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Home > Movies > Reviews

Terribly boring!

Aseem Chhabra | November 09, 2007 11:26 IST

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Sitting through Saawariya
US unimpressed

Australian filmmaker Baz Luhrmann came to India and fell in love with Bollywood.  Later he made the ultimate Bollywood inspired film -- Moulin Rouge, a tragic love story with melodrama, comedy and more songs than an average Indian film can handle, and very creative sets, which enhanced the film's fantasy laced theme.

Now a few years later, Bollywood's ultimate over-the-top filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali [Images] has decided to pay some sort of a homage to Luhrmann with Saawariya -- a film set in an artificial world -- with sets straight out of Moulin Rouge, including odd windmills, European looking bars and cafes, neon lights and even streetwalkers, except for that they are wearing saris.  Borrowing from Lurhmann's very creative film would not be such a great crime, but it is a rather odd decision by Bhansali, given that Bollywood has such a rich tradition of filmmaking.

But Bhansali is not just taking things directly from an Australian filmmaker.  In the desperate need to establish his identity as the new showman of Bollywood, Bhansali, showers his film with all sorts of touches of Raj Kapoor -- a caf�/bar called RK, enough scenes under the umbrella and rain that would make one run to the nearest DVD store to rent a copy of Shri 420, and the young lead Ranbir Kapoor, who sounds more like his father (Rishi), but is given the goofy persona that is reminiscent of his grandfather (Raj). 

And if we still did not get the hint, Bhansali makes Ranbir drop his towel and show his derriere -- as Raj did to Rishi in Bobby.  One more hint -- Bhansali has Ranbir wear a bowler hat, which his grandfather had borrowed from Charlie Chaplin.  Fortunately, Ranbir also has his mother's (Neetu Singh) good looks.

Saawariya's [Images] plot is thin, although the film carries the weight of a Russian classic -- the film is inspired by Fyodor Dosteovsky's White Nights.  A young man (an awkward Ranbir) suddenly turns up in the red light district of a strange city.  There he first meets a prostitute (the inexplicably gregarious Rani Mukherjee) who welcomes him into her world.  The man then accidentally meets a mysterious woman (the beautiful, but still very raw Sonam Kapoor) on a bridge and immediately falls in love with her.  But this woman is in love with another mysterious and an older man (played by a sleep-walking, and a very dull Salman Khan).  The rest of the film keeps you guessing whether the young man will be able to win over his lady love?  But do we really care?

A film that purports to be a love story is in deep trouble if its lead characters do not connect and are not believable.  And that is biggest flaw of Saawariya.  For a love story, the movie is terribly boring.  There is no chemistry between Bhansali's lead actors -- Ranbir and Sonam.  And in any case, Sonam's character never fully acknowledges the love of the young man.  Instead for some odd reason (which is never explained in the film), she is haunted by the memory of her first love -- who had left her on a bridge in the middle of the night.  And so every night she stands on this bridge, waiting for her love to return.  

Bhansali is a man of details.  One could see that in his past productions -- the flawed and over-the-top Devdas and Black -- the very unreal and hysterical melodrama.  And so one wonders how he missed one crucial detail in Saawariya?  The film has no soul and nearly pointless to watch, even as a vehicle for entertainment.

There are a couple of details that stand out in Saawariya -- the sets, the costumes -- all washed in the colour blue and the challenging, yet very creative cinematography of Ravi K. Chandran.  The film is shot entirely on sets.  There is not a single outdoor shot, not the slight bit of natural light.  And yet the film looks stunning. 

Towards the end of the film, there is a moment, when the young Sonam is running through the dark alleys of the artificial city -- with a touch of blue and green lights.  At that brief moment, I nearly felt that I was watching a piece of art -- a work of substance. 

But very soon after that moment I woke up from my dream-like state as I was subjected to more meaningless drivel of will she or will she not love the young man.  And by then I did not give a damn.

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