We watched Parineeta early in September. The best thing I can say about the movie is that it contains some memorable moments, and delightful songs. Put together, these moments fail to convey the right effect. The problem with its narrative structure becomes clear at the end when we get to know that Girish is married not to Lolita but her sister. We are as surprised as Shekar is shocked – that is the intended effect – and it leaves us feeling a bit cheated, because unlike Shekar we have been following the movements of Girish and Lolita. Hiding from us that piece of information appears like a manipulative trick intended to surprise us at the end. Imagine the power of this revelation at the end had the whole narrative been based from Shekar’s viewpoint. I wonder how the book is structured.
This aspect reminded me of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. In it, we are revealed something important the protagonist does not yet know. Why, you wonder. This matter, a subject of many discussions, was briefly mentioned in a recent article by Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker: he noted that Hitchcock is a master of suspense, not surprise. The difference is vital, and it seems not to have been grasped by lesser filmmakers.
The lack of narrative unity in Parineeta surfaces at other places too. The camera has no business following the rest of the gang to “Moulin Rouge” while both Shekar and Lolita lie at home. Even if it did, that interlude should have been interspersed with moments capturing Shekar’s anger and Lolita’s frustation – it is their story, isn’t it?
The movie did have a good result, though. It made me dig out my mouth organ (from the bottom of my bed-side drawer) and try out the “Piyu Bole” song, whose tune turned out ideal for the instrument and invited a comment from Wife that I did better than Shekar’s friend in the movie. Much relief.
But what I’ll remember long after I’ve forgotten its failings and misplaced its tunes is the one scene where Lolita becomes Parineeta: the camera, beginning at a low angle below the table – a voyeur’s delight – slowly glides up and settles down next to the two lovers softly caressing each other. With chants of Sanskrit shloka’s in the background lending a touch of divinty, I find myself sinking – as Shekar slides down Lolita’s blouse to reveal her lovely bare shoulders – into an enchanting trance suffused with melody when Wife turns to me and asks: “Her arms – they’re fatter than mine, aren’t they?”