Saturday 19 May 2007

Parvarish (1977)

Mainstream Bollywood always surprises us. Just when we think we have it pegged, it turns around and kicks us in the butt, saying, "Shut up, PPCC."

People all over the world, join hands! Start a love train! Love train!

As unenlightened and regressive as the shiny, new Devdas was, it's ironic that we should find something quirky and forward-looking from way back in 1977. But apparently 1977 was a good year: Amitabh Bachchan was on top of his very tall, gangly game, and Star Wars had just been released. Parvarish was also released, a crazy double-triple-identity cops 'n robbers comedy that shouts from the hilltops, "Girl power!"

It's also clearly the inspiration for all of the jokes in Austin Powers.

If you're familiar with 1970s Bollywood, you'll be familiar with several plot points. There are two brothers - one is good, one is bad. One is also the adopted son (Amitabh Bachchan) of a bandit (Amjan Khan), and the other one is the natural son (Vinod Khanna) of the police officer (Shammi Kapoor). Obviously, the sons grow up to switch roles: with the bandit-son becoming a policeman like his adopted father, and the policeman-son becoming a criminal. They both have pickpocket girlfriends (Shabana Azmi, Neetu Singh), ironically sisters who sing and dance and prosletyze a form of hilarious anarcho-communism where what's yours is mine and what's mine is also mine. The two sons don't realize they're fighting each other, but eventually they do and things are tense (fistfights ensue), but then everyone is reconciled in the end (even the bandit) into one big, happy family. Naturally, we end with a Punjabi wedding. On the way, there are several musical interjections, as well as chase scenes, back flips, hashish stuffed into a teddy bear, and a toy submarine that keeps blowing holes.

But first, the STARS!

Amitabh Bachchan as GOOD COP!

Vinod Khanna as CRIMINAL BRO! (I kill you with this plastic pineapple!)



Shammi Kapoor and Indrani Mukherjee as PROUD PARENTS!

Amjad Khan as DR. EVIL, featuring THE GO-GO DANCERS!

...with a special guest appearance by SUPREMO. (yes, that's really his name)

Unlike Kasme Vaade, this didn't touch our heart in a special way. This was just silly, silly fluff. It's also not like Don, which managed to combine all the trappings of the hilarious cops 'n robbers double identity genre with big heart as well. But that's fine. Fluff is good. And it's almost proto-feminist, which is kinda awesome in it's own right.

Oh, the joys of being a free woman!

We say it's proto-feminist because the two pickpocket sisters are by far the most assertive, empowered, awesome ladies we have seen in a Bollywood movie. No coy batting of the eyelashes for them, no sir, these two rock out on the streets of Mumbai to slip the watches off of unsuspecting businessmen's wrists. And THEY ask the respective brothers out, and THEY propose marriage to the brothers' parents, and basically they just save the day while Amitabh and his bro look on in slack-jawed silence.

This is such a relief after the pain of Devdas, where the women were basically tearful,100% passive non-entities.

The girls beat us. Again.

One of the best songs in the film is when the sisters don't quite garner the passionate reactions they were expecting from their respective boyfriends after the marriage proposal, and so they go to a bridge and threaten suicide. The brothers ride in on motorcycles, singing for them to stop, and then, as soon as the girls step into their arms, the brothers begin to tease them, inviting them to, "Jump! Jump!" instead. The song then continues from various suicide attempt to suicide attempt, with the brothers always riding their motorcycles close behind. Our favorite bit was on the train tracks: "The train doesn't come for two hours. Oh, we may as well go./No, no, it's a nice day, why not stay a while?"

Watch for yourself:

Dance for me! Dance, dance!

But there really is too much in this film to mention. We laughed and laughed, it really must be seen. Why isn't Shah Rukh Khan making stuff like this?

Here's another song, where good cop Amitabh is pretending blindness to catch his criminal brother in the act. Criminal brother, meanwhile, is trying pass off plastic rhinestones as diamonds.

Wet Amitabh? Yes, please.

Oh yeah, and there's a bit where Amitabh wears a funny disguise and sings a kinky song with his girlfriend while still wearing it.

He's at the Holiday Inn, passing himself off as a tourist. This is so awesome.

Regarding Shabana Azmi's presence: we always feel a little strange when our Parallel Cinema heroes feature in Mainstream Bollywood flicks. While Naseer has shown he can shake his booty with the best of 'em, he's always been a bit resigned to the role of the dopey guy when it comes to outrageously Bollywood song-and-dance scenes. Smita Patil has fared a bit better, but we'll admit it's just weird seeing her spin around with Amitabh Bachchan, who we always suspect as not actually being real. It's a bit like if we were suddenly pulled by a superstar into the woods. We'd look a bit mystified and out of place. Can we get back to our hyperrealism bubble, please?