Rich hues of blues and greens and dancing feminine flourishes fill the screen. "Well if nothing else, it sure is pretty," I said as the opening credits started rolling. Enter into "Saawariya", the city that seems like it belongs more in a movie the likes of Labyrinth, a city full of shadows, full of clandestine woman and one lonely new soul in search of a warm bed and love. Sounds captivating, I know, and I may be on my own on this one, as I've read it hailed as the next desi post modern cult classic, or maybe I'm not into art films like I thought I was, but it didn't do it for me. I nearly fell asleep right before interval, but was intrigued enough to see how it ended instead of just shutting it off.

So where did the movie fail for me? I think it could have been a wonderfully heartbreaking movie had more attention been paid to, perhaps, character development and pace rather than its visual beauty, though even the visuals get tedious to watch after a while as it is blue and dark from the beginning to the end and somewhere in the first half you start to crave for some bright light. With character motivations that manage to be both thin AND confusing at the same time, I found the central romance deeply uninvolving.

Enter Ranbir Kapoor as Ranbir Raj, the lovable and sympathetic hero. We expect big things from this lad, how could you not, with Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh as parents and a lineage that includes Prithviraj and Raj Kapoor. However, all of that has to add to a lot of pressure, and Ranbir tries, but his expressions and moves just don't look natural and all those references to RK movies flooding the screen do not help. Plus there's the added cringe factor of such silly dialogues as addressing Zohra Sehgal as 'Lollipop'. Don't get me wrong, I liked Ranbir in Bachna Ae Haseeno, and maybe his next movie will provide him with another opportunity to prove himself - there can't be anything worse than living under someone's shadow all your life. However, I finally got to see the famous towel scene, and that's a plus!

Sonam Kapoor's character, Sakina, does not afford her much opportunity as she's required to emote two emotions, giggling one second, crying the next. While it's hardly enough to draw you into her little world, one does wonder what the reason is for Sakina's fragile state of mind. Perhaps Imaan is but a figment of her imagination, a symbol of the madness that she continues to immerse herself in? It certainly would explain her erratic behaviour, her irrational and obsessive love for a man she knew hardly anything about and spent nearly no time with. If this is not the basis for her character then all we're left with are a bunch of questions surrounding her all consuming and illogical love for a man she didn't know.

Of the movie's cast, Rani Mukherjee is the lone survivor. Here we see her as Gulabji, in the familiar role of "prostitute with a heart of gold" who eventually falls for the hero - even though she denies it vehemently by having the object of her desire beaten to a pulp. Not only is she the most ebullient of the bunch, but she exudes positive energy from every frame of the film. My only criticism is that she is completely under-utilized. As for Salman Khan - he may as well have been but a statue for all he contributed.

If the sets and cinematography are a feast for the eyes, then the music is a veritable buffet for the ears. However, director Sanjay Leela Bhansali gives us so much music that, barring 2-3 songs, they all nearly trip over each other. The only songs that I remember are Rani's Chhabeela, which is sung by the wonderful Alka Yagnik (who I just discovered from my last review) and the title song Saawariya which stays on with you long after the credits roll and is leaps and bounds above anything else in the album. Other than that, the rest feels like a muddled mass of musical tones, none with distinction enough for me to even remember what song they belong to. Perhaps if the movie had been publicized as a full blown musical rather than a romance/drama, it would have struck the right chord.

Saawariya may be a movie that is completely open to interpretation, but I think any way you look at it, it is a movie that leaves you completely puzzled. I am, however, looking forward to watching Black, maybe I'll actually get that one.

9 Response to "Saawariya"

  1. bollywooddeewana says:
    July 3, 2009 at 4:33 AM

    I haven't see this but black is definitely an enjoyable flick, however i feel its one of those films to see once and then that's it, as its very emotional

  2. Jules says:
    July 3, 2009 at 9:05 PM

    The towel scene was the ONLY enjoyable part of the movie for me... well that and Lollipop's incredible singing. That blew me away. You only *almost* fell asleep?? How'd you manage that? I was asleep well before interval! LOL

    Not my cup of tea either, but you do write an amazing review despite!!

  3. shell says:
    July 4, 2009 at 7:42 AM

    @ bollywooddeewana - I've had Black for some time and haven't watched it. I liked Bhansali's version of Devdas, so maybe Black will redeem him in my eyes.

    @ Jules - it was one of those nodding off things that didn't quite stick. Haha, Lollipop's singing. You're funny. I think I almost jinxed it with my comment at the beginning. Oh well, on to the next one.

  4. Beth says:
    July 7, 2009 at 7:31 AM

    Saawariya left me cold too. I enjoyed looking at it while it was on the screen, but that was the only impact it made. I left the theater thinking "Wait, what?" and then it slipped from my brain entirely :)

  5. shell says:
    July 7, 2009 at 9:33 AM

    If I'd seen this in the theatre I would have for sure fallen asleep, though I probably would have ended up dreaming about bridges. Somehow the opening song is still stuck in my head.

  6. Beth says:
    July 7, 2009 at 12:10 PM

    I took a friend to see it who had never seen any Bollywood (other than a few youtube clips I sent her). She loved it - I think she was totally razzle-dazzled. In my review, I likened this one to a regrettable one-night stand - fun enough while it lasted, but utterly wrong once it was over.

  7. shell says:
    July 7, 2009 at 8:55 PM

    lol, Beth! I suppose to someone who's never seen a good Bollywood film, it certainly would have seemed quite the spectacle. I hope you've broadened her spectrum since!

  8. Anonymous Says:
    July 31, 2009 at 11:14 AM

    Perhaps Imaan is but a figment of her imagination, a symbol of the madness that she continues to immerse herself in? It certainly would explain her erratic behaviour, her irrational and obsessive love for a man she knew hardly anything about and spent nearly no time with.

    Now, would THAT e an interesting film! I actually think you're a genius for thinking of that. I think it would actually improve the climax loads.

    And ditto about the Salman / statue thing.

  9. shell says:
    July 31, 2009 at 2:04 PM

    rhilex - Well, really, it is the only reason I think any woman would be attracted to Sallu!
    (Oops, was that my outside voice?).