Yash Raj has introduced a number of talents over the decades. This time, they've entrusted the directorial reins to yet another apprentice -- Siddharth Raj Anand.
On face-value, Salaam | Namaste may resemble Yash Raj's 2004 hit HUM TUM. Besides Saif Ali Khan and Siddharth, its co-writer, even the setting is urbane. But HUM TUM and Salaam | Namaste are as diverse as chalk and cheese.
HUM TUM had an innovative story to tell, but Salaam | Namaste walks into a new alley altogether: Live-in relationships.
The concept of living together without taking the sacred vows of matrimony is not alien by any standards in real life. In reel life, yes, not many film-makers in Bollywood have delved into the intimate relationship shared by two consenting adults. In that respect, Salaam | Namaste does make an effort to push the envelope.
It's a myth that Indian audiences have still not come of age and continue to be orthodox about certain issues. But debutante director Siddharth Raj Anand handles the subject with utmost maturity, serving the pill in a saccharine sweet format. And that's one of the vital reasons why the viewer doesn't really raise an eyebrow or feel aghast while watching the flick.
Salaam | Namaste works also because the characters of Nick and Ambar are so true to life and identifiable and their portrayals by Saif and Preity, respectively so tremendous that you can't help but relate to the issue. The icing on the cake is, without a shred of doubt, Vishal-Shekhar's pleasant musical score.
In a nutshell, it's a big salaam to Yash Raj and Siddharth Raj Anand for presenting a flick that dares to be different, without hurting the sensibilities of an Indian moviegoer!
Nikhil aka Nick [Saif Ali Khan] has moved from India to Melbourne. He is a chef by profession. It lets him lead exactly the kind of commitment-free, laidback lifestyle that he has always wanted.
Nick's sleeping habit leads him to get on the wrong side of an RJ, whose show he doesn't turn up for. Enter Ambar [Preity Zinta], the peppy and vivacious host of a show at the 'Salaam Namaste' radio station. Ambar decides that Nick needs to learn a few basic lessons about life… and punctuality.
Opposites attract, love blossoms and the unlikely pair decide to share a house. They live together, but as friends, in different rooms. They're in a relationship, but not in the real sense. They seem to want the same things, but it seems that they have very little in common. Where can a relationship go after the initial flush? Is marriage an option?
Frankly speaking, Salaam | Namaste combines the best of two worlds: The cinema of Aditya Chopra-Karan Johar and the dynamism of venturing into areas that are risky, hitherto not ventured into.
Salaam | Namaste is similar to the successful Saathiya and Hum Tum in the sense that it looks at the delicate bonding between two youngsters, starting with inkaar, leading to ikraar. But it charters a new path gradually… Siddharth Raj Anand, who has also penned the script, focuses on light moments in the first 40 minutes or so, making you comfortable with the goings-on and situations, with the characters, and then comes to the point.
The screenplay is very cleverly penned. At first, Salaam | Namaste looks like a yuppie film with two people in their 20s balancing their personal and professional lives in faraway Melbourne, but you gradually get entangled with their lives as they decide to live under the same roof.
The film boasts of a number of striking sequences:
- The entire track from the radio station till the sequence when Saif and Preity get to know each other's true identity.
- The sequences at their new home, with both trying to adjust to one another.
- The intermission point, when Preity's pregnancy becomes the bone of contention.
The pace slows down in the post-interval portions because the story becomes serious. The rift between the two is sensibly portrayed and sensitively handled. The sequence when Saif feels the stomach of a pregnant Preity as also the scene at the restaurant when Saif's colleague talks about the kid are truly emotional. But the 'Paune Barah Baje' song looks inappropriate and showing a full-blown pregnant Preity dancing on difficult steps look weird.
But the film gathers speed yet again towards the final 20 minutes and right from Saif's confession on radio to the finale, its magic.
Siddharth Raj Anand is a director to watch! As a storyteller, the cinema he presents is very progressive and his style of narrating the story may resemble his peers, but the way the director handles the complex story is what makes him stand out from the crowd. The storytelling is very simple, but to the point. Just because it happens to be a love story, the debutante has refrained from packing the film with countless songs. Nor has he tried to make a hard effort to poke fingers in your eyes and make the proceedings overtly emotional.
Vishal-Shekhar's music is soulful and easy on the ears. The title track as well as 'My Heart Goes Mmmmm' stands out, you can't stop humming the tunes when Nick and Ambar dance on screen. The emotional 'Tu Jahan Main Wahan' depicts the emotional turmoil beautifully. The choreography of the first two tracks [Ahmed Khan] is very trendy. Cinematography [Sunil Patel] is fantastic. The lensman does complete justice to the eye-filling locales of Melbourne. Dialogues are wonderful.
Saif Ali Khan proves that he's amongst the brightest names on Indian screen. First Hum Tum, then Parineeta and now Salaam | Namaste, Saif delivers a spirited performance that stays with you even after the show has ended. He is outstanding in both emotional and light moments. The actor has worked hard on his looks and physique and looks smashing all through.
After Kya Kehna, Preity Zinta accepts the challenge of portraying an unwed mother yet again in Salaam | Namaste. The actor is terrific, delivering her most accomplished performance to date. Her lip locks with Saif will catch a lot of people unaware, but that's the sign of a thorough professional.
Arshad Warsi is super-efficient, while Javed Jaffrey is sure to bring the house down. Both the actors contribute so much to their sequences. Jugal Hansraj is likeable. Abhishek Bachchan makes an appearance in the end and the masses are sure to like him. Kunal Vijaykar is first-rate. Maria, Arshad's wife, also