Irrespective of how his films fare at the box-office, you cannot shut your eyes to the fact that Sanjay Leela Bhansali's films have so much to offer in terms of style and substance.
Alas, SAAWARIYA is all style, no substance. When a director of the calibre of SLB attempts a love story, you expect to experience the various emotions that you generally associate with romance. Sadly, the emotions you experience while watching SAAWARIYA is sorrow and after the screening, anguish.
With splendid backers like Hollywood giant Columbia/Sony and a dream cast, Bhansali falters big time in SAAWARIYA. It doesn't give you the feeling that you're watching an SLB film or a film of epic proportions. Instead, you constantly feel that you're watching a 2-hour play.
Dostoevsky's short story WHITE NIGHTS may sound interesting on paper, but SLB's adaptation suffers because there's not much meat in the plot. In fact, it wouldn't be erroneous to state that SAAWARIYA ranks amongst SLB's weakest films, as far as scripting is concerned.
To cut a long story short, SAAWARIYA disappoints big time. You expect the moon from this genius film-maker, but you're disheartened as you watch his new creation.
This time, hum dil nahin de chuke sanam!
SAAWARIYA is about two young star-crossed lovers. A musician, Raj [Ranbir Kapoor], is certain that he has found his ultimate dream when he arrives at a picturesque town. However, destiny paints a different picture for Raj. One silent night, he spots a mysterious girl draped in black, standing alone at a bridge.
This chance encounter introduces him to Sakina [Sonam Kapoor], a shy and quiet girl, who continues to intrigue him. Thus follows the beginning of a new friendship, where Raj, with his most charming ways and an undying spirit, tries to win Sakina's heart.
Raj is unable to accept her haunting past and their friendship pulls him into a whirlwind of desire, madness and romance.
SAAWARIYA suffers because of its writing mainly. Let's unravel the points that bother the viewer no end...
- Which part of the country is this straight-out-of-a-fairytale town located? And what era are we talking of?
- Even if you subscribe to the theory that it was love at first sight for Salman and Sonam, what is it that keeps their romance going?
- Why does Salman disappear suddenly? Besides his name, the girl knows nothing about him. Not his home/native place, work/profession/work place, relatives, nothing absolutely. It's like falling in love with a shadow, isn't it?
- Why does Rani Mukerji abandon Ranbir, when he comes knocking on her doors and admits that he wants to spend time with her? Why does she lose her temper, although she secretly loves him?
- And Salman returns. The sequence that follows and the culmination to the story leave you completely disgruntled and perplexed!
Besides, the conversation between the lead pair fails to involve you. Sure, a few sequences are filmed brilliantly, but the impact the film ought to create in totality is missing. It gets verbose and boring after a point.
What makes matters worse is the setting/ambience. The film gets monotonous after a point, visually speaking, since it has been shot in its entirety on dark sets. You long for some visual relief, some bright spots, some sunshine...
Monty's music is another sore point. Sure, a few songs are well tuned, but the everlasting melody, associated with SLB's films, is missing. You hear them, savour them that moment, but forget all about them once the movie concludes.
Ravi K. Chandran's cinematography is of international standards. The sets look imaginative, but as mentioned earlier, you yearn for a visual break, a different colour.
As a storyteller, SLB is letdown by his own writing. Things start slipping as the reels unfold. In the post-interval portions, you fervently pray that things might stabilize, for SLB as also Ranbir and Sonam's sake, but alas! The love, passion and anguish, the hallmark of SLB films, is clearly missing this time.
Now to the dream launches! Ranbir Kapoor is supremely talented, no two opinions on that. Yes, he looks handsome, but what you carry home is the sincerity in his performance. If that's the [high] level of performance in his debut film, this lad will only make the Kapoor clan proud in years to come. It's a 10 on 10 for this debutante!
Sonam Kapoor is an average actor. However, her role doesn't give her the opportunity to display histrionics. She looks gorgeous at places, but plain ordinary at times.
Age has started showing on Salman Khan's face. He looks like an old, mature man in this film. The boyish looks have gone! As for his role, he is completely wasted in this hardly-10-minute appearance. Rani Mukerji is first-rate. Zohra Segal is superb, while Begum Para is hardly there.
On the whole, SAAWARIYA lacks soul. It's SLB's weakest film to date, in terms of writing. At the box-office, the film will collect big numbers in its opening weekend due to the Diwali vacations as also the hype surrounding the film. But the cracks will start showing at relatively smaller stations/single screens first [where the practice of advance booking doesn't exist] and at big centres as days progress. For the distributors, they'll have to rely on its business from multiplexes mainly. While the business from multiplexes at Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, NCR, Kolkata, Jaipur and South will be impressive initially, there would be a big gap between multiplex and non-multiplex centres. Overall, disappointing -- in terms of content and in terms of business as well!