Reflections: Pestonjee by Vijaya Mehta

Pestonjee (Image Source: Rhythmhouse.in)
Pestonjee, directed by Vijaya Mehta, stars some big names and was released in 1987 and is set in the 1950's and 1960's. I had never heard of this movie until I bought this one. It starts with Phirozshah (Naseeruddin Shah) engaging in stretching exercises on a nearly deserted beach. Some of the incidents of the day, like a phone call, remind him of his old friend Pestonjee (Anupam Kher). Phiroz is an accountant while Pestonjee is a screenplay writer. Both, as would have been apparent by now, are Parsis. Phiroz is an honest guy while Pesi not so much. Pesi is always in debt of Phiroz. They have reached a marriageable age and decide to see some girls suggested by one of their aunts. Phiroz is awed by Jeroo (Shabana Azmi) and her skill as a piano player. But being a conformist in his attitude and up-bringing, he decides to consult the horoscope before committing. Meanwhile, Pestonjee also meets Jeroo and says yes. The Parsi wedding of Jeroo and Pesi is shown with a a lot of Zoroastrian customs. In fact, during the whole movie, the language is Hindi-Gujarati mixed up with
some dialogues here and there in English.

In the midst of all this, Soona (Kiran Kher - yes, she wasn't Kirron back then), who is a lawyer and always in hunt for more cases, gets introduced to Jeroo and Pesi and takes up Pesi's case of a property dispute with his younger brother in Daman. Phiroz, troubled by a new boss in Bombay who asks him to fudge books, shifts to Bhushawal. He always hopes for the best for his dear friend Pestonjee and his young wife Jeroo. They exchange letters and is very glad to learn of Jeroo's pregnancy. Then somehow the correspondence suddenly stops and Phiroz is not in the know of any happenings back in Bombay. So he decides to take a seven day leave before shifting back to Bombay to meet his old friend and family. But he is dejected at what he comes across - Jeroo has become very acerbic in life with her father's diminishing health; Pestonjee is having an affair with Soona; Pesi's mother's hearing abilities have deteriorated; and the most shocking that Jeroo had a miscarriage and the couple don't have a kid of their own yet. On discovering the affair, he confronts Pestonjee but is rebuked and Pesi says that Jeroo isn't the only one who has suffered but it is him as well for Jeroo anyways never wanted a child as she had nightmares of childbirth as her own mother had died giving birth to her (probably it was being suggested that they went for abortion - but it wasn't very clear).

Looking at this sadness all around, Phiroz goes back to Bhushawal. Years down the line, the long lost love between two bosom friends having been reduced but not diminished, Phiroz shifts back to Bombay after a promotion and Pesi welcomes him. Phiroz appears to be less judgmental about him now but not for long - Pesi passes away after a heart attack. Jeroo is left alone with asthma, acidity and sinus and Pesi's old mother and without any child. But Pesi did have a child with Soona and Phiroz becomes content by knowing that at least Pesi did not die without any child. Jeroo thinks of teaching piano to kids.

Phiroz, having left with no choice, thinks, "harek ni zindagi alag alag, harek nu sukh alag alag".(everyone's life is different, the joys are different). And thanks god that he has been given a life to enjoy. The tale is a touching one and the background music by Vanraj Bhatia adds to the charm of the movie. The performances by the four actors are worth a mention - especially of Shabana Azmi and Kiran Kher (there are a lot of other characters as well who make it all the more worthwhile - specifically the personal attendant of Phiroz). Pestonjee went on to win the National Film Award. 


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