The film has several notable allusions to the Indian literature and cinema. Despite the pre-release inhibitions, it received critical acclaim. It won the Filmfare Awards apart from several prominent awards. The director went on to win the National Award for Best First Film. Parineeta was showcased at prominent international film festivals.
The story takes place in Kolkata. As the credits roll, scenes from erstwhile Calcutta are displayed along with the narrator's (Amitabh Bachchan) introduction of the era. The narration focuses on the night of the marriage of Shekhar and Gayatri Tantiya, a rich industrialist's daughter. The audience is introduced to Naveen Roy as Shekhar's father while we see Shekhar grooming himself for the occasion. While he is doing so, images of Lalita calling him by his name flash through his mind. Downstairs, musical celebrations begin as Shekhar meets Vasundhara, a widow from his neighbourhood, who is thankful to her son-in-law, Girish (Sanjay Dutt), for supporting their family after the death of her husband, Gurcharan. Lalita, who is present there, playfully confronts Shekhar as to why he is being indifferent to her. Shekhar admonishes her for speaking so in spite of being married.
An angry Shekhar comes back home to play a favourite tune from the past on his piano. The flashback shows a young Shekhar playing Rabindranath Tagore’s tune on his piano while young Lalita and Koel are around. Lalita, with her parents having died in a car accident, lives with Gurcharan’s family. Koel is her cousin whereas Charu is her neighbour. As this scene flashes across Shekhar’s mind, he sings a song full of sadness and loss. As time flies, they grow up to become close friends. The rebellious and musically inclined Shekhar spends his days playing the music of Rabindranath Tagore or Elvis Presley and composing his own songs with Lalita rather than becoming part of his shrewd father's business. Part of this rebellion involves resistance to meeting Gayatri Tantiya, the beautiful but devious daughter of a wealthy industrialist, whom his father would like Shekhar to marry. Meanwhile, Girish, a steel tycoon from London, makes a dramatic entry into Charu’s house. Girish seems smitten by Lalita while Koel is by Girish. Shekhar is visibly jealous of Lolita’s close friendship with Girish.
One day, a shocked Lalita, who is employed at the Roy’s office, remembers a hotel project from Gurcharan’s ancestral haveli (palatial house). On an earlier occasion, Gurcharan had borrowed money from Naveen Roy after putting his haveli on mortgage. She understands that if the money is not repaid in a few months, Naveen Roy would take over the property. She immediately thinks of asking Shekhar for monetary help. Unforeseen circumstances prevent this, and Girish, upon realising this, alleviates their problem by making Gurcharan his business partner. Gurcharan repays the debt and the turn of events prompts Shekhar to think why Lalita chose to ask Girish for money instead of him. On one auspicious night, Shekhar and Lalita exchange garlands and consummate their "marriage" unbeknownst to anyone else.
While Shekhar is off to Darjeeling on a business trip, Naveen Roy violently thunders at Lalita about the loss of his hotel project, embarrassing and humiliating her. Roy gets a wall built between his and Gurcharan’s house symbolising the end of their association. Gurcharan, unable to digest this, suffers a heart attack. Upon Shekhar’s return, Roy informs him of the ill-health of his mother and Gurcharan and viciously adds a note of Lalita and Girish’s marriage. Shekhar is disgusted to hear of the marriage and in his anger he scowls at Lalita, humiliating her like his father. Meanwhile, Girish assists Gurcharan's family and takes them to London for the heart treatment. Misunderstandings follow and upon the family’s return from London, Shekhar assumes that Girish and Lalita are married and agrees to marry Gayatri. The film returns to the night of Shekhar’s marriage when Girish hands him the ownership papers of Gurcharan’s haveli. He shocks Shekhar by telling him that he got married to Koel because Lalita denied his marriage proposal. As a conclusion, Shekhar confronts his father and symbolically breaks down the wall separating the two families. He then brings Lalita to his home as his bride much to the delight of his mother.
