Jeetendra, Jaya Bhaduri, Pran, Sanjeev Kumar
From dancing amidst the cryptic presence of pots in “Naino mein sapna” to turning badminton into a game of courtship in “Dhal gaya din”, Jeetendra has done it all. But people who have seen “Parichay” may find it in their hearts to forgive him. Far from the kitschy, jumpy image that he made his own, Jeetendra turns in a quiet performance as a private tutor with a loud “second track” inside his head.
Gulzar’s film is based on the Bengali novel “Rangeen Uttarain” by Raj Kumar Maitra, and also draws from the classic “The Sound of Music”. Incidentally, a similar film was released in Bengali the previous year, called “Jay Jayanti”. Having seen all three is the stuff that film boasts are made of.
Jeetendra’s character Ravi is a city dweller unable to pay rent. In desperate need of a job, he leaves for the village of his maternal uncle and aunt, played by A.K. Hangal and Leela Mishra. An appointment is set up with the pipe smoking Rai Sahab, a retired colonel with a colonial hangover, played by Pran. He is a stickler for discipline but equally desperate to hire a tutor.
After the death of his estranged son, played by Sanjeev Kumar, and daughter-in-law, the responsibility of raising their five children falls on him. But the kids, led by Jaya Bhaduri’s Rama hold him responsible for their father’s death. They are foul-mouthed and stubborn in their refusal to be schooled, deflecting all their tutors with a great deal of cunning. The film opens with Keshto Mukherjee, their comically strict tutor, being driven away with a ghostly make-believe.
Into this situation steps Ravi, and after the initial hostilities, he manages to win over the children (and eventually Rai Sahab too). He does so by shunning the cane stick in the classroom in favour of a more humane way of teaching hitherto unknown to the children. He also brings in a carom board, takes the children out for picnic, and, in what constitutes the biggest affront to Rai Sahab’s authority, reintroduces music in the house.
Music is the source of friction between Sanjeev Kumar and Pran, who sees his son’s dedication to a career in music as an ignoble pursuit. Since his son’s departure, the servant Narayan, played by Asrani, tells us, music had not been heard in the house, and instructs Ravi to go the ‘jungle’ outside if he ever wants to sing.
With music being so intrinsic to the plot, the soundtrack had to keep step. R.D. Burman’s soundtrack, although meagre in number, is as rich as in “Hum Kisi Se Kum Nahin”. It comprises “Musafir hoon yaaron”, that anthem of footloose youth, a fixture in any 70s or Kishore Kumar mixtapes. But lyrically and vocally, it is probably surpassed by “Biti na bitayi raina”, which brought Lata Mangeshkar a National Award. Also in the soundtrack are the less remembered semi-classical “Mitva bole meethe bain”, and “Sa re ke sa re”.
The song is structured as a lesson, but not in the harsh, catechistic manner in which Keshto Mukherjee would have imparted it. It is reminiscent not just of “Do Re Mi”, but William Blake’s songs of innocence as well. Indeed, it was the Romantics, chiefly Blake and Wordsworth, who changed the way we view children who, John Calvin onwards, had been viewed through the lens of ‘original sin’, as repositories of evil. One hears echoes of that in Parichay, through Ravi Sahab and his sister’s constant association of the children with evil. Gulzar, like the Romantics, is militating against a particular way of viewing children, and celebrating it with all its frailties.
And although he hasn’t addressed childhood directly in any of his other directed films, it is often on his mind when he writes lyrics. “Lakdi ki kathi” and “Dil to bachcha hai ji” are cases in point. Even the phrase “Dhan te nan” from the popular song in “Kaminey”, it has been said, was born out of the sound one makes, often unconsciously, while narrating bedtime stories.
Far from the kitschy, jumpy image that he made his own, Jeetendra turns in a quiet performance as a private tutor.