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Aparna Sen’s Parama (1984), a.k.a. Paroma, is a brilliant piece of Indian Art House Cinema. A story of a woman, who’s lived the first 40 years of her life, belonging to others; and at the age of 40, finally finds herself. At 40, she finds her own true identity; as Parama. Not the daughter-in-law, Parama!! Not the wife, Parama!! Not the mother, Parama!! Not the housewife, Parama!! BUT, the individual, Parama!! Through a passionate extramarital affair, with a young man, she learns to live, for herself, and not others.

Bollywood superstar, of the 70’s & 80’s, actress Rakhee, plays the lead titular character, in this Art Film from the state of West Bengal; of which I watched the Hindi language version. I’m not sure, as to whether the movie was made in Bengali, and Hindi, simultaneously; or whether it was made in Bengali, and dubbed into Hindi. But if it were dubbed into Hindi; it’s a damn good dubbing; for the lip movements are well in sync with the Hindi dialogues. Of course, this is not a Bollywood film. Bollywood films, represent the Bombay (now know as, Mumbai) Film Industry; based in the capital city, of the state of Maharashtra. Plus, Bollywood films, are mostly of the commercial genre, made mostly in the Hindi language. There are rare few Art Films in Bollywood, and even rarer films made in English as well. Parama is a movie from the Indian state of West Bengal. Films made in Bengal generally tend to be Art House Films, and Parama is an art film, made by one of the most prolific Indian directors ever; Aparna Sen. She, has made films (and acted) in, the English language, the national language of India (i.e. Hindi), as well as in her mother tongue (from her state), Bengali. Director, Aparna Sen plays a supporting role as Parama’s closest ally and confidant; her best friend and an intellectual, in Parama.

Rakhee looks bewitchingly beautiful, with her Parveen Babi bangs, and long luscious hair hanging loose.

Rakhee looks bewitchingly beautiful, with her Parveen Babi bangs, and long luscious hair, hanging loose.

Parama depicts, the life of many a married Indian women, living within an archaic patriarchal society, where the woman’s place is at home; a subject matter that is relevant even today. And of course, these women, too, are content, with their lives, taking care of household chores, and playing second fiddle to their husbands, and the husband’s family. Not all Indian women tend to underestimate themselves, definitely not the modern thinkers and feminists, especially from the 1970’s onwards. But majority of Indian society, thrives on such blind traditions; that any deviations are looked as the work of the devil. Most women, are not meant to have an individuality, and aren’t allowed to think for themselves. Thus, most women do subject themselves, to a routine life, on what they have been prepared for since birth; i.e. taking care of the needs of one’s husband, and his family. Modern, intellectual women, who move out of their comfort zones, is a rarity in India. But it does exist, especially in cities like New Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata. Yet, India is a massive country, with an equally massive population; where it’s not easy to educate and modernise an entire nation. And being a largely poor country, with majority of Mother India, suffering for hunger; it’s hard to eradicate poverty on it’s entirety, as well. But many a NGO’s, other charitable organisations, et al; do try their best. And the improvement, of even a small percentage of society; is proof of it. If India was a tiny island, with a considerably less of a population crisis; no doubt it would have been a rare first world nation, floating in the Indian ocean. With their progress, in aesthetics, economy, culture; if there wasn’t so much poverty, and land mass to cover; they’d be one of the most popular places on earth, as opposed to the notoriety, they’ve been associated with; especially when comes to the treatment of women, and poverty.
Août 16' 012Parama (Rakhee) is one such housewife, living in a well to do household, who is content with her routine life, obligations and limitations. We find out, from her group of intellectual modern female friends, who’ve all climbed up the ladder, that Parama, was a Sitar player, with great potential; but had to give it all up when she got married, and immersed herself into, so called marital duties. When she married, she married his entire family. In fact she hasn’t even studied further, not done a degree, a vocational course, nothing. So scope for her to have a life for the self, seems limited. Then one day, a famous young Indian photographer, Rahul (Mukul Sharma), based in New York, USA; visits Calcutta (the capital of the state of West Bengal, which today is known as, Kolkata, where this movie is set). Rahul comes to do a photo essay, for a prestigious, American magazine, on Indian housewives, focusing on one individual. He sees Parama, and is infatuated by her grace and beauty, he chooses her on the spot. She refuses; but her husband’s family pushes her to do so; along with her trio of teenaged kids. On the first day of the shoot, Rahul just asks her one question, “What do you think, Paroma?”, he wants to know what makes her click! And he clicks, with his camera, as she starts to unravel her brain, which she seems to have shut off, entirely, post marriage.

Rakhee as Parama (a.k.a. Paroma)

Rakhee as Parama (a.k.a. Paroma)

Soon Rahul and Parama, fall into each others arms, in a sexual affair, of love and lust. Her husband’s family never suspects. Them not suspecting, is less to do with their trust towards her, but more to do with them taking her for granted. They never feel she is capable of any feelings, or any human emotions, outside, her robotic household duties. Once Rahul leaves, for an assignment, the lovers secretly exchange love letters; a kind of romance she obviously never had before; and probably she was married off, through an arranged marriage, by the elders; and wasn’t her decision in the first place. It’s with Rahul, Parama first discovers true happiness.

Unfortunately, it’s found out, that she secretly posed for a sexy photo shoot, for her lover, Rahul. Meanwhile, with no news of the whereabouts of the photographer, all hell breaks loose. She is discarded by her husband’s family. Even her two elder children, refuse to accept her. Only the youngest child, still in his preteens/entering his teens, seems to still feel affection towards his mother. We wonder, what happened to Rahul?? Did he con her?? Is he dead?? Or captured?? He’s just vanished from her life, all of a sudden.

The sexy photograph, that results in Parama being disgraced by the family.

The sexy photograph, that results in Parama being disgraced by the family.

The movie is sympathetic towards the wife, even though she has an extramarital affair. And explores, the double standards, in Indian society. Men are accepted, being immoral (for we see the husband’s eyes stray towards other women as well), but a woman, if not morally superior; she is cast out, looked down on, and degraded. She might have made a mistake, but she learned from it. She ultimately opens her eyes, and we realise, she doesn’t need the support of a man, and marriage, to have a fulfilling life. Only her teenage daughter seems to understand.

This is an excellent movie, by Aparna Sen. I highly recommend it. From the narrative, to the set décor, to the brilliant cinematography; this is one of the greatest films ever made. Watch out for the close-ups on Parama, exposing her vulnerability, her simplicity, her metamorphosis from a common housewife to an individual who can think for herself. Plus, see the silent role, played by a common looking potted plant, Parama’s very unique beloved plant; the significance of which, sways through nostalgia into her being able to free herself from societal chains forced on her. Remembering the name of the plant finally, and zooming out of the window. We know she’s a new woman. A woman of today, who’s not afraid of anything, anymore.

Rakhee & the Euphorbia Cotinifolia, in a scene from Parama (1984)

Rakhee & the Euphorbia Cotinifolia, in a scene from Parama (1984)

Parama (1984), a.k.a. Paroma, is a must watch, for any film buff. I watched this movie, online, on Youtube, on Wednesday, 10th of August, 2016!!

My Rating: Pure Excellence!! 10/10!!!!!      

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

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