Update : My hunch has been proven right..read bottom of post for details.
In the present age when media of all categories and cadres, is purposefully bombarding ones senses and time willy nilly with information essentially suggestive as if of hypnotic capturing of ones personal opinions, reviews of a film eagerly awaited, overwhelm thought processes. Easily influenced gullible minds fall prey to the insidiously, oftentimes stridently suggested message tags of ‘hit’ or ‘flop’. A more discerning populace admittedly small in percentage, decide to cast aside ‘fed’ ideas and view open minded a movie which promises ‘greatness’ in the cinema-ic denotation.
‘Saawariya’ enraptures you. In the hands of a less acclaimed director, the film might have degenerated into a fantastic escapade that misses the mark. It might have emerged, fabricated, synthetic and soulless.
The director in this case had previously won us over with his dexterity enough to woo us into his personal universe .Sanjay Leela Bhansali and the conviction of his vision, coupled with the mastery of his craft, transports you into his world via a fable with a dreamy and satiric edge.
It is a poetic outing matched with touching gravity. For those unwilling to glide along in those fascinating gondolas, lilt in the blue of the azure background and waft along dewy eyed with its endearing characters, the film would perhaps leave them unmoved. But so does the ‘art’ of Michaelangelo. For some its merely another experience, for others a ‘divine vision’. I daresay that personal stage of spiritual evolution often dictates the level of response to art, as a whole.
‘Saawariya’ held me captive from the very first frame. My childhood was spent in a ‘make believe’ world of doll houses and silvery streams. It was as if my soul had been peeked into by a kindred and displayed back how splendidly in munificent revelry, a story could be spun around this fantasy land.
The film is awash with amazingly endearing characters and four nights in their life. A myriad emotions engulf them and the central character Ranbir Raj, a flaneur, whose innocence and gentility magically charms its way into your heart.
It is a hard task to set a film rolling moreso when you demand from the audience ‘ a willing suspension of disbelief’ to a greater degree than other Bollywood films, since undertaking a journey into another’s mind asks for immeasurable faith. What is evident in this film from the first frame to the last is just that. The mind of Sanjay Leela Bhansali exposing itself in a cul-de-sac world. Is he courting disaster? No.. he has taken films in India and from India to another level altogether. I can firmly state that never before has there been a director of his stature, in his genre of films…he can be counted ‘among’ the best.
Based on Dostoevskys ‘ White Nights’ the story unfolds with poignant preciseness, through the wailing of a child and Ranis outburst, Raj’s reaction and revealing of his character all in a sweep of a few minutes. Its remarkable. You find yourself right in their midst willing to roll along eagerly.
Rajs meeting with the wholly delectable Lillipop his to-be-landlady where he melts her heart and ours by the one question he asks of her and the silent, almost soundless cry that emerges from her, while they hug is one of the most cathartic moments. There are many such where subtlety is the forte in this elegaic film.
The look on Sakinas face when she hears the sound of her name , expecting Iman and in a flash, hope dies when she sees its only Raj. Underplayed yet thunderously powerful. In fact this can be enumerated as the mainstay of the film… the subtle nuancing of emotional scenes. Suggested more than enacted. Metaphors abound which necessitate a sensitive heart and fine tuning to appreciate. Those hardened by years of Bollywood drama unwilling to experience subtleties at play need to get in touch with their emotional, loving, trusting self to truly enjoy this ‘outre’. A cursory , casual, inattentive viewing would be downright unfair. That attitude is best reserved for the laugh-a-minute-riots which often grace our screens.
Is film making only about story telling? If yes, then how different is it from reading a book? Imo it is in the the magical usage of tools of cinematic expression that differentiate a classic from a perfunctorily shot story. Can you imagine what “Deewaar’ can metamorph into if shot by Scorsese? This is where Saawariya scores. Or then read Dostoevskys short story.
Rani Mukherji has never looked as beautiful. Her dialogues were superbly written and superbly enacted. Every little lift of the eyebrow, a cock of the head seemed measured, yet not rehearsed. Not overtly over done, despite the demand of the character, in perfect balance, as if she knows exactly how she’d look and what effect even a wag of a finger is bound to create.
Ranbir Raj or Ranbir Kapoor is a discovery who will enchant movie goers for a long time. He was simply brilliant. His fragile character, interluded with boyish passion, charm, wit, innocence, effusive and poignant stays with you as somebody you know you will continue to love. He has made a dent in ones psyche, enough to last a lifetime.
Sonam Kapoor could not have asked for a better debut vehicle. She was lovingly presented, carved to perfection. Not a classic beauty, she grows on you through the perplexity of her character and the dynamism of her personality. She would have to be choosy of her future assignments. Not everyone is SLB to have spent years in grooming her. For success and accolades to sustain, talent has to be honed as a continuous process and resting back on laurels would be disastrous.
Zohra Sehgal as Lillipop is the last word in acting. She is an institution by herself, unmatched and incomparable. Her portrayal and its layering contributed vastly to the films claim to classy performances.
Salman Khan had little to do as far as histrionics go. But his star quality lent the character a solidity and foundation it required.
Impeccable an immaculate set designs which were a stellar character of the film came across as an embodiment of SLB’s take on a beautiful world physically but intrinsically one which enshrouds human sorrows as much. In other words despite the perfection of ones surroundings, it is the mind which makes or mars the perfection as a whole.