Main castVidya Balan as Lalita. A woman of dignity with unflinching love for Shekhar. A lovely singer, who resigned to the circumstances, upholding her respect when she faces insult.
Saif Ali Khan as Shekhar Roy. Shows a balance of love for Lalita and jealousy towards Girish. He is a passionate musician. Towards the end has utter hatred for himself for transforming into such a cold and bitter person.
Sanjay Dutt as Girish. Simple and straightforward character who plays Lalita's moral support with warmth and compassion.
Raima Sen as Koel. Lalita's playful, mischievous and cheerful cousin who's lively, peppy and lives through every moment.
Diya Mirza as Gayatri. Short but a devious character who longs for Shekhar with her charm and beauty.
Sabyasachi Chakrabarty as Naveen Roy. Cold at heart, a shrewd and a conniving businessman who even places human values and relationships below his greed for money.
Surinder Kaur as Rajeshwari. The mother of Shekhar who scornfully watches how badly her husband treats the neighbours and gets ill.
Tina Dutta as Teenage Lalita.
Supriya Shukla as Sunita.
Ninad Kamat as Ajit.
Rekha in a special appearance in song "Kaisi Paheli Zindagaani".
George Baker as Sir William Eckhart.
Before Parineeta, Pradeep Sarkar was a well-known personality in the area of advertisements. With 17 years in mainstream advertising and 7 years of advertisement film-making and commercial cinema, he completed about 1000 commercials and 15 music videos. Vidhu Vinod Chopra, the producer, took notice of his music videos and contacted Sarkar to direct some of the music videos of the film Mission Kashmir (2000). After carving a niche in filming music videos, Sarkar gave the thought of filming Parineeta to Chopra. There began the making of the film.
About the film's comparison with the novel, Chopra said in an interview that, as compared to its 1953 namesake film by Bimal Roy, the story was based in the year 1962. He said that it took them one and a half years to script the film, with them adding new characters and emphasising under-represented characters from the novel. In a separate interview, Chopra admitted that he was actively involved with the screenplay because the film was an adaptation of the novel. When speaking about cinematic adaptation, Chopra gave due credit to Sarkar, and Natarajan Subramaniam (the film's cinematographer), for providing the vintage visuals. Saif Ali Khan once said that the film was initially attempted to be made in a contemporary way. When the film's crew did not find the depiction appealing, the filming began with the 60s look.
Chopra once cited an interesting anecdote about his belief in Sarkar's film-making abilities. He said that he never personally signed the cheques for the film's expenditure. He transferred money into Sarkar's bank account and the cheques were eventually signed by Sarkar and his spouse.
Chopra said in an interview that Saif Ali Khan and Vidya Balan were not the first choices for the lead roles in Parineeta. In fact Abhishek Bachchan was being cast as Shekhar and Saif Ali Khan as Girish. However Abhishek walked out of the project and Saif readily was accepted as a replacement. This fact was corroborated by Saif in an interview when he said that even though Sarkar had faith in his abilities, Chopra was not too keen on having him.
The choice of Vidya Balan came with Sarkar's prior work experience with her in three music videos. Chopra said that Vidya was screen-tested for six months and only then they were sure of her acting abilities. Saif once said that he was not convinced of Vidya's abilities, since Parineeta was to be her first film. He instead hoped to work with established actresses like Aishwarya Rai or Rani Mukherjee. However, after seeing Vidya portray the character of Lalita, he was thoroughly appreciative of her performance. Getting an opportunity to debut with big names from the industry along with a lovely character to portray made Vidya accept the role of Lalita.
The choice of Sanjay Dutt was because of his versatility, said Chopra in an interview. He also said that the affable nature of Sanjay was a plus during film making.
