Rarely does a remake happen to be as good as the original, especially if it has journeyed across cultures and contexts. Gulzar’s Parichay — a remake of the 1965 Hollywood movie Sound Of Music — proves to be an exception to this rule.
It was one of the films that I had watched and enjoyed as a child, being introduced to it as a ‘children’s movie’ by my mother. On the surface, it is just a ‘feel-good’ film that can be seen with one’s family. Narrated simply, it is about a group of naughty children and their rebellious elder sister Rama, driving away all their teachers with their pranks, much to the chagrin of their guardian grandfather (Rai sahab), who shelters the kids after his son dies.
There is no love lost between the grandfather and the children, as all of them are living with the ghosts of the past in which Rai sahab’s son had rebelled and left the house forever after he refused to accept him for marrying without permission. Enter the idealistic teacher Ravi, and all the children get reconnected with their grandfather, in the ‘happily-ever-after ending’.
Scratch the surface, and you will find a story, spread out like poetry — of little things, of fathers and sons, loving daughters, innocence and children’s laughter, and blossoming love between two beautiful individuals. This piece is an ode to the poetry that played in one’s heart for many, many years — and continues to do so even today.
“Musafir hoon yaaron, na ghar hai na thikana,
(I am a vagabond, without a house, without attachments)
Mujhe chalte jana hai, bas chalte jana hai”
(I’ll keep wandering, just keep wandering)
Ravi sings along as he embarks on the impossible mission of tutoring the infamous errant children in the badi haveli. He comes from a humble family and has to make his own living to complete his further studies. His background, clothes, songs, and values, everything stands for the ‘revolution against the establishment’ that so characterised the Bollywood of 1970s.
His revolution is much calmer though. Instead of standing up and bashing the capitalists of the 70s, as his namesake ‘Amitabh Bachan’ does, Ravi slowly breaks the culture of silence and discipline of the big house and pulls the children out, literally, from their mundane routine of studies and no play.
Ravi fills the spawning distance between two disparate generations created by ego and a series of assumptions. He understands that after all, children are just children and all they need is a bit of love and sunshine. He understands that Rama is also a child, who hasn’t stopped grieving over her lost parents, and yet, is trying to live up to their expectations and look after her younger siblings.
“Sa re ke saare, ga ma ko le kar
(Everyone took along ga ma)
(and went along, singing)
Papa nahi hai, dhani si didi,
(Papa is not here, but we have a sister)
Didi ke sath hai sa re”
(Everyone is with the sister)
Ravi sings for Rama, and all the children join in the chorus, For them, she means the whole world.
As the film progresses, slowly but surely, the pain of losing her loved ones that was deep buried in her heart starts healing. Her misconstrued sense of indignity in ‘living off’ at someone else’s mercy is shed when Ravi insists that she sees truth without bias — that it was only late communication that prevented Rai sahab from reaching out to them even before their father died.
She is finally able to do what both her father and grandfather had both failed to do — forgive. The ice breaks and Rai sahab starts warming up to the children, so much so that in the end, he pushes Rama to unite with Ravi, reversing an action of his in the past when he had disproved his son’s decision to marry for love.
Parichay is one of my favourite films for many reasons, but mainly, because it invokes the kindest and gentlest emotions in me. Through Ravi and in the simple way he is able to resolve the tension in the family, I am reminded how one must win hearts before minds. Through Rama and her reconciliation with her grandfather, I am reminded of not laying down judgement until you know all the facts and, more importantly, I am reminded of reaching out and letting go before it is too late.
Through Rama’s grandfather (Pran, in his biggest and grandest departure from his archetypal Bollywood villain role), I am reminded that caring is not enough if we are not able to show it. I learned that while raising children, rules can wait, but playing, singing and dancing cannot.
The beauty of the film also lies in the fact that Ravi is only shown as a catalyst who brings the much-needed change in relationships of all others. He is not your glorified ‘hero’ who can claim sole credit. In one of the scenes where Rai sahab thanks Ravi for “introducing him to his children” Ravi says, “This would have happened sooner or later even without me being there. You have so much affection for them in you, that however tightly you shut your fist, the fragrance of love would have escaped.”
Finally, the film features the song, which for me is a timeless, most beautiful expression of love and longing, indeed a gift like many others, by our beloved Gulzar:
“Beeti na bitai raina, birha ki jaai raina
(It’s hard to spend the night)
Bheegi hui ankhiyon ne lakh bujhai raina”
(My wet eyes tried a lot to end this night)
It overwhelms me to think how much a two-and-half-hour movie could do, for, that could last a lifetime!