Parineeta is the story of two neighbors Shekhar (Saif Ali Khan) and Lolita (Vidya Balan), who share love, lust and companionship, but don't realize any of it, till destiny attempts to part them. The story starts with Shekhar (Saif Ali Khan) getting ready for his wedding, but not to Lolita, and then it meanders off into the flashback.
Shekhar lives by his music, which he can well afford to, being the heir to a rich businessman Navin Rai (Sabyasachi Chakraborty). His other interests are, well, actually none. Lolita (Vidya Balan), well versed in the commandments of a worthy neighbor, not only keeps tabs on Shekhar's displaced shirts, chains and buttons, but also controls his piggybank. For, even at an age at which his mother has stopped deluding herself that he was too young to tie the knot, Shekhar continues to live off pocket money.
Their love runs too deep for them to realize or acknowledge it, even to each other. Saif has given one of his best performances, with the quiet intensity of a jealous lover.
In one of the most instantaneous decision-making scenes seen in history, Shekhar and Lolita get married. Prior to this instantaneous decision, unfortunately, Navin Rai has already sealed Shekhar's marriage to Gayatri (Diya Mirza) along with a business deal. He further has full-fledged designs on Lolita's ancestral house, and plans to convert it into a palatial hotel, as soon as Lolita's uncle declares his inability to repay old debts.
Girish (Sanjay Dutt) rescues Lolita and her family, and lays a valid claim as a rival to Shekhar. Girish is what Shekhar couldn't become - responsible and with no dominating father hang-ups.
Some misunderstandings later, Shekhar is all set to get married to Gayatri, and while that's where the flashback ends, the story goes a little further.
Parineeta is a little too bent upon seriousness, as if in the 1960s people were still recuperating from the onus of running a democracy. In most of the scenes, Saif has managed a crossed look, and we rarely see his dimpled smile. He has also managed a pop-fearing, indecisive brat's role, one of his career's best, well.
Vidya Balan, perhaps in her quest to depict a complex character, often gets her smiles and tears mixed. But as the strong Parineeta, a married woman, she personifies dignity and intensity. Sanjay Dutt, though appearing a little bloated, has lent sweetness to the otherwise vapid screenplay.
Vidhu Vinod Chopra must be credited with keeping his film focused on the characters and not on lavish clothes or elaborate sets. He has also not focused on coy ladies as decoys to take your attention off the loopholes. That is if you don't count Rekha, clad in a figure hugging red outfit, as a ruse. He has created the just and exact atmosphere, complete with period blouses and hairdos, and all in budget too - he once did it with 1942, A Love Story, and it's no less with Parineeta.
Chopra has however not been able to capture the essence of the characters that Sharat Chandra painstakingly elaborated into detail. Shekhar and Lolita do not appear well-defined, and though not vague, their roles appears one-dimensional. There are also some logical problems with the story, deliberately introduced to add a punch of suspense.
The music by Shantanu Moitra doesn't rock, but is still pleasant, with soulful lyrics, and Sonu Nigam has been able to surpass himself once again.
If you are very young and go by the conviction that anything prior to 2004 is ancient history, you'll not want to see this flick. But if you are in a mood for a simple love story and are willing to overlook the chronological angle, you can try Parineeta. However, this reasoning is not valid for the fans of Saif Ali Khan.