PARINDA (1989)

  • Release Date : 3/11/1989
  • Cast : Nana Patekar, Jackie Shroff, Anil Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit, Anupam Kher
  • Written and Directed by : VIdhu Vinod Chopra
  • Cinematography : Binod Pradhan
  • Editing : Renu Saluja
  • Music : R.D Burman

Parinda for a very long time was considered the greatest gangster film made in India. That was until a man called Ram Gopal Verma came and changed the way people looked at gangster films in India with his Shiva, Satya, and Company. However, many still consider Parinda to be the greatest gangster film ever made and it enjoys that iconic position for a lot of reasons. I found its mention in a book called “100 Bollywood Films” by Rachel Dwyer and it proved to be a factor that would finally make me watch this film. A film that I should have seen a long time ago but somehow slipped under my radar.

Anna (Nana Patekar) is a ruthless don who is in a constant state of feud with the police led by Inspector Prakash (Anupam Kher) and his rival Mussa (Tom Alter). His top henchman is Kishen (Jackie Shroff) who nearly beats Mussa into submission. However, Prakash is a different ball-game altogether. Anna plans to kill Prakash on the day when Kishen’s brother Karan (Anil Kapoor) comes back to town from the US. Anna, Kishen, Prakash, and Karan have grown up together. Anna goes ahead with his plan in spite of Kishen’s request to not involve his brother in the feud and kills Prakash who dies in Karan’s arms. Karan is in love with Paro (Madhuri Dixit) who happens to be Prakash’s sister.

The events cracks open the façade that Kishen had been holding strong for years. Karan now wants justice for Prakash and the fact that his love Paro is involved in the matter and he has to maintain his dignity in front of her only makes him that much more dedicated to the cause. He also feels guilty for the whole incident. But his every effort to bring the perpetrators to justice is futile. Things take a turn for worse when Paro leaves him thinking that he was part of the whole cover-up. Distraught, Karan decides to join Anna’s gang and destroy it from within much to his brother’s disapproval. He is able to finish off the three killers who killed Prakash but Anna learns of his plan and murders him and Paro on their wedding night. Kishen who has lost everything that he held dear now faces Anna in a last-ditch battle.

Parinda has a simplistic narrative with very little twists and turns but what makes it revolutionary is its treatment of the subject and the execution. From the very first scene, you know that you are in for a different type of film. The camera angles, the shot composition, the manner in which the actors are made to act out the scenes, the gritty feel to the city and the way the motif of the pigeons are used are all so refreshingly original and to-the-point that it’s hard to miss the charm of it all. The action sequences for one are breathtakingly real. The way every action occurs as a result of heightened tension and drama is built up to perfection. Even the songs, some of which are repeated more than once are perfectly put in the narrative and never hamper the flow of it.

Nana Patekar plays a straightforward villain here who has burnt to death his own wife and child for reasons that are never revealed. What we learn about him is his fear of fire and the fact that he must have had something to do with the fate of his wife and child. He has also put a garland of flower symbolizing the death on a picture of his wife and child and interestingly the picture also includes him. This shows us in a subtle way that he considers himself dead too, documenting his detachment from the world. He is as ruthless as they come and he has no qualms about killing the ones who he grew up with. What makes him even more uncanny and dangerous is the fact that we don’t know why he is doing what he is doing.

Jackie Shroff though overshadowed by Nana is a picture of perfection. He is a self-aware man. He loves his brother dearly and all that he does is just a means to bring his brother what he thinks he deserves. He committed his first crime when his brother asked him to do so and ever since he has been on the run. When he is questioned by his brother about his action, he breaks into a solemn cry that goes a long way to show us his tortured soul. He is aware of what he has done but he has done so for a reason. Hence when his brother’s safety and security is threatened, he goes out to do whatever he can to ensure his safety. Thus he turns out to be an able foe for Anna who is out to take Karan’s life.

Anil Kapoor is a happy go lucky guy who is bubbling with energy and is dreamy-eyed about marrying Madhuri Dixit’s Paro. When he meets Paro’s brother Prakash for the first time, he doesn’t forget to bring up the issue of marriage. After Prakash is killed in that very instance, he is under pressure not only to prove himself worthy of Paro’s love but also to get the weight of his friend’s death off his chest as in many ways he believes that he might have been the cause of his death in the first place. Throughout his essay, one can easily spot that desperation on his face and expressions. This is what makes Anil’s act that much more sensational. He first tries legal means to get even with Anna and then infiltrates his gang and dispatches the perpetrators one by one. The way in which his mannerisms change as he goes the gangster way is really interesting to watch.

Madhuri Dixit is the catalyst that contributes to the dynamics of the whole situation. If it was not for her, maybe Karan would not have gone the distance that he goes. She maintains a somber presence throughout and it is highly believable. The manner in which she toggles between “I trust you Karan” and “I hate you Karan, and I don’t want to have anything to do with you” is also interesting to watch and comes at the perfect timings. She sparks off a great chemistry with Anil Kapoor which lies at the heart of Anil’s character’s desperation to get back into her good books.

Suresh Oberoi, Shiv Kumar Subramaniam, and Kamal Chopra play the three henchmen of Anna who pack off Prakash. The three have three different character traits and are the most realistic of the baddies after Anna. I loved the way in which they are introduced. The way the three of them are shown laying waste to a goon for Anna warms us up for what is to come next. The three remain strictly in character and look and act the part to perfection. I particularly liked Suresh Oberoi’s part. His baritone adds to the charm of his villainous act.

Apart from the actors, Parinda is bolstered by some terrific execution. The film has a lot of slow-motion shots that are used aesthetically. They are used in key moments to accentuate the emotions. The slow-motion shot of Anupam Kher getting shot with pigeons flying in the background will remain forever etched in the memory of the viewers. The portion where Anil Kapoor bolts off his house to meet Prakash and Jackie Shroff knowing full well what he is getting into chases him in slow motion is another terrific technical move. The scene were Anil and Madhuri are shot by Nana will also send shivers down your spine.

The film’s cinematography is astounding. I had a feeling similar to that of watching Salaam Bombay as I was watching this film. It presents a gritty, dark and almost scary image of Bombay (now Mumbai). But in spite of all those features, the film still looks astoundingly well framed, perfectly mounted and fresh with superlative color aesthetics and range. The lighting is also spot on. As it has been mentioned time and again, the lighting of a shot can make or break the visual aspect of a film. The DOP here gets the tone and feel just right. The editing is top notch. My only issue with it was the fact that they reused particular shots innumerable number of times which could have been avoided. This is still a taut and gritty thriller that literally breezes past its runtime. The music by R.D. Burman is soothing. In a film so ripe with violence, the music always arrives as a breath of fresh air. The song “Tumse Milke” is my favorite and it is also the most popular among the songs from the film.

Parinda is a terrific gangster film that remains true to the Bollywood way of filmmaking but at the same time brings some Hollywood-ish grit and realism to its narrative. The kind of courage that Vidhu Vinod Chopra shows with his treatment of the subject deserves the highest respect and applause. It is also an extremely gripping and entertaining film which easily makes it an instant classic.

Rating : 4/5 ( 4 out of 5 Stars)

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