Parwana (Jyoti Swaroop, 1971)
Allegedly based on an actual incident that ACTUALLY DID force the Indian Railway to alter their schedule, Parwana is a stylish, entertaining, engrossing and clever crime thriller, with the added fascination of a youthful, pre-superstardom Amitabh Bachchan taking on a rare negative role (I think the gap between this and his next villain in Aankhen is something like 30 years).
The set-up is this: Kumar Sen (Amitabh Bachchan), an artist, is in love with Asha (Yogeeta Bali), and expects to marry her, believing that Asha's uncle Ashok Varma (Om Prakash) has guaranteed to arrange their match. So he is shocked to discover that Asha is in love with Rajesh (Navin Nischol), a man she met while on a dance trip, and that Ashok Varma has agreed to let Asha and Rajesh wed.
Kumar doesn't do unrequited love very well – he goes all broody possessive emo on it, and in fact Kumar refuses to accept that Asha will never be his. He visits Ashok, trying to get him to change his mind and get Rajesh out of the picture, but Ashok just wants Asha to be happy. Kumar and Ashok fight, and Kumar leaves on a train bound for Calcutta to be alone with his jealousy, leaving Ashok Varma ALIVE AND KICKING.
But the next day Ashok Varma is found murdered in his home, and Rajesh is arrested – he finds the body and claims he was alerted by a phonecall from the absent Kumar. But HOW COULD THAT BE? Kumar was on a train at the time of the murder, and couldn't have called Rajesh? That troubling inconsistency, and the discovery of an incriminating letter from Ashok Varma, stating that Rajesh isn't good enough to marry Asha, make Rajesh TOTALLY SUSPECT #1 in the police's eyes. He proclaims his innocence, but how can Rajesh prove it was Kumar, when Kumar was 4 hours away on a train to Calcutta at the time of the murder?
THEREIN LIES THE COMPELLING MYSTERY AT THE HEART OF PARWANA!
Parwana means ''moth''. The film gets its title from a line in which Kumar Sen (Amitabh Bachchan) likens his obsessive attraction for Asha (Yogeeta Bali) to a moth, drawn fatally towards a flame.
It's actually a shame that Big B didn't get the opportunity to do more meaty, negative roles like this one, because he is awesome at it (though I guess his Angry Young Man thing kind of employs some of the same schtick) – the brooding, inner turmoil, bubbling up and barely contained; he's on a slow burn for much of the film and then BOOM out it comes.
Also: look how handsome! Near the start of the film, especially in the 'funny disguise' song, he reminded me SO MUCH of Abhishek. The resemblance, down to mannerisms, is so strong sometimes.
Bonus post-interval awesomeness: the prosecutor is played by none other than
There's something weird going on with Shatru, in that he's not wearing pink, orange, pink AND orange, paisley, lurid multicolour patterns, a giant tie, enormous sunglasses or all of the above PLUS massive bellbottoms. Also he is not carrying a gun or a walking stick. Nor is he wearing any ridiculous jewels.
In fact, as a respectable man of justice, he's initially devoid of his usual swagger and peacocking. All he has are these:
GIANT GLASSES. Naturally, Shotgun can rock them. And it's not long before his natural swagger starts peeking through:
The whole reason I watched this film in the first place is because it partly inspired and is referenced throughout Johnny Gaddar, a film that I utterly LOVED (and one I will have to rewatch now I have seen the 'source' material). It's so obvious now just how much JG owes to this classic – in terms of plot but also in terms of sheer atmospheric style.
This is definitely a classic, underappreciated gem that is worth a watch - not JUST for Big B, but because it's a well-crafted, ingenious mystery thriller.