The first full-fledged Indian musical coproduced and distributed by a major Hollywood studio, this fanciful love story takes its unlikely inspiration from Fyodor Dostoevsky's short story White Nights.
The story takes place over a period of four days, culminating in the first day of Eid, the Muslim festival that marks the end of Ramadan fasting. Naive musician Ranbir Raj (Ranbir Kapoor) arrives in a strange city — a fairy-tale melange of Venetian-style canals, giant Buddhas, and English-language bars and cabarets that recalls the exuberantly stylized Montmartre of Baz Luhrmann's MOULIN ROUGE (2001) — with no money and no friends. He quickly lands a job at the glamorous RK Bar, a swank nightclub in the middle of the red-light district, and glamorous pavement princess Gulab (Rani Mukherjee) directs him to a local hotel run by Lilian (Zohra Sehgal), a cranky old Englishwoman who's won over by Raj's childlike playfulness and innocently loving nature. Soon after, Raj spots a beautiful young woman, Sakina (Sonam Kapoor), crying on a bridge. Smitten, he gradually draws out her story. Sakina lives with her overprotective grandmother (Begum Para) and an elderly servant, Jumari, and is waiting for the return of a mysterious lover named Imaan (Salman Khan). It's been a year since they promised to reunite on the bridge, and she's torn between giddy elation at the thought of his return and the fear that he won't. Sakina welcomes Raj's friendship, but he hopes to make her forget Imaan — who probably isn't coming back anyway — and return his love.
SAAWARIYA ("beloved") marks Sony Pictures' pioneering effort to secure a piece of the lucrative Indian film market, where moviegoers flock to domestically made films and American movies have made few inroads. While the film features the traditional lavish musical numbers, modest romance and broad humor juxtaposed with unabashed melodrama that are typical of mainstream Indian films, the somber palate, dominated by blue, black and slashes of red, is unusual. Production designer Omung Kumar's enormous, elaborately art-directed sets are simply incredible and overall the film is breathtakingly beautiful, but the story is painfully dull and repetitive. The songs are undistinguished, and while newcomers Sonam Kapoor and Ranbir Kapoor (who aren't related) both have impeccable Bollywood pedigrees, her performance is wildly uneven — she does crazy well, but otherwise she's bland — and his strenuously madcap antics are grating rather than endearing. Established stars Mukherjee and Khan eclipse them effortlessly, and with far less screen time.
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- Released: 2007
- Rating: PG
- Review: The first full-fledged Indian musical coproduced and distributed by a major Hollywood studio, this fanciful love story takes its unlikely inspiration from Fyodor Dostoevsky's short story White Nights. The story takes place over a period of four days, cu… (more)