Judge Clark Douglas was relieved to learn that "Bollywood" was not a mesh of "Uwe Boll" and "Hollywood."
Our review of Saawariya, published May 6th, 2008, is also available.
Her world was waiting for his love. His world was waiting for her love. And when the two met…
"I ain't gonna let you out of my sight,
Facts of the Case
Stories don't have simpler beginnings. A hot young man (Ranbir Kapoor, Karma) meets a hot young woman (Rani Mukherjee, Baabul) in a bar, and they make a connection. Oh, what, he's leaving? Okay, never mind. This noble young man connects with his elderly landlady (Zohra Seghal, The Mistress of Spices) and becomes the grandson she never had. This is the story of two differents generations finding a soul connection. Oh, hang on…never mind, our hero is moving on. He's wandering the streets at night, singing soulful pop songs, and he sees a mysterious young woman named Sakina (Sonam Kapoor, Dilli 6). He falls in love with her, she falls in love with him, and they sing to each other. Saawariya is their story. No, really, it is. Well, sort of. Everything seems to be going well until the also-hot Imaan (Salman Khan, Marigold) enters the picture. Imaan is a bad guy. We know this because ominous music plays every time he appears. Will the two lovers still make it to the finish line? Don't answer just yet; you might be a bit surprised.
Saawariya is one of the first Bollywood titles to come to Blu-ray, and it's easy to see why. The film is readily accessible for American audiences and boasts an impressive array of visuals and special effects. It also has a pretty big budget, as Sony stepped in to co-finance the film (which they felt would be accessible to viewers everywhere). However, while it is most assuredly one of the most accessible Bollywood titles, it is by no means one of the best. The film demonstrates very successfully that you can make empty, shallow pop music spectacles in any language. Sure, the lyrics may be different than what Westerners are used to (I can't remember the last time I heard Justin Timberlake singing about sacred cultural traditions while grinding his hips), but the general feeling, look, and sound of the songs are still the same. Now, I don't mean to denigrate shallow pop music. It certainly has its place, but you can find better Bollywood films than this to offer it to you.
First and foremost, Saawariya seems to be designed for 13-year-old girls who can swoon over the scruffy and gorgeous Ranbir Kapoor. He pines and aches and sighs and strips (yes, but within the confines the PG rating) as well as any Backstreet Boy, and his whiny-pop sound is sure to make members of this film's core audience faint with happiness. I must be upfront with you all and confess (much to your surprise, I'm sure) that I am not part of this film's core audience. Before viewing it, I thought I might have been. Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali has made some wonderful films in the past (see his absolutely superb Straight From the Heart), but this time he seems to have chosen to bypass genuine feelings and emotions in favor of offering a rather blatant attempt to make his film more commercial.
The film is by all means overlong at 142 minutes, stretching out dead patches of plot and failing to break away often enough to musical numbers for entertainment. While we spend far more time with the characters than we really need to, it's also surprisingly difficult to care about them. They all seem underdeveloped, and we know exactly where everyone is going before very long. Of course, this sort of film is supposed to be about the journey rather than the conclusion…but in this case, the journey isn't any more interesting than the conclusion. The romance doesn't really travel from A to B…it starts at A and walks around in circles, bumping into various letters of the alphabet before it finally hits B. That's disappointing, especially considering that the source material for this story is Dostoevsky's White Knights.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
So, the actual story here may not be very good, but the film sure is lovely to look at. If you're going to see the film, by all means check it out on Blu-ray, because it looks and sounds sensational. All of the splendid sets look pristine in 1080p and are generally impressive in spite of their obvious artifice. My only complaint about the transfer is that some of the darker colors during a few late-night scenes get a bit murky…but only a bit. For the most part, the film really does look sensational, especially during some of the big production numbers. The sound is top-drawer, particularly during the musical sequences, which will give your subwoofer more of a workout than you might expect. Disc extras are limited to a 20-minute making-of featurette (which is really quite good) and 20 minutes of footage from the premiere. There's actually a lot of overlap, as a good chunk of footage from the latter turns up in the former. There's no trailer for the film itself, but there is an HD trailer for The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep.
The performances are also reasonably effective, despite the fact that the characters are left underdeveloped in some cases (such as the villainous Imaan). My own favorite performance came from Zhora Seghal as the elderly landlady, who adds a very human element to a film that too often feels plastic.
If you want a colorful spectacle for your Blu-ray player, Saawariya will do the trick…but there are other (better) films that will provide the same thing. However, all you Bollywood fans with Blu-ray players may want to pick this up while you wait for better films from the genre to get a hi-def release.
Guilty, but sentencing will be limited to community service (aka, free concerts).
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Scales of Justice
• "Making the Music"
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