Diya Mirza liked the script so well that she chose to play the role of the devious Gayatri in spite of it being a short role. Raima Sen had a similar story with her want to work with the duo of Chopra and Sarkar. The cameo of the veteran actress, Rekha was purely out of her interest in the song, "Kaisi Paheli Zindgani".
Filming and music
Since Sarkar knew the city of Kolkata very well, the film was primarily shot there. While most of the film was made in Kolkata, a small portion was shot in Darjeeling.
To re-create the 60s era, lot of efforts were made by the producers. For instance, Chopra said that it cost them money and difficulty to procure the green coloured car which was driven by Shekhar in the film. Chopra confirmed the authenticity of the piano used in the song "Piyu Bole", and of the toy train used in the song "Kasto Mazza". About the look of the characters, Mirza said that the 60s look was well captured by the make-up artist, Vidyadar. The song "Kaisi Paheli Zindagani" was based on the tune to Louis Armstrong's "A Kiss to Build a Dream on".
Critics had high expectations from Parineeta's music because of the award-winning music that was provided in some of Chopra's previous films, such as (1942: A Love Story (1993) and Mission Kashmir (2000)). Shantanu Moitra, Parineeta's music director composed hundreds of tunes before six of them got finalised after a year's effort. After finalising the soundtrack, Chopra was appreciative of the musician's abilities when he said that Moitra has the potential to become another R. D. Burman, a yesteryear Bollywood music director.
Cultural and cinematic allusions
Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, the author of Parineeta, was a contemporary of Rabindranath Tagore; both authors documented Bengali life and social issues at the turn of the century. The 2005 cinematic version of Parineeta pays homage to this relationship by referencing Satyajit Ray's film Charulata, which itself is based upon Tagore's noted novella, Nashtanir. Lalita (Parineeta) is dressed to resemble Nashtanir / Charulata 's Charu (Madhabi Mukherjee), particularly during the song "Soona Man Ka Aangan", which incorporates Tagore's song "Phoole Phoole Dhole Dhole." In both Parineeta and Charulata, "Phoole Phoole Dhole Dhole" is sung while Lalita and Charu are each on a swing. The film continues the above connection by placing Saif Ali Khan on the same train used in the film Aradhana which featured his mother, Sharmila Tagore.
This film was the third one to bear resemblance to the novella, the other two being its 1953 namesake film and the 1976 film, Sankoch.
Box-office and ratings
Parineeta notched up Rs. 506 million in India at the end of 2005. Its overseas success was notable as well with gross collections of Rs. 36 million in the United Kingdom, Rs. 35 million in North America, and Rs 15 million in the rest of the overseas.
Reviews, critiques and controversies
Before its release on 10 June 2005, one preview wondered how the film would fare at the box office. Citing comparisons with the 1953 version, the preview suggested that debutant director, Sarkar's inexperience in film-making, the probable inability of debutant actress, Balan to portray Lalita's character appropriately, suitable 1960s depiction by contemporary actors and musician, Shantanu Moitra's until then unimpressive soundtracks, could be impediments to a successful adaptation.
Post-release, the same critic said "Vidhu Vinod Chopra's "Parineeta" – a remake of an old classic of the same name...(had) the love story (which) was received well by the younger generation and it went on to become the biggest hit of the year." It was generally well-received by the critics, with one of them terming the film as "...a beautiful story, beautifully told. It approximates what most of us expect, and increasingly yearn for, in vain, our cinematic experience." A reviewer from About.com said that it is "contemporary retelling of...(an) engaging and timeless tale rich with human emotion and universal drama". The reviewer appreciates the film in most of the nuances of film making saying that this is "enhanced by a brilliant musical score, and accentuated by superb performances by Sanjay Dutt, Saif Ali Khan, Raima Sen, Diya Mirza and debutante Vidya Balan in the lead role of Lalita". 3000 copies of the novella were sold within weeks of the film's release, owing to the film's good reception.
