita in her debut Bollywood performance, which garnered her numerous awards including “Filmfare Best Female Debut” and “Face of the Year”. Balan had previously featured in numerous television advertisements under the direction of Sarkar. Parineeta also stars Sanjay Dutt as Giresh Sharma, the wealthy London-based steel owner who pursues Lolita under Shekhar's nose.
Shekhar and Lolita are childhood friends and neighbours whose families belong to the same community in the capital of the East Indian state of West Bengal, Kolkatta. The community worships the Goddess Kali, an incarnation of the Goddess of wealth and good fortune. Fortune however does not favour all and when difficult times arise, Shekhar and Lolita's friendship and love is severely tested and betrayed by those closest to them.
The notable soft, ambient art direction is also Sarkar's doing; his meticulous eye for design is tangible throughout Parineeta. In interviews conducted at the time, the director stated, "Art direction is my profession and passion. It's mainly framing. It's a gift. I frame very naturally. I've also been trained to do so. It's not a pesha (profession) for me, it's a nasha (addiction)."
Stylised mise-en-scène is combined with clever use of music and locations that together provide the texture that Bollywood demands. The use of music, for example, is unusually seamless in this film. Khan's Sarkar is characterised as a musician by trade — a passionate artist first and foremost, a businessman second and it is his music that is used throughout the film. The standout is "Piyaa Bole..." a duet between the two leads as well as the presence of Elvis Presley on the soundtrack, jazz and traditional music of the pre-wedding sangeet ceremony.
Under Sarkar's direction, echoes of the 1920s and the carefree flippancy of Daisy and Tom from The Great Gatsby are transposed to Bengal circa 1962 where the “dream” at stake is the possibility of true love and happiness.
And at a very brief 131 minutes Parineeta positively flies by!
Parineeta screens on SBS TWO on October 20 at 9pm.