Suffering is not confined to an address.. its universal.
Virtual marriage of cinematography and direction is more apparent in this movie than any other. To be able to translate a directors vision is no mean task. The two technicians have to be perfectly synchronised. Art is mostly personal. Cinema, contrarily is the only form of art which involves a team. Therefore its imperative that each member find a space of synchronicity to operate from. Sanjay and Ravi Chandran have achieved this imaginatively.
Aural contribution by Monty songs and background score complimented the film superbly.. crafted to excellence.
There were flaws I confess. References to Raj Kapoors films, or scenes meant to convey lineage/tribute diminished the pristine quality of the tale that sought to be conveyed. It was not needed. Also to my mind, the story/ screenplay in the second half was a tad forced. The progression continued well till Raj promised to bring Sakina home. It should have carried on directly to the shock of Salman’s return. The detour to Rani, a song and a fight was jarring. This also turned into a continuity faux pas, since after the fight, when Raj is shown bruised, his next scene with Sakina displays none. Which brings one to believe that the additions in-between were an after thought perhaps to increase Rani’s footage and relevance. Affected the wholesomeness of the film imho.
Apart from this, the film has enchantment as its cutting edge which is saying a lot. Reminiscent of “Edward Scissorhands” a fabled tale which brought out the genius of Tim Burton, Saawariya is on similar lines. SLB comes across as a true movie visionary. Take a bow SLB..you deserve it.
In short as gulabji would say.. ” I likes it” An aside..Why do I get the feeling that the usage of “Jejus ‘” and such ‘likes’ were sourced from the effervescent Rakhi Sawant ?
To conclude..An uncommon insight into the torment of innocent hearts in an ethereal land is how one can sum up ‘Saawariya’.
P.S. A response to the almost ubiquitous criticism of this film, initially a comment :
The anger in most of the reviewers translated into a relentless attack, harsh and unforgiving is one of the main causes why I fear for Indian cinema never achieving pinnacles of glory.It demoralises, and stunts growth for future such endeavours. Anything that offers change, or is suggestive of an extraordinary interpretation of story telling is met with resistance and is made to feel brutally unwelcome. It is more a reflection of the closed mindedness of most audiences in India or lets say Indians.Had the same film been made by Tarantino, there would have been a major surge of euphoria by the same audiences, each giving it wondrous , convuluted, over the top acclaim. Sadly I have noticed we continue to go by stereotypes. If you are beautiful you cannot be intelligent/or a good actress. Aishwarya rai an apt candidate. I think she is brilliant. But she has had an uphill journey to prove her talent.
Liken Saawariya to a beautiful woman..therefore ’she’ is not capable of being inherently worthy of merit. The accusation has been mainly of the visual treat the film offers. So you see the analogy?
Also the film plainly avoids spoon feeding.. a lot was left to conclude pre supposing the intelligence of the audience. Four nights, except for the flashback of Salman, the rest was linear. But Indian audiences are fed on a staple diet of background of the characters upto four generations sometimes that for them this excerpt does not ‘make sense’.
Yes Sakinas character was not easy to understand, topped by the fact that she abandoned Ranbir. Somewhere the audience was hoping that the character of Salman was illusionary and it will be a fairy tale end. But for how many more centuries are we gonna prescribe a happy ending as the only one deserved of success/ acceptance? Its this close minded , blinkered stance which is regressive. Till we do not learn to unlearn or cast aside prejudices which sub consciously are stapled into our psyche, we have no business complaining as to the plight of our films. Come Oscars and the jury scratches their head for a suitable choice which wont shame us and which is not so far removed from global sensibilities.
I am glad SLB made this film. He should be ready for the uproar it has caused but continue to experiment. Every change in any sphere is initially met with strong resistance from the ‘fundamentalists of Indian cinema’..our critics and orthodox viewers. never mind..carry on.
I can go on.. I saw it with a typical multiplex audience which was a lesson in itself.Its palpable.. the reaction and I was able to sense it scene by scene.. my reaction vs. theirs. But I did my bit.. at the end of the film.. I clapped.. a few joined me.. others turned around scowling and then changed the expression to an amused grin..But thats okay. The message was sent.
And then the review. My away of showing solidarity to a resurgence in Indian cinema.I’d hate to think of myself as someone who simply complains about the sub standard, immature , frivolous, half baked, inane films churned out by the hundreds from the largest producer of films in the world.. India. Wish it would also tagged.. ‘the best made films in the world’..My dream.
Update 19th Nov’07 : So Ranis character has been heavily borrowed from Rakhi Sawant. ..my hunch was right. Rakhi has surprisingly wormed her way into our hearts. My initial reaction to here was ‘ewwww…what is this??’ Slowly one is forced to realise that This in fact is Rakhi Sawant!
Says Rakhi” “Bhansali didn’t tell me that I was supposed to tell Rani anything about my persona, gait and style. I think Sanjay must have told Rani to observe me carefully when I was present on the set.”
Trust Rakhi to have missed the point totally. Its not so much about the persona gait and style as it is about the peculiarity of her English. How on earth would she figure that out since according to her, in a jejune-istic way..there is nothing so darn funnily cute ’bout the way she speaks. “I speaks correct”..she’d say.. and we’d say .. “We agrees Rakhi.”