Current Date: 5 October, 2022

Movie 4 d week : Pestonjee (1988)

Review by Vinoo
Language : Hindi (Parsi rather)
Director : Vijaya Mehta

‘Life is for living, not for complaining.’ says the cover to ‘Pestonjee’. Phirohshah aka Phiroj and Pestonjee aka Pesi (Anupam Kher) are the best of friends. They are almost like twins. There is no life without one another and they also hope to get married at the same time. Phiroj meets Jeroo (Shabana Azmi) and instantly falls in love with her. While he is awaiting a horoscope match he figures the woman Pesi is getting married to is Jeroo. Phiroj takes a vow not to get married. He spends the first few days with the wedded couple, being very intrusive right through. He gets to know from Pesi that Jeroo actually hates him. Phiroj’s love for Jeroo is complete. He decides the best thing to do is for him to stay away from Pesi and Jeroo. He gets transferred out of Mumbai but keeps in touch with Pesi and Jeroo through letters.

One fine day Phiroj is transferred back to Mumbai where he discovers Pesi, unknown to Jeroo, is having an affair with Soona Mistry (Kiron Kher) a self-confessed half-Parsi who loves bachelor boys. Phiroj is upset with Pesi until Pesi tells him that Jeroo is aware of the affair. And, he further goes on to tell Phiroj that Jeroo aborted their child, which is when he started his affair with Soony. Phiroj also gets to know first-hand that Jeroo is not really the lovely woman he thought she was. The film ends with Pesi’s death and he has pledged all his shares and wealth to Jeroo, which Soony passes on to Phiroj. Phiroj discovers that Pesi knew right through his days were numbered and also figures Soony isn’t such a bad woman after all. She has a son now, who they name Phiroj. Phiroj (Naseeruddin Shah) remembers what Pesi had told him :  ‘Everyone’s life is different. Everyone’s idea of happiness is different. You live your life Phirojshah Pithawala. Thank the lord for he has given you this life. A life to live in happiness.’ And, this has to be heard in the accent that it is said in. Brilliant!

The leisurely pace lets it breathe and adds so much to the storyline. Bad audio coupled with the Parsi Hindi makes it a little hard on the ear but get hold of this VCD. Collector’s item.

It is not the story you watch this film for. Watch it for the brilliant Naseeruddin Shah as Phirojshah. His mannerisms, his gestures, the pair of shorts and shirt that he is wearing, his walk, his manner of speaking, all make the movie what it is. He walks away with it while Anupam Kher plays his role well too. Shabana Azmi goes a little overboard in my opinion. That said, brilliant performances by the entire cast. Even the house they stay in has the un-mistakable odour of a Parsi household. The Duke’s that Pesi and Jeroo share sure didn’t go unnoticed J. That, and many more minor specifics only a Parsi will notice : The Ripon Club, the Duke’s, the houses, the stairs, the lift, the lift-wallah…  How did I notice?
Well… I have probably met more Parsi’s and watched more Parsi films than many Parsi’s I know. And, I have had many a Parsi peg (larger than the Patiala peg) too.

For more on the Parsi way of life, check out Five Parsi Films by my good old friend.

Revisted ‘Baraka’. Loved it so much that I hope to watch it again this week. Check out ‘Blue Valentine’. I have lined up ‘Naseem’, ‘Hanna’, ‘Inside job’, ‘Door gagan ki chhaon mein’, ‘Neds’, ‘Il divo’, ‘Sex and Philosophy’, ‘Kodiyettam’… Looking like one hectic week. Watched ‘Cowboys in India’ by Simon Chambers, a docu screened by ‘Vikalp Bangalore’ and ‘Smriti Nandan’, on the issue of mining by London based Vedanta Resources in Orissa. Came away disappointed. The film didn’t do anything more than merely state what we already know.

Useless trivia :  In the entire film the name ‘Pestonjee’ (Peshotan Pers. : An early hero of Zoroastrianism, he was the son of Kay Vishtaspa. Pestonjee is derived from Peshotan. Courtesy Wikipedia is uttered just once when Phiroj comes back to Mumbai and gives Pesi a prank call and says ‘Pestonjee’ and hangs up.

NFDC presents ‘Pestonjee’ is directed by Vijaya Mehta who also plays Devki in Shyam Benegal’s ‘Kalyug’. Script and Screenplay is by B K Karanjia. Edited by Renu Saluja, Cinematography by Rajan Kothari and Music by Vanraj Bhatia. Interestingly the film says Director Vijaya Mehta in the opening credits and in the end credits it says Direction Neena Kulkarni, who was actually the Assistant Director.



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