Six stories. Twelve characters. Helmed by a supremely talented director.
Yet, SALAAM-E-ISHQ, an ode to love, a celebration of love, a film that salutes love, lacks the power to make you fall in love with it. It's high on hype. But extremely low on content. Reason: Too many stories spoil the broth!
Let's get to the root of the problem right away. Where does this desi adaptation of LOVE ACTUALLY falter?
[a] Barring two stories, the remaining stories are not well etched. It looks like a disjointed effort. And also amateurish at times. More on that later!
[b] The style of narrating the stories is abstract. It takes time to get a hang of things. And when you actually fathom what's going on, you realize that its appeal is restricted to a thin section of moviegoers. For the majority of viewers, especially the masses, absorbing the six stories running simultaneously is as difficult as sipping lassi, sherbet, cola, juice and milk simultaneously.
[c] The film suffers -- and badly at that -- due to its unwarranted length. Either Nikhil Advani fell in love with the film and lost all objectivity or the editor doesn't know his job well and forgot to use the scissors. Or, perhaps, the editor had no say in the matter. What could've been conveyed in a concise format of 2 + hours is stretched to a boring 3.30 hours. The film goes on and on and on endlessly!
Nikhil Advani proved his abilities in his directorial debut KAL HO NAA HO, but the problem with SALAAM-E-ISHQ is that he tries to pack too many stories and too many incidents in one film. Never stretch a rubber band beyond a point. It's bound to give away. SALAAM-E-ISHQ tests the patience of the viewer for this very reason!
On the brighter side, Nikhil has handled certain sequences remarkably. In fact, he does pull off some amazingly well-tuned moments as well as some funny ones. But as the captain of the ship, he should've ensured that the writing is foolproof. Either he got carried away with the script or he realized he had to do justice to the magnum cast, resulting in this labour of love proving one laborious exercise for the watcher.
To cut a long story short, SALAAM-E-ISHQ disappoints big time!
Tehzeeb [Vidya Balan] wakes up in the morning to find a small diamond pendant by her bedside. It's an anniversary gift from her romantic husband Ashu [John Abraham]. Things take a turn when Tehzeeb is involved in a tragic train accident. She loses memory!
Raju [Govinda], a cabbie, meets his 'dream girl' Stephanie [Shanon Esra], who's come looking for Rohit [Kushal Punjabi], her boyfriend, in India. Rohit decides to marry an Indian girl of his parents' choice, while Stephanie gradually falls in love with Raju.
Vinay [Anil Kapoor] leads a perfect life. He has a loving wife Seema [Juhi Chawla] and two kids. Also, a perfect job in London. But things change when he bumps into Anjali [Anjana Sukhani]. Anjali comes from a world that Vinay only dreams of. Vinay's life undergoes a tumultuous change.
Kamini [Priyanka Chopra], an item girl in Bollywood, aspires for the coveted heroine's role in a Karan Johar film. She devises a plot to change her image by announcing that she's into a serious relationship with a fictitious character Rahul. Suddenly, Rahul [Salman Khan] enters the scene from nowhere!
Shiven [Akshaye Khanna], the most eligible bachelor in New Delhi, is engaged to get married in the next 10 days. But he develops cold feet. He wants to break off the engagement. And he does so by hurting his fiancÃ© Gia [Ayesha Takia] in the bargain. Gradually, he begins to realize that he is incomplete without Gia.
Ramdayal [Sohail Khan] is a middle class Haryanvi, married to Phoolwati [Isha Koppikar]. No matter how and where Ramdayal tries to fulfill that burning desire, something goes wrong.
Now let's dissect each of the stories...
Salman-Priyanka: This one sends out confusing signals. The entire exercise -- Priyanka desperately wanting to star in a Karan Johar film and Salman latching on to her -- is a shining example of amateurish writing. Salman loves Priyanka, but she loves her career. So how does this ambitious woman change so suddenly? Salman hardly does anything dramatic to bring about a revolution in her life. And Karan Johar's phone calls to Priyanka make the film-maker sound so desperate. In fact, Nikhil has belittled his mentor [Karan Johar] and made him appear like an opportunistic film-maker!
Anil-Juhi-Anjana: An interesting concept. Mirrors the truth. But Anil's transformation [shaves off his moustache, wears bizarre outfits and breaks into a dance] takes it away from reality. The rift between Anil-Juhi is brilliant, but Anjana's character gets a hasty exit. Is the other woman always black?
Govinda-Shanon: A thin story that's stretched unnecessarily. Yet, the conversations between the desi babu and videsh mem keep you engrossed. The culmination to this story [at the wedding] is interesting.
John-Vidya: Clearly, the best story of the lot. And what takes it further is the twist in the tale -- Vidya losing her memory and John trying every possible thing to revive her memory. The sequence at Akshaye's residence is outstanding.
Akshaye-Ayesha: Believable. But too verbose to the point of getting boring. Also, the sequences could've been much more convincing. The incident that brings about a change in his life [John-Vidya sequence] is apt.
Sohail-Isha: Crass. Tries so hard to be funny, but isn't. Perhaps, the front benchers might like it. This track disappears suddenly. Kya hua, Director sahab?
Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy's music is pleasant. 'Dil Kya Kare' [rendered beautifully by Adnan Sami] and the title track are two numbers that stand out. 'Babuji Dheere Chalna' [filmed on Anjana] is another pertinent track that comes at the right place. Piyush Shah's cinematography is excellent. The film bears a consistent look all through.
Of the twelve important characters and the sundry supporting ones, Govinda [suits the role and also does well], Akshaye Khanna [exceptional], John Abraham [dependable], Vidya Balan [wonderful], Shanon Esra [pleasant surprise] and Juhi Chawla [credible] leave a mark.
Salman looks fake. Priyanka hams. Someone should tell her that acting and screeching are two different things. Anil Kapoor looks jaded. Anjana is decent, but her role is half-baked. Ayesha Takia gets minimal scope. Sohail and Isha are hardly there. Amongst supporting actors, Prem Chopra, Tinnu Anand and Vishal Malhotra [Akshaye's friend] are noticeable.
On the whole, SALAAM-E-ISHQ has one major ace -- its massive star cast, which has translated into tremendous hype. But the deficiencies outweigh everything in this enterprise -- disjointed script, abstract style of narrating the story and excessive length [3.30 hours/23 reels]. At the box-office, the tremendous hype will result in a bountiful first weekend, but SALAAM-E-ISHQ lacks the power to walk on its feet after the initial euphoria subsides. The business at multiplexes will be strong in the initial days only, but the film will cut a sorry figure at single screens and also at screens dominated by masses. Highly disappointing!