-A film by Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Went and watched Saawariya late last night. As expected, it did not meet my expectations. At the same time it is not a total write off like so many reviews are spouting. That’s because these are Sanjay-Leela-Bhansali-scale expectations. Expectations of magical, heart-wrenching stories or moments within those stories at least. So, obviously, an anti-climax was expected.
This time round our favourite paan-chewing director fails to recreate the deep emotional connect he managed with his earlier films. Yes, it’s a beautiful film. The aesthetics are stunning. The grand sets [very European/St Petersburg feel created with the cobblestones, the canals, the rain, then snow etc- the official site says the attempt was to recreate Shimla. Hmmm.], the gorgeous flowy costumes, the fantastic background score and mellow songs all please the senses immensely. I love the black-blue-green ambience of the movie. There are no day scenes. Rani Mukerjee dazzles in her substantial special appearance. “I likes.” Salman Khan doesn’t have much to do and he does it very well. But the backbone of any film is its screenplay. And that’s where our man SJB has really fallen short. Ranbir and Sonam just don’t have enough to work with, but within the limited scope of their characters, they’ve done well enough.
The film has a very weak screenplay, mediocre dialogue and absolutely minimal character development. Dostoevsky’s White Nights is translated well in totum I suppose, but the heart is missing. And that is not what one wants in a(n) SJB film.
Each of his films in the past have moved me considerably. I loved Khamoshi, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Devdas [in spite of the King of Ham act] and Black. There are memorable magic scenes in each of his films. I have cried hard while watching them.
Saawariya just doesn’t move you. There is ample scope for showing the angst, pathos, poignancy and other like soul-searing emotions in the story. But it never happens. Also, a distinct lack of chemistry between Ranbir and Sonam, it has to be said. If one could be made to feel so strongly the interesting frisson between Ash and Ajay D [a most mismatched duo] in HDDKS, Saawariya and its cute leading pair should have been an easy couple-de-grace. But nein, nyet, nada, naaaahiiiiii…nnn. There were scenes aplenty where the magic could have happened, where I was willing it to happen, but ‘twas not to be. (On the other hand there were definitely some cringe-embarrassing-enough-already-scenes, but all SJB movies have that. Really. They do. It’s just that the other portions of the story so overshadow these little flaws that one always comes out with a thumbs up at the end of the movie, having forgotten about the over-the-top eccentricities.)
In Saawariya, the only portion that really grabbed me was the interesting Sonam-Salman side story. Now that had some feel. Genuine, like. And maybe one or two other moments.
Ranbir’s character should have been ranging the whole gamut of emotions from highs to lows but he didn’t seem too affected at any point in the film. Even casual in some places. Similarly, Sonam’s character was inexplicably vague and almost flaky at times. There are scenes where both of them are very good. Give them a solid character and good dialogues and they’ll probably both do very well. Let’s wait and watch.
Rani’s character thankfully was slightly interesting and well writ. She was her usual brilliant self, completely into her role and a treat to watch. I’m heavily biased towards this Bengali ever since Saathiya. No objectivity here.
Salman Khan didn’t annoy me in his cameo which means he must have been quite good. I love these quiet, understated roles for him. The lesser the dialogue, the better.
Now on to other things.
Music: Very, very nice. The melodies are wonderful. There are lovely variations and unpredictable turns in the songs I enjoyed a lot.
My favourite track of the film is Jab se tere naina. The song is very nice on the ears. Shaan is superlative. Yes, this is the famous Ranbir towel song. I didn’t much take to his pelvic dance, but I totally appreciate a lean, fit bod, hairless chest [thank God] and very sweet Neetu Singh smile. Just to clarify once and for all: Ranbir DOES drop the towel but the camera zooms in lightning fast and OUR modesty is preserved. You can make out a nicely toned curvature at the top of the posterior, butt that’s it. Okay? Enough already. Anyway, in the SJB dramatic scheme of things, it doesn’t seem weird. The song is meant to convey, “Look here, this is a fine, sweet, saucy looking boy in lurrrve” and it does just that.
All other songs are beautiful. I esp enjoyed Thode Badmaash, Daras Bina, and Rani’s fun number Chabeela. Oh, and the beginning of the Saawariya reprise. Very good.
The background score ties in smoothly and softly with the visuals. There are many of the SJB magnum opus staples: payal chhan-chhans, classical raagas, tabla movementss and elaborate string arrangements running in the background throughout the movie.
The look of the movie, like I mentioned before, is beauteous. SJB intends to create a rich, dark water colour painting and the sets, costumes and colours all combine to do this very well. Interestingly, SJB has himself designed some of the costumes. And a bit of the music.
But, but, but, he also wrote the screenplay and he can’t excuse himself there.
I didn’t regret watching Saawariya. It was definitely worth a watch and an SJB film warrants the big screen. At the end of the day, I think it’s just a victim of those horrible old beasts: Great Expectations, and What Could Have Been.Review ends.