Sai Paranjape's films always deal with situations and characters, which one can easily identify with, and her 'Sparsh' is a nostalgic movie. The film upholds an important principle that the disabled want to live independently, to be accorded the dignity and respect other sectors of society are granted. They don't want sympathy; rather they want and need normal behaviour towards them.
The film opens with Anirudh Parmar (Naseeruddin Shah) as the principal of Navjivan Andhvidyalay, a school for the blind that educates about 200 blind children. Anirudh has a dark and lonely existence for the most part. One day, while on his way to the doctor, he hears a lovely song and ends up, mesmerized, at the songstress' door instead of the doctor. The voice belongs to Kavita Prasad (Shabana Azmi), a young woman recently widowed after 3 years of marriage. Kavita, too, prefers a secluded existence. Her childhood friend Manju (Sudha Chopra) is about the only friend she has. Manju throws a small party where Kavita and Anirudh meet again. He recognizes her from her voice. During the conversation, he mentions that the school is looking for volunteers to read to, sing to, teach handicrafts and spend time with the children. Kavita is reluctant but she is urged by Manju and her husband Suresh to strongly consider it. Kavita decides to volunteer.
As Kavita spends more time at the school, she begins forming a friendship with Anirudh. The friendship grows stronger over time and they become engaged. But their personalities and feelings are different. Anirudh is of strong character: he firmly believes that the blind need help but not pity or charity. Kavita, recently bereaved, looks to the school (and Anirudh) as a way towards an ideal, one of sacrificial service. Anirudh gets wind of this, and assumes Kavita is simply seeking to fill the void in her life with this form of service. He assumes she accepted the proposal not out of love but as a sacrifice towards a way out of her dark life. During this time, Anirudh's fellow blind friend Dubey (Om Puri) laments that his recently deceased wife was not happy in the marriage either.
Anirudh is shaken, confused and disturbed by all this. He breaks off the engagement (but does not mention the reason to Kavita). She accepts his decision. Yet Kavita, now a salaried employee of the school, continues to help the children. The initial coldness between her and Anirudh gives way to friction and eventually, over a series of events at the school, brings up the feelings they were not able to discuss before. The situation spirals downward and one of them must leave the school. The movie ends with Anirudh and Kavita being touched by the depth of their feelings for one another and finally seeing a way out.
The development of the bond between the characters, such as between the Aniruch and Kavita and between Kavita and the children is displayed beautifully. Naseeruddin Shah and Shabana Azmi are definitely one of best on-screen pairs in cinema. The execution of 'Sparsh' is very simple and efficiently. It's done so effectively as it echos the silence of the unsaid words between the characters. The director raises awareness regarding the educational facilities that are available for the blind and the shortcomings of these schools but he never does so by intruding on the story. It is all part of the story, a part of Anirudh and Kavita's life. Special mention goes to the music. There are only a few songs but the lyrics highlight great poetry.
Subtle, simple, sincere and stunning are four words one can use to describe 'Sparsh'.