Parvarish has pretty much everything you'd expect from a Manmohan Desai masala film: redistributed siblings who only discover their true parentage during the final fifteen minutes of the film, a villain with a lavishly appointed high-tech lair, primitive yet weirdly evocative special effects, and a star-stuffed cast -- including Amitabh Bachchan, Vinod Khanna, Shammi Kapoor, Neetu Singh, Shabana Azmi and Amjad Khan.
Shammi Kapoor actually has top billing here and, though he's well into the beardy obesity of his mid-life career, takes part in one musical number that allows him to show flashes of the goofy old Shammi that earned him that tribute. Amitabh and Vinod play the brother gone right and the brother gone wrong, respectively, and Neetu and Shabana play their love interests. The two female stars also provide a contrast to Bachchan and Khanna's brother roles by portraying sisters whose characters are so indistinguishable from one another that, if not for the need to pair them off with the male stars, they might as well have been one person. (Though if this was by design, or simply the result of a hasty writing job, I'm not entirely sure.) Finally, Amjad Khan plays the... oh, come on, you know what Amjad Khan plays.
Parvarish was just okay for me. It was a suitably diverting way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon, but it lacked the wild plot convolutions and lysergic production design that made Dharam Veer so irresistibly compelling. Nor did it quite approach the level of overheated comic book narrative drive of another one of my favorite Desai films, Mard. What it did have, however -- in the form of Amjad's icicle-bedecked HQ with its red scrimmed perpetual go-go girls -- is one of the greatest supervillain lairs in the history of masala movies, right behind Sunil Dutt's wax-figure-laden, bubble-sauna-equipped digs in Geetaa Mera Naam. In addition to that, Neetu and Shabana perform a pistol-packing song-and-dance bit sure to please fans of the "Girls With Guns" genre. And finally, there is a Thunderball-inspired climactic scuba battle that packs all the overwhelming mitigating power of the Amitabh vs The Airplane sequence in Toofan (and yes, I really will use any excuse to link to that clip). And since Parvarish has nowhere near Toofan's number of sins to compensate for, that adds up to one big win-win.
Here, for your Monday enjoyment, is a brief sample of Parvarish's thrilling underwater action:
*The above poster comes from the fantastic Hotspot Online, a real rabbit hole of a site for dedicated fans of offbeat films in all their wonderful variety that'll suck you in for life if you're not careful.