Article Hindi

5 reasons Parinda is still a classic: 30th anniversary special

The Vidhu Vinod Chopra film that reshaped the idea of stylized gangster epics in Hindi cinema remains immensely watchable even today.

Shriram Iyengar

Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee and Nikkhil Advani have all acknowledged its influence on their style of cinema. Its stylistic devices shaped a new realism in the commercial masala form of Hindi cinema. It also marked the rise of a new genre — the gangster epic, which was inextricably linked with the city of Mumbai. Thirty years on, Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Parinda (1989) has aged well to become quite the classic.

With its stylistic treatment, impeccable performances and a slick script that combined gangster noir into a tale of brothers, Parinda set standards that changed the direction of Hindi cinema. On the 30th anniversary of the film's release, we look at five reasons to revisit Parinda.

1. Spectacular casting

The cast of Parinda now reads like a veritable who’s who of 1980s Hindi cinema. From Anil Kapoor and Madhuri Dixit to Jackie Shroff and Nana Patekar, the film was filled with actors who brought their characters to life. 

Key among them were Kapoor and Shroff. When celebrating the 25th anniversary of the film's release, Shroff had said he was tired of playing the ‘elder brother’ to Anil Kapoor and had almost declined Parinda. To be fair, director Vidhu Vinod Chopra had earlier decided on Nana Patekar and, later, Naseeruddin Shah for the role of Kishan. However, as fate would have it, Shroff ended up with the role after hearing the RD Burman composition ‘Tumse Milke’ for the film.

The film also arrived at the cusp of the two actors' stardom. While Kapoor was riding a wave after Tezaab (1988) and Ram Lakhan (1989), Jackie Shroff had established himself since making his debut in Hero (1983).

The chemistry between the two actors forms the crux of the conflict in Parinda. Shroff won the Filmfare award for Best Actor for his role in the film.

While the star power was supplied by Jackie Shroff and Anil Kapoor, it was the supporting cast that helped to drive the story further. Anupam Kher as the idealistic inspector Prakash, Suresh Oberoi as Abdul, Tom Alter as Musa and, of course, Madhuri Dixit as the naive but determined Paro were fantastic additions. Oberoi, too, was second choice for the role of the melancholic but menacing Pathan after Danny Denzongpa. And while Dixit had just broken through to become a star with Tezaab (1988), it was Parinda that framed her acting potential.

2. Villain ‘Anna’

While he might keep a low profile these days, Nana Patekar broke through in Hindi cinema with this performance as the manic, unpredictable Anna Shetty. In the same league as Gabbar Singh, Mogambo and other villains, Anna Shetty is a man who kills for the sole purpose of killing. Throughout the film, Patekar is the only one using violence to rule.

The ease with which he slips from calm to manipulative to absolutely manic is a sight. It also set his performance in stark contrast to the other passionate characters written into the script. A key motif is his fear of fire. Every time that memory crops up, Patekar’s transformation is a sight to behold.

Nana Patekar’s performance shook audiences to the hilt, and the actor himself underwent some trauma while playing the role. Having met with a fire accident while shooting the climax, Patekar was hospitalized for two months before returning to shoot the same scene. 

While he did not walk away with any awards, the role left a huge impact on Patekar’s career. His dialogues have since become memes, and the style of delivery has remained with the actor throughout. 

3. Mumbai Noir

It is no surprise that Vidhu Vinod Chopra based the style of Parinda on another gangster classic, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather (1972). With ace cinematographer Binod Pradhan, Chopra used the same style of light and shadows to capture the morality play of his film. From the now famous Kabutarkhana sequence of Anupam Kher’s murder to the Gateway of India shootout, the scenes from the film set the template for several Mumbai noir films that followed. 

The opening sequence is the perfect example of the lighting as well as its inspiration. From the lowlit dusk of Mumbai to the dark backgrounds of Anna Shetty's office, the opening sets the tone for the play of shadows that runs through the film.

Speaking of the cinematography for the film, Binod Pradhan said, “Everything was lit in a certain way, shot in a certain way. Everything had to be properly lit. Everything had to be seen. It was very bright.” 

Among the people the style influenced were Anurag Kashyap and Dibakar Banerjee, who went on to create their own style templates in the years to come. 

4. Renu Saluja

No film can ever achieve completion unless it is edited well. For Parinda, Vidhu Vinod Chopra had the hand of Renu Saluja working on the edit table. A graduate of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune like Chopra, Saluja was a pioneer in the field. As a rare woman working in an industry and a role dominated by men, she had wielded the scissors for such classics as Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai (1980), Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron (1983), and Ardh Satya (1983).

Speaking of Parinda in 2015, Vidhu Vinod Chopra called it his "most well-edited film". While one might forgive the filmmaker the hyperbole, it is difficult to find fault with the film itself. Slickly edited, without a hiccup to the storyline, each scene in the film captures the mood perfectly. 

At the 2015 reunion, Chopra also revealed that one of the editor’s favourite scenes was Karan killing one of Anna’s henchmen in the oil mill. It is easy to see why. The spliced cuts of Anil Kapoor’s Karan turning into a vengeful murderer with the heavy machinery acts as the perfect symbol of him becoming a part of the killing machine that is the underworld. 

Renu Saluja won the National award for her work on Parinda.

5. The Direction

Vidhu Vinod Chopra now focuses on production, but it would be unfair to label him a producer. A graduate of the FTII, Chopra belongs to the generation of Sudhir Mishra, Kundan Shah and Saeed Akhtar Mirza who stepped out to change the definition of Hindi cinema. In fact, the characters of Vinod and Sudhir in Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron (1983) were named for Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Sudhir Mishra, who were assisting on the film.

Chopra directed Khamosh in 1985, but the film did not do well at the box office. The anger drove Chopra to write the story of two brothers misled by the underworld. It turned into Parinda. But writing the story was one part. Parinda carries Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s signature.

From the music of RD Burman to the cinematography of Binod Pradhan, as well as an assistant director named Sanjay Leela Bhansali, it was a team that worked together to create a landmark film. 

Parinda not only established Chopra as a commercial success but also as a director of repute. He won the Filmfare award for Best Director for this film.