Thursday, May 08, 2008

Saawariya / U Me Aur Hum


Saawariya is Sanjay Leela Bhansali's adaptation of Fyodor Dostoevsky's short story White Nights. Looking great but lacking heart, it is a unique but detached experience.

Saawariya's story is the same as Iyarkai, as a newcomer to a place falls in love with a woman only to learn about her past love and is then stuck between helping locate her lover and hoping that he never returns to her. Even details about the woman waiting at a specific place - its a bridge here while it was a lighthouse in Iyarkkai - are similar which leads me to wonder if Iyarkai's director got his inspiration from White Nights too. The way the story is presented on screen is where the two movies differ though. While Iyarkai set it in Andaman and allowed the unique scenery and life of the port town to bring intimacy and realism to the film, Saawariya goes for the exact opposite effect by setting the story in a make-believe land and turning it into a near-musical.

It does work though because the film sure looks gorgeous. Freeing himself from the shackles of realism in the very first scene, where a voice-over informs us that the place exists only a girl's mind, Bhansali makes the town a picture-perfect place. The sets are grand even if unrealistic and blue, in all its shades, dominates the palette. There are large signboards, bright lights, nice people and elaborate song sequences. But there is also the sad love story and the noir feel as most of the film is set in the dark(I'm not sure there was any scene set during the day). The fairy-tale aspects clash with the noir touches, giving the film a unique, almost-surrealistic feel.

This picture-book look never allows us to get involved in the film though. The performances are sincere and the pieces are in place but at no point did the film invoke any emotions. We never feel for anyone and don't really care how the love triangle is resolved. So the climax - which is a lot more low-key compared to Iyarkai, by the way - doesn't move us.

Ranbir Kapoor has a boyish charm but there are a few scenes where he carries the innocent look a bit too far and ends up just looking a bit dumb. But he doesn't show any first-film jitters though. The movie loses no chance to convey his heritage, right from his dresses to the name of a bar displayed quite conspicuously. Sonam Kapoor is more subdued as the role demands. Rani Mukherjee is luminous as a prostitute - with a heart of gold ofcourse - who has a soft corner for Ranbir while Salman is seriousness personified in a cameo.

U Me Aur Hum

Ajay Devgan's transformation from action hero to romantic hero was surprising but even more surprising is his choice of subject for his directorial debut. Featuring him with wife Kajol, U Me Aur Hum is a film that portrays a couple's life as one of them is afflicted with Alzheimer's disease. A bit too superficial to have an impact, it is still a confident debut from the actor-turned-director.

The film is cleanly divided into two sections featuring completely different emotions and tones. Neither segment is particularly original or emotionally deep but they work well together. While the first half introduces us to Ajay(Ajay Devgan) and Piya(Kajol) as they fall in love and get married, the second half focuses on their lives as Piya is afflicted with Alzheimer's. Ajay's courting of Kajol isn't too original as he learns about her without her knowledge and then impresses her by feigning similar tastes. But there are a few fun moments and we do get to know and like the couple, which is what the section aims for anyway. The film creates believable supporting characters as Ajay's friends and the way they rally around the couple after their troubles is heartwarming.

The troubles Ajay and Kajol face after Kajol is afflicted don't have the impact of the troubles faced by the protagonists in similarly-themed films like Thanmatra. The problem is that the time period here is too long and we hardly see a fraction of it. The few incidents we see are touch our hearts on the whole, the film barely skims the surface of the situation's seriousness. Kajol's behavior in some places puts us in doubt as to her exact afflection and the film's ending feels artificial and contrived too.


At 5:06 AM, Blogger Krishnan said...

Why doubt ! I remember reading in many reviews of Iyarkai that is is heavily "inspired" by White Nights.
But I got to say that Iyarkai was good cinema.

At 7:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

padathukku "Saavariya?"-nu title vecha, yevan povaan? But, enna sonnaalum director-oda nermaiya paarattanum. title-liye padam eppadi irukkumnu clue kuduthirukkaru.


At 10:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...! that is the funniest comment I have read in a while!


At 3:37 PM, Blogger mitr_bayarea said...


just reading your reviews suffices my need to go to the theatre to watch them, esp. hindi ones.

At 10:52 PM, Blogger D.E.V said...

i missed watching it in the theater and watched on vcd..still could not watch the entire movie..saw it in just bits and parts..What put me off was the's too dark and sureal, it was like a love story being set in a grave yard..

I'm eagarly waiting for your review on "jodha akhbar"..may take u a few days to watch it coz of the length of the movie...

At 10:18 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

krishnan, I don't remember reading anything on 'iyarkai' being based on 'white nights'. and since I didn't know about the story either, I didn't recognize the connection when i saw the movie :)

arun, I second kumar :)

mitr, thanx :)

skanda, yeah i agree with the 'dark and surreal' part. but for me, since the story was simple and also the same as 'iyarkai', the cinematography made the movie seem fresh and different :)

At 11:44 AM, Blogger Ven Sharma said...

Balaji - Sir, please go watch the movie "Tare Zameen Par".


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