Sometimes, perhaps unfairly, I contribute most of my initial interest in 70's Hindi cinema to the Veeru-Basanti storyline of Sholay. I saw it and just like when I first saw K3G and Kajol-Shahrukh, I thought, "This? I really like. I want more of this." If I hadn't had that initial overwhelming interest to see more of the two actors, I might've never explored 70's films as much as I have so far. So in the humble beginnings of my golden oldies watching were these two things: romance and awesome heroines (because Basanti certainly is that).
I took a class on Bollywood cinema once and even though I'd seen nearly 200 films when I took it, it really helped me see some of the broader lines of Hindi cinema history to this day. One thing our teacher (very sweet female filmi fan who had majored in Hindi/Urdu, not Film Studies) brought up about heroines when we discussed character archetypes was that the heroines could be seen as corresponding to the hero character. When the hero is an angry young man type, this active hero of the 70's, the heroine must be an ally to his cause. (As opposed to being the indignant young lady who gets teased by the Krishna-type hero, or the independent woman who deserts the tragic hero.)
The girls in Parvarish wield guns, have plenty of wit to themselves (I mean, they are thieving sisters who sing about everything being the public's property!) and seek revenge the same as any hero would. They do have their share of damsel-in-distress type moments, but it's clear that often they're the ones running the show.
Consider first meetings, for example. Kishan (Vinod) runs into Shabbo (Shabana), who pretends to be blind to lift his wallet. She spins a tale about a tragic life, along the lines of the one she later tells Kishan's mother at the temple, and the one Neetu (Neetu!) recounts to both Amit (Amitabh) and the family's father. The beginning of the movie where the girls shamelessly steal is an absolute riot.
Of course, Neetu gets caught by Amit and placed in lock-up, where she tries many a strategy to talk her way out of behind the bars. Including one where she hilariously suggests marriage to Amit, because, as she tells him "When girls get spoiled, they should be married. Why don't you try to find somebody [to marry me]? If you can't find anyone, marry me yourself! If the law embraces crime, then crime can be eliminated forever!".
Flawless logic there, Neetu. Unfortunately this tactic doesn't bear fruit ..at least in this scene.
The glitch in the romances for the guys seems to the girls' thieving - which is pretty rich on Kishan's part, considering he's leading a double life as a crook smuggling diamonds in toys and god knows what else. But once the girls promise to correct their ways, this problem is out of the way.
This post would be incomplete without the mention of Seeta Aur Geeta, in many ways the heroine film of the 70s, starring none other than Hema Malini as two sisters. If you're a newbie when it comes to 70's cinema and want to start with something that has awesome heroines, go for that one.
Tomorrow's post will be about music!