This is a Hindi movie set in then contemporary India – the year I was born.
The most common perception is that this movie is about the struggles in Bihar of labourers i.e. farm labourers. The labourers peacefully demanded higher wages. The landlord (played by Utpal Dutt) had political aspirations that failed, thanks to a candidate of the lower caste who won the election. There is a benevolent school teacher who helps the labourers think and educates them about the minimum wages fixed by the government. Of course, the landlord would not even pay the labourers the minimum wages due.
The labourers in keeping with the school teachers’ instructions are not violent and make quiet demands, go on strike etc. Losing the election is the last straw on the camel’s back for the land lord. His son decides to get rid of school teacher and kills him in a road accident.
Our protagonist (Nseeruddin Shah) is enraged by the death of his mentor and chooses to kill the landlord’s son. After this all hell breaks loose. The landlord is set to kill all youngsters in the village who may have caused the death of his son. People are murdered within the village temple. Its a gory bloodbath.
Politicians and the government offer some support at the time. Om Puri, plays the village mukhiya (head of the village) and narrates most of the story leading to the blood bath.
So Narangiya and his wife escape from this mayhem and reach the house of the benevolent school teacher’s wife. She gives them some money and an address of a friend to whom they are referred. The friend sends them to Calcutta to work in a jute mill factory.
The rest of the movie revolves around Narangiya and his wife’s struggle to cope with the huge monstrous city that Calcutta is. There is no job in the jute mill and many labourers are out of jobs. Finally they get a job worth Rs. 20 (which was a lot of money in those days) after commission. They need to get some pigs about 3 dozens across the river. The entire struggle of getting the pigs across is the essence of Paar. Paar literally means crossing or across in Hindi.
Throughout the movie, the wife is pregnant and thinks this time she will lose her child. But the movie ends on a happy note. They get Rs. 20 and some tips. The baby is alive. Everyone is happy.
Paar – also has a philosophical meaning. “Nadiya paar” literally means deliverance by God. A literal depiction of symbolism. All actors are brilliant.The cinematography is bleak to match with the reality of the persons the story revolves around. Many of the scenes are shot in darkness and in silhouettes. Even Calcutta is shown as seen from the perception of Mrs. and Mr. Narangiya.
On the whole a worthwhile experience. It was 2 hours well spent.