Urban themes with style and attitude are the order of the day. And with the multiplex junta in India as also NRIs zealously giving their mandate to these movies, metro-centric themes/issues are being dished out by dream merchants relentlessly. The tide tilts towards contemporary themes concerning the urban Indian, while paarivaarik issues are consigned to television soaps. That's the trend of late!
Sooraj R. Barjatya's VIVAH does a complete about-turn. It is reminiscent of the cinema of yore. It re-introduces you to a world many of us may have forgotten thanks to the barrage of modern themes. It re-introduces you to the traditional side, without getting orthodox.
VIVAH is very desi, very Indian at heart, seeped in Hindustani emotions. It talks of familial bonding. It packs in loads of desi sentiments in those 2.48 hours. It faithfully follows the tradition of Rajshri movies of providing unadulterated entertainment. But VIVAH is not without its share of blemishes. And since this is a Sooraj R. Barjatya film, you just can't overlook the flaws: Its slow narrative [in the first half especially] and sub-standard music [Ravindra Jain].
Like all Sooraj R. Barjatya films, the best is reserved for the penultimate reels and VIVAH is no exception. Deep inside, you know that a storm is brewing and it explodes in the second hour. You have a nagging feeling that one of the characters might create problems. But the twist in the tale is completely unexpected. It's unconventional, yes, and therein lies its strength.
To sum up, VIVAH is not in the league of Sooraj's first two films [MAINE PYAR KIYA and HUM AAPKE HAIN KOUN] in terms of content and music. Nonetheless, it has a strong second half and an equally strong emotional quotient to appeal to the Indian junta that tilts towards paarivaarik films, especially the family audiences.
Prem [Shahid Kapoor] may be an eligible bachelor, but he is not yet ready for marriage. He agrees to meet Poonam [Amrita Rao] just to please his dad [Anupam Kher] and finds a woman he can really grow to love.
An awkward, formal exchange of words grows into a deep, meaningful conversation as Prem and Poonam soon discover that they are soul mates. Poonam, an orphan, has grown up in a small town, where her Chacha [Alok Nath] has brought her up. Chachi [Seema Biswas], however, is jealous of Poonam's beauty, simplicity and charm, as her own daughter Chothi [Amrita Prakash] is overshadowed.
Gentle, soft-spoken Prem, the scion of one of Delhi's most prosperous business houses, may have studied abroad, but retains his respect for family traditions and values. Prem and Poonam are engaged and the marriage is scheduled to take place after six months.
Prem and Poonam now enter the most magical and romantic time of their lives. Just when everything is set for the wedding, a crisis puts their love through a trial by fire.
In terms of scripting, VIVAH is structured on the lines of HUM AAPKE HAIN KOUN. The first hour as well as the start of the second hour focuses on light moments and songs. But the film changes gears twenty minutes after the second half begins. While the light moments as also the songs of H.A.H.K. were magnetic, that's not the case with VIVAH.
Sure, VIVAH starts off very well and the bonding between Alok Nath and the baby [Amrita Rao's childhood] is indeed emotional. Everything is fine till Shahid and Amrita get engaged. Surprisingly, there's no movement in the story thereafter. It wouldn't be erroneous to state that the story comes to a grinding halt as the lovers indulge in romantic talk for the next 35 odd minutes. Besides, the songs are a complete distraction here. Not only are the tunes lifeless and belong to the fast-forward variety, even the placement of a couple of songs is inappropriate.
Thankfully, VIVAH strikes back in the post-interval portions. The twist in the tale is the highpoint of the enterprise and the dramatic events take the graph of the film to its peak. The emphasis is on emotions and the twists and turns in the concluding reels are sure to make you moist eyed. The sequence between Shahid and Amrita in the hospital is brilliantly executed. Note the dialogue that follows thereafter [delivered by Mohnish Bahl] -- that's another clapworthy moment.
Sooraj R. Barjatya is back to his style of narrating simple stories, with emphasis on emotions. As pointed above, this may not be Sooraj's finest effort, but the assets outnumber the liabilities this time. However, the film needs to be trimmed by at least 20/25 minutes and a few songs should be deleted instantaneously for a better, stronger impact.
Ravindra Jain's music is archaic. Barring the 'Mujhe Haque Hain' and to an extent 'Do Anjaane Ajnabi', the remaining tracks are listless. Cinematography [Harish Joshi] is plain mediocre. Dialogues [Aash Karan Atal] are wonderful and the emotional lines do tug at your heart strings.
Shahid Kapoor performs like never before. If he was super-cool in ISHQ VISHK and showed flashes of brilliance in FIDA, you've to watch him in VIVAH to see his growth as a tremendous actor. He is exceptional in emotional sequences. Amrita Rao also gets a new lease of life with VIVAH. She looks the character and is splendid all through.
VIVAH has a host of characters, but the ones that stand out are Alok Nath [terrific], Seema Biswas [excellent], Anupam Kher [very good], Amrita Prakash [confident] and Master Ameya Pandya [first-rate]. Sameer Soni, Lataa Saberwal, Manoj Joshi and Dinesh Lamba are adequate. Mohnish Bahl [sp. app.] does well.
On the whole, VIVAH has an ordinary/routine first half, but the post-interval portions, notably the climax, compensate for the shortcomings. At the box-office, the rich emotional quotient [last 40 minutes] should appeal to ladies/families and help the film gather momentum slowly, but surely. The film may start on a slow note, but a strong word of mouth should help it consolidate its status in the traditional markets. Business may not be strong at multiplexes as much as in single screens, where the weekly run will compensate for the number of shows at multiplexes.