Goutam Ghose’s Paar, adapted from Samaresh Basu’s Paari (Journey), is an intense, harsh, bellicose, confrontrational and bleak movie simmering with political angst. The narrative, which is split into two interrelated halves, is centered around an impoverished Dalit couple brought to life by extraordinary physical and emotional turns by Naseeruddin Shah and Shabana Azmi. When, with a socialist schoolteacher’s (Anil Chatterjee) guidance, the historically exploited Dalit community in a village start battling for their rights and even has a person from among them (Om Puri) winning the Panchayat election, they face retaliation, violent payback and ultimately bloody carnage at hands of the slimy landlord (Utpal Dutt) and his brash brother (Mohan Agashe). This forces the couple to flee to Calcutta; however, when their hopes for a job at a struggling jute plant doesn’t materialize, bereft of the last cent and forced to the absolute end of the line, the desperate man and his helpless pregnant wife take the horrendous job, that too for a pittance, of swimming a drove of pigs across the mighty Hooghly river. The extended sequence that followed was harrowing and gut-wrenching. The horrors of caste-based discrimination, oppression and violence formed the film’s central tenet – be it in the upper caste zamindar’s systemic abuse of power, the violence that they unleash when the power balance seems to tilt, or in the nightmarish job that they’re callously compelled to undertake not just because they need that money, but also because no one else simply will. There was also a stirring flavour of agitprop and guerila filmmaking – perhaps inspired by Mrinal Sen – especially in the sequence where a faceless reporter is trying to deconstruct what happened in the village.
Director: Gautam Ghose
Genre: Drama/Social Drama/Political Drama