Derek Elley from Variety said "A character-driven meller that's a treat for the eyes, with performances to match, "Parineeta" is high-end Bollywood near its best". He also says that, "though the climax is still emotionally powerful, it comes over as overcooked." A mixed review from Mid-Day says "Pradeep Sarkar weaves the story like magic, especially in the first half ... excelling in the detailing ... the vintage look of the film (that stood out) with authentic costumes, props and the roads of Kolkata". However, the review criticised the film's climax terming it as amateur, thereby diluting the whole film's impact. Another such review came from The Hindu which begins by saying "A simple enough story, but Sarkar tells it well, with some great shots of Shekhar and Lalita together." The review eventually says "Except for the end ... where it is too much to bear."
The issue of piracy cropped up when a news article published in The Indian Express exposed the dark side of the film market. Hardly into weeks of the film's release, CDs were being sold at as low as Rs. 40. Another blemish was that Soumitra Dasgupta, a writer and close associate of Sarkar alleged that the film's story had a striking resemblance to his parallel work on the novella.
In 2005, Parineeta's cast got a red carpet walk when it was the "World Premiere Film" at the International Indian Film Awards (IIFA) weekend in Amsterdam. Owing to this European premiere, Sarkar said that the film had a great opening in the American and English box-offices. The film was on the UK Top Ten films for four consecutive weeks.
The film was chosen among 15 debut works for the 2006 Berlin Film Festival. It received enthusiastic reception from the audience as it ran to packed houses to the Chopra's surprise. Expecting an audience of about 100 Westerners, a critic visiting the festival was surprised to see the cinema hall full and people jostling for seats even on the steps.
At the 24th Annual Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival held in April 2006, Parineeta was the only Indian mainstream cinema to feature among 135 films from 40 countries.
In 2006, the film featured in the Palm Springs International Film Festival, 24th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, Helsinki Film Festival and the International Film Festival of Marrakech.
Apart from winning the National Award for the Best First Film Director, Parineeta won five Filmfare Awards. Best Art Direction to Keshto Mondal, Tanushree Sarkar and Pradeep Sarkar, Best Choreography to Howard Rosemayer, Best Debut to Vidya Balan, RD Burman Award to Shantanu Moitra and Best Sound Recording to Bishwadeep Chatterjee. It was also nominated for an additional nine awards, for the categories Best Film and Best Director, three for actors portraying Lalita, Shekhar and Girish and four nominations for the soundtrack.
The film also won a prominent awards in the form of two Star Screen Awards, three Zee Cine Awards among a notable awards. Apart from these, the film was nominated for an eclectic mix of awards.
2006 Filmfare AwardsBest Debut (Female) – Vidya Balan
Best Choreography – Howard Rosemeyer
Best Sound – Bishwadeep Chatterjee
Best Art Director – Pradeep Sarkar, Tanushree Sarkar
R D Burman Award – Shantanu Moitra
2006 Zee Cine AwardsBest Dialogue – Rekha Nigam, Vidhu Vinod Chopra
Best Costume Design – Subarna Ray Chadhuri
2006 Screen AwardsBest Playback Singer (Female) – Shreya Ghosal
Best Debut (Female) – Vidya Balan
2006 IIFA AwardsBest Screenplay – Vidhu Vinod Chopra & Pradeep Sarkar
Best Art Direction – Pradeep Sarkar, Tanushree Sarkar
Best Sound Recording – Bishwadeep Chatterjee
Best Costume Designing – Subarna Ray Chadhuri
Best Makeup – Vidyadhar Bhatte
The first version of the DVD version of Parineeta was released by UTV Motion Pictures on 30 October 2006. It has subtitle options in English, Arabic, Spanish, German, Italian, Malay, and French. An additional disc includes interviews with the actors and a behind the scenes look at the making of the film. It is available in 16:9 Anamorphic widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, progressive 24 FPS, widescreen and NTSC format.
The soundtrack to Parineeta was released by Tips Music in April 2005 to positive reviews.