December 20, 2002 
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Vivek, Rani
Trouble in paradise
In Saathiya, marriage isn't a bed of roses

Anita Bora

One of the reasons people are looking forward to Saathiya is to find out if one of its lead actors will live up to expectations. The actor being Vivek Oberoi, of course, who made an impressive debut in Ram Gopal Varma's Company. His next film, Rajat Mukherjee's Road, did not quite set the box-office afire.

Saathiya is a remake of Mani Ratnam's successful Alai Payuthey starring Madhavan and Shalini. When I told my husband that I was going to watch this film he was rather curious about how a love story would fare against the star-studded action movie Kaante, which also releases today.

After I walked out of the movie hall, he called me. This is how the conversation went...

So what's the movie about?

Well, there's this young boy (Vivek Oberoi) who falls in love with a girl (Rani Mukherji) he meets during a wedding. The girl is a little unsure in the beginning and tries to resist his advances. He literally throws himself in her way, woos her and she is left with little choice but to accept his declarations of love. The girl is still studying and is not ready for a serious commitment. But things get serious. One thing leads to another and the boy's parents appear with a marriage proposal.

Okay, so what happens?

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You see, the boy is rich and the girl is poor. So rich parents have a showdown with prospective in-laws. The girl calls off the relationship since she can't hurt her parents. The girl tries to keep her mind away from the boy, but you know how love is. When you fall, you fall hard. They realise they cannot live without each other. The couple gets married secretly but continue to live with their parents.

The girl is forced by circumstances to reveal her secret marriage. Her parents are enraged and throw her out of the house. Parents are so cruel sometimes!

Will you get on with it and give me some real action?

I'm getting to it. The girl and boy start living together. They find a place. They have no money. Only love. But small things start happening when two people are thrown together.

They start fighting over small things. The girl's father is dying. She wants to go. But boy is angry because he was insulted and slapped by her father. Reality gets in the way of romance.

So now they're having problems. Like when he has to wait for an hour for her, he snaps. When they were dating, he was happy to wait for hours. When she gets back home, he doesn't even ask how she's feeling or how her day went. When they were courting he could tell what she was feeling by looking at her face.

Vivek, Rani in Saathiya You know, small things like that. She sees him with another woman (she doesn't know it's his sister), so there's the jealousy angle. And then everything boils over and both of them get to a point where girl says she's going back to parents and boy doesn't even care. You know how these things happen...

Yes, I know how the script goes, but are we still talking about the movie here?

Yes, absolutely!

All this is leading somewhere?

Yes, yes! You see, it takes boy and girl a near death experience to make them realise how precious life is and how they shouldn't take each other for granted.

And I guess it all leads to a happy ending, but naturally?

But that's not the point, you see. The fact that they have delved into a different aspect of relationships is, in itself, a welcome change to the kind of fare we have been served lately. The story telling is done via flashback. In the end, he realises, watching his wife battle for her life, that he cannot afford to lose her when he's just found her. "I was busy finding myself all this while," he says.

So, is Vivek Oberoi Bollywood's answer to Tom Cruise?

He's good looking. He dances well and he can act! If that's not a bonus, he's articulate too. He is definitely someone to watch out for. The role has a lot for him, since the story is told through his search for his missing wife. As we go along with him, searching local trains and hospitals, we're as eager as him to find his missing wife!

The one thing that stands out when you watch him -- romancing, pining or going through his personal battles -- is that he exudes sincerity and passion.

What about the others?

Rani Mukherji's role is not as demanding as Vivek Oberoi's. Both of them seem to share a comfortable relationship with each other, which translates well on screen. I wouldn't say they sizzle, but they definitely stir up some heat.

Tanuja, who as you know is related to Rani, plays her mom. Swaroop Sampat, who we see on screen after a long time, has a brief role as Vivek's mother, but leaves her mark.

Anything you didn't like about the movie?

Vivek, Rani in Saathiya Personally, I think it takes more than a few tiffs and fights to provoke two people to get to a stage where they say enough is enough. I would have definitely have liked to see that aspect explored in more detail. The clash of egos, fights over seemingly inane issues which get magnified because of the significance that one partner puts to it. Even the fact that you have to share a closed space with a person you know only for a few months. These are things that are only explored quite briefly in the second half.

And there are a lot of songs. Of course, it's a Yash Raj Film. But eight songs, though all good, make you wish for more conversation and less song. The title track Saathiya, Aye Udi Udi Udi and Managalayam are the highlights. Some song picturisations are quite grand, complete with colour coordinated attires for the lead stars, but that seems to be the norm these days.

And the verdict is?

Saathiya's premise is simple. To director Shaad Ali's credit, he keeps the story focused and spares us of subplots.

He brings out good performances from the actors. Compared to the mediocre cinema we have been subjected to lately, this one is definitely above a notch. Can Vivek and Rani take on six men trying to rob a bank at the box office? My guess is as good as yours.

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