By Rohini Mohan
Boy, Sanjay Leela Bhansali really has it in for Dostoevsky. Either that, or ‘Black’ sucked all the creativity out of him.
Saawariya is supposedly based on Fyodor Dostoevsky’s ‘White Nights’ a story set in a dreamlike backdrop and spread over four sensual nights. The narrator is a loner who falls hopelessly in love with Nastenka a beautiful young thing who has already given her heart to a man who goes away promising to return in a year once he has earned enough to marry her. Over the four white nights she recounts her story in graphic detail to the narrator for whom the whole experience is painful, suffering as he is from unrequited love. Who will eventually spend their life with Nastenka; the narrator or the mysterious lover? That is the essence of the original.
This adaptation launches in the lead roles, Ranbir Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor, both star children. Ranbir Kapoor, son of that most natural and gifted of on and off screen couples, Rishi and Neetu, can reduce you to tears with his emoting. Tears of sheer frustration, that is. I guess the director was really not looking when Ranbir did some of his scenes. At gunpoint I would probably say that he is close to average in some intense scenes, but overall I would rate him about 3 out of 10. Like his cousin Karisma in that disastrous Prem Qaidi. Dances like a dream though. Why he had to moon the audience is not something I can comprehend entirely, but then call it my lack of imagination, there were several things about this movie that completely went over my head.
Like the sets in black and blue. A weird, anachronistic combination of modern and ancient, with cobbled streets and bridges and canals and street signs and a thriving red light district a la Moulin Rouge, the whole thing is eerily suspended between fairy tale and reality. And then there’s Sakina’s (Sonam Kapoor’s) very weakly dealt with character. If there was too little time and effort vested in the heroine, there was even less of an effort to integrate the main love story into the plot. The romance between Salman Khan and Sonam which is supposed to be the crux of the entire storyline is given a summary disposal. In fact, the entire first half seriously maims all curiosity because it is such a successful attempt at trying your patience. And Zohra Sehgal has truly overstayed her welcome in Bollywood.
Rani Mukherji is the only breath of fresh air even if her role was quite redundant and seems to have been especially created so she can be in the movie. Her talent, her flawless dialog delivery and her effortless role playing as lady of the boudoir particularly stand out among the other below-par performances. I could not have survived it without her.
If you have read this review through and are not getting a sense for what the movie was all about, I should tell you that I have still not quite got it myself. Could be because my natural instinct for self preservation made me doze off for a good chunk. For me at least, not one emotional chord was touched in the entire 2 odd hours of my life that I dedicated to this experience. If you must go see it, leave your questioning mind and your tissues at home. You will need neither.
The title song was nice though…