Lafangey Parindey (Pradeep Sarkar, 2010)
When the trailer for Lafangey Parindey first appeared, a ripple of…gleeful awe swept across a little pocket of the internet. The overwhelming general opinion seemed to be that Aditya Chopra (the guy in charge of Yash Raj Films now) had pretty much lost his mind. For those not in the know, Yash Raj Films have a pretty enduring reputation as purveyors of a certain kind of film: melodramatic, mushy romances, dependent on the forces of fate to bring lovers together against all odds (for example: uncooperative, stubbornly traditional parents). The usual tropes associated with a Yash Raj romance are things like lovers running through flowery fields, chasing after trains or frolicking clad in pastel jumpers and chiffon saris somewhere in the Swiss Alps, a la DDLJ (the uber Yash Raj romance):
Lafangey Parindey, with pretty boy Neil Nitin Mukesh dripping copious amounts of blood, its niftily choreographed motorcycle stunts, a gritty, rock-influenced soundtrack and errrr, a blind rollerskating heroine, seemed a little…outside the box.
But the biggest surprise of all is that while it isn’t quite the mushy romantic fare that has overwhelmingly come to dominate Yash Raj’s productions, nor is it the pulpy cartoony, purposely over-the-top violent crack-o-rama (the Hindi equivalent of a B-movie a la Robert Rodriguez is what I was anticipating) that the trailer and the simplified plot summary would have you believe.
A blind rollerskater, with the awesome alliterative moniker Pinky Palkar (played by Deepika Padukone), dreams of winning India’s Got Talent as her ticket out of her stifling lower-class Mumbai neighbourhood. One fateful evening, Pinky’s path collides with that of an improbably pretty wannabe goonda whose ability to win illegal boxing matches, blindfolded, with just one punch, earns him an income, respect, and the nickname “One Shot” Nandu (Neil Nitin Mukesh). And both their lives change. Forever.
What I love, SO MUCH, about Lafangey Parindey, is that although it uses the eternal Bollywood motif of a timely twist of FATE/KISMET/DESTINY to thrust One Shot and Pinky into each other’s lives, it’s not really about fate at all. It’s about how making choices shapes your future, and how our lives are what we make them. We can drift along, accepting the hand ‘fate’ has dealt us, like One Shot initially does – stagnating in his petty goonda lifestyle, even his mentor Anna (Kay Kay Menon) can see that One Shot could make a better life for himself if he gave up the illegal boxing and took a legitimate job as a bouncer in a club (and Anna tries to help him, to no avail. Because One Shot has to realise for himself that he is a lover, not a fighter…awwww….); or we can forge our own paths and determine how our own futures will look. Pinky Palkar has a goal – to dance/rollerskate on India’s Got Talent – and she is determined enough that not even sudden blindness will deter her from at least TRYING to achieve what has always been her dream.
Along the way, the film transforms into a sweet, tender, quiet love story about two people changing their own destinies.
Another reason I love this film is possibly the very reason many people hate it: the two lead actors. The casting of the exquisitely pretty Neil Nitin Mukesh and the stunning Deepika Padukone as lower class Mumbaikers has been widely criticised – they look and sound out of place in the tapori setting. I’d argue that this is entirely the point.
There is a vague surreality, a fairytale –like quality to Lafangey Parindey. From the opening slo-mo shot of a single exquisitely formed drop of blood falling from One Shot Nandu’s nose, to the closing scene where the cops who have been pursuing One Shot throughout the film remark as he and Pinky walk away “So, this is a love story”, to the endless film references that pervade the media-saturated universe the characters inhabit, everything in the film has a kind of hyperreal edge. That Deepika and Neil seem not to belong entirely to their grungy setting is important. These characters are partly drawn to each other because they don’t entirely fit in, they are outsiders searching for something more than what ‘fate’ has dealt them, who ultimately find ‘home’ in each other.
It’s not at all a crack fest of “see how hilarious it is to see a blind girl rollerskate”, and if that’s what you want from this film, you really will be sorely disappointed. Lafangey Parindey is actually a Yash Raj romance through and through, if an unconventional take on the product - a tender, touching love story about two people who inspire each other to take control of their fate, rather than succumb to it.