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Director :

Music :
Starring :
 Dr Chandraprakash Dwivedi
 Uttam Singh
 Urmila Matondkar, Priyanshu Chatterjee, Manoj Bajpai, Isha Kopikar, Sanjay Suri, Sandali Sinha

By Kshama Rao

Director Dr Chandraprakash Dwivedi's debut directorial venture, Pinjar, based on Amrita Pritam's novel by the same name on the Partition was an eagerly awaited film for two reasons. One, it was coming from a maker who was known to make programmes that stood the test of time in terms of both quality and performances and two because the film had Urmila Matondkar shed her urban, modern image for a period look.

Having seen Pinjar, while Urmila completely bowls you over with her portrayal of the delicately nuanced but complex role of Puro, the film as a whole doesn't leave you moved enough. And this, despite the subject of the Partition, which still evokes nightmares for most, even today. Pinjar could have probably worked better as a five-part series or some such on television, like say a Tamas but as a film it only intermittently moves you, touches you.

It's the year of 1946. Puro (Urmila) leads a very carefree, sheltered life with her parents (Kulbhushan Kharbhanda and Lillete Dubey), brother Trilok (Priyanshu Chatterjee) and two sisters (Ishaa Koppikar plays one of them, Rajjo). The parents are all set to marry Puro off to Ramchand (Sanjay Suri) who she's caught a glimpse of while he's not even seen her. Ramchand's sister Lajo (Sandali Sinha) has been promised in marriage with Trilok. Everything seems perfect till one evening Puro is kidnapped by Rashid (Manoj Bajpai). Puro's family is grief stricken but they neither bother to lodge a police complaint nor look for her. We are told that when a girl is kidnapped mysteriously from a house, she's as good as dead for the family. The audience is left uncomfortable for a couple of reels as the reason why Puro's kidnapped is not clearly known. Till an exhausted Puro demands to know from Rashid about the real reason. We are then told that the two families - his and hers - have been rivals for some years now. Her grandfather had got one of his aunts kidnapped and kept her at their house for three successive nights, while his grandfather, father and uncles pledged revenge. It was a done thing and so it was now Puro's turn to face the consequences of her ancestors' misdeeds. In the meanwhile, Puro's parents decide to get their younger daughter Rajjo married off to Ramchand as since the marriage was fixed, the commitment had to be honoured. But Ramchand refuses to marry Rajjo and instead suggests his cousin brother get married to her. The honour of both the families is thus intact while Trilok and Lajjo get married.

One night Puro decides to run away and reaches her parents' house but they refuse to take her back. They ask her to leave saying this is the least she could do for her parents who brought her into this world. Puro returns to Rashid who's so smitten by her that he decides to marry her!

Life goes on for everybody except Trilok who wants to search his lost sister and Ramchand who true to his name decides to wait for his Janki. Months pass and the Hindu-Muslim unrest grows with each passing day. The possibility of a divided nation looms large. Puro has now been rechristened Hamida who harbours only resentment for her tormentor. So much so that she even undergoes a miscarriage.
One day Trilok finds out about a certain Rashid who had left their village under some mysterious circumstances. He decides to punish his sister's culprit by setting his fields on fire. Meanwhile, the Partition takes place and thousands of Hindu and Muslim families are displaced overnight, riots break out, girls are kidnapped and raped while men are brutally killed. Ramchand's family is also forced to leave the place when in the ensuing melee Lajjo, who was down with her parents is kidnapped by a Muslim man. When Puro gets to know this through Ramchand who has been forced to seek refuge in the nearby village, she decides to search for her sister in law with Rashid's help. After some attempts, she manages to not only rescue Lajjo but also hand her over safely to her brother.

Pinjar is a story of a woman's grit and courage, her determination to rise above all odds. It's about Puro, her selflessness, and her ability to keep aside her own personal grief and strive for the happiness of the others of her ilk. On those counts, Pinjar is heartwrenching but before the film reaches that stage which is well after interval, the viewer is left unmoved. There are many things in the film, which the director leaves unexplained and that's a point where the film could lose the youth, which is not very familiar with things that happened in those times. For instance, why was it that in those times girls were kidnapped and then not even accepted by their own families? Also, strangely enough on one hand we have Puro's parents who bend over backwards to honour their family name, while on the other hand, there's Ramchand and his parents who are progressive enough to understand the predicament of Puro's family. Also, while the film is set in the pre-Independence period, the political unrest is only reflected in some stray riot scenes and casual references to Bapuji. One just doesn't feel that one's watching a film set in 1946!

Also, the director could have portrayed the bond between Trilok and Puro much better. On the plus sides are the performances - Sandali Sinha, Lillete Dubey, Priyanshu Chatterjee and Sanjay Suri play their parts well. Manoj Bajpai as Rashid is simply super. Lust, love, anger, rejection, sorrow, repentance, selflessness - he portrays a gamut of feelings. And, of course, Urmila as Puro. While in a few scenes she chokes on her lines, she's restrained in her body language and facial expressions. Note especially the scenes when her parents refuse to accept her back or even when Rashid has her arm pierced with a new name 'Hamida'. Urmila is truly amazing as Puro.

The music (Uttam Singh), the painstaking research (Muneesh Sappel) that has gone into the costumes and set designs (though the starched turbans, ethnic clothes and scrubbed brass vessels look too perfect at times!) is remarkable. Last but not the least, Dr Dwivedi almost had a winner on hand if he had not taken too long to build up the drama. In any case, Pinjar is a must-see if not for anything else than for some lessons in keeping up the human spirit.

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More about Pinjar
- Wallpapers
- Music Review
- Interview: Urmila Matondkar
- Interview: Dr Chandraprakash Dwivedi
- Official Website