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Tale of Two Movies – Sawariya & OSO November 12, 2007

Posted by astralwicks in Bollywood, Culture, Entertainment, Farah Khan, Films, india, Movies, Om Shanti Om, Personal, Ranbir Kapoor, Review, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Sawariya, Sonam Kapoor, Writing.

Welcome to 2 films that are similar and separated at the same time. Both are loud, over the top. Both peppered with songs. Both introducing the future stars of the industry. Both by one time choreographers who are now directors. One is Bhansali and the other Farah.

Sawariya and Om Shanti Om have hit the silver screen. OSO is a runaway hit as expected, whereas Sawariya is trudging along, although Sony Pictures who debut in India with the mega-hyped Sawariya, would make us believe otherwise.

Bhansali is considered an Auteur…in India and abroad. He shares a love – hate relationship with the critics for various reasons. His films are anticipated with bated breath…right from casting to music to publicity and release. It’s an event in the cinema – calender of the country.

Sawariya was no different. It was the launch vehicle of Ranbir Kapoor, the 3rd generation of the Kapoor Klan and Sonam, another Kapoor, but daughter of Anil Kapoor. A star son and a star daughter being launched by presumably the biggest film maker in the country; a healthy budget, a Dostoeivsky short-story as original content and songs…the forte of SLB…all in one film. It couldn’t have been bigger than this.

Om Shanti Om, in contrast is a tongue in cheek film about the Hindi film industry…it jokes about yesteryear actors, acting styles and the innumerable Bollywood cliches that we love and hate. It is also a tribute to a narrative style that many say is on its last legs. OSO is a nostalgia laden roller coaster…at least in the 1st half. It has many a moment that congratulates Farah Khan, its director. Shah Rukh, playing an extra, is memorable. Deepika the lissome lass, all agree, is here to stay. The 9 minute star – studded song is grating and unnecessary but Hindi films have never been known to have strong 2nd halfs.

So one doesn’t mind OSO. One appreciates the Devil’s sense of humour.

Sense of humour is something that Bhansali doesn’t seem to have. Bhansali’s aesthetic is one of EXCESS. In laughter, tears, song, dance, melodrama…his leitmotif is excess. Excess can and has been an aesthetic. Film makers, past and present, have taken recourse and make memorable films. The same holds true for Bhansali.

From the fantastic palace setting of an Indian classical musician in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, its hyperloud Salman Khan to the prurient Aishwarya of the same film; Devdas’s melodrama in style and content; to the caricaturish Rani in Black to Ranbir’s imitation of Raj Kapoor (his grandfather) and the BLUE that pervades the entire film…Bhansali can be equated with a kitsch that is unique but sadly deliberate.

Sawariya takes place somewhere in sometime. A train, a guitar and what are they called ‘mirchi lights’ that decorate the pubs in this fantasy land give clues that this is located, rooted in…god knows where? A Buddha statue there, a mural here, a gandola, a bridge, a jazz pub, some whacked out (literally) prostitutes and fleeting extras inhabit this Tim Burtonish landscape. I think this idea of being Tim Burton might have weighed heavily on the film maker. Fantasy.

Fantasy. Place the film in a land and time that nobody knows. That land and time has its own rules; its own mores; its own customs and its own idiosyncracies. Nothing wrong with that. So Sakina and Ranbir the singer meet on deserted cobble-stoned streets that could be Venice. They meet, talk, share sweet-nothings and sing songs and pine…Ranbir for Sakina and Sakina for the mysterious, boxing bag weilding Salman Khan and Gulabji rooting for Ranbir.

Ranbir the lover falters in love and the 2nd half is him trying to redeem himself…with a little help from Rani, the prostitite with a conscience. You need a climax to end a film and as things would be Sakina is on the verge of falling in love with Ranbir when the bag weilding Khan called Imaan enters once again muttering ‘Masha Allah’ and all’s well. Er…not really.

By then you are BLUE. Blue is the reigning color of the film. There is enough Blue to last a lifetime. Who is an Auteur? One who has a vision or one who imposes a vision? Is it a way of making a film? Is it an approach to art? Is it an approach to the language of the medium? Is it in making one’s own distinct dialect?

Bhansali’s films are Bhansali’s films. And so is Karan Johar’s and Rakesh Roshan’s. Means that everybody in India is an auteur. Is it so?

Bhansali’s are angst ridden tales of unrequited love, great suffering, masochistic heroes, sacrificing heroines, unreasonable emotions…his films have grand passions and grander settings. True. But grandiose ideas, a big budget, a stellar cast maketh not a film.

Bhansali no matter what his problems was a great choreographer. I say WAS, because with Sawariya, Bhansali has reached the nadir as far as song picturzation is considered. The Rani + gang song is one of the worst in recent times. The Id song is bizarre to say the least.

Bollywood makes musicals. Sawariya too is a musical but what went wrong…?

Is it a showreel gone wrong? Or is it about a director who is overwhelmed by his IDEA about HIMSELF. It has happened in the past. Your own art and craft or one’s assumptions about one’s art becomes bigger, more important and powerful so as to blinker the maker’s vision.

Why do the 2 shots of the sprawling city with a train chugging exist? Does it represent something? Is the director hinting at something? About the caged existence of Gulabji, the prostitute, and the forgotten Parsi/Christian landlady played endearingly by Zohra Sehgal? Why does the cardboard wall of the set move when Ranbir writes Sakina’s name for the first time?

Why do we as audience are unable to willingly suspend our disbelief, wink at the fantasy and move on with the story of love, redemption, pain, suffering and enjoy a catharsis? Why don’t we cheer for Sakina’s foolish belief that Imaan, her love will return. Why don’t we also not root for Raj’s love for Sakina? Clap when he burns the letter. Cry when he feels the pangs of guilt?

Because the idea of ‘OPUS’ smothers love, feeling, emotion, sentiment of the young protagonists. Because the IDEE FIXE of the director is the director himself. And not the story. It’s time Bhansali needed a Knight.






1. v - November 13, 2007

i wish i’d Bhansali’s id to post him this review…

2. gudus - November 15, 2007

sahi hai! truly enjoyed this review. your best yet. haven’t seen either film, sadly, so cannot agree nor disagree with your thoughts.

suggestion, review dvd films you’ve watched recently.

3. astralwicks - November 16, 2007

me is touched gudu…finally i win your approval. 🙂

4. dogstail - November 16, 2007

LOvely Astral, you have ripped him apart.

5. Ajit - November 17, 2007

Todays Hindu, Manoj Kumar is offended by SRK copying and making fun of his style. SRK has apologised. Faraha wants to delete the objectionable scenes.

Funny how Manoj Kumar was offended and how these people are bending over to pander to his ego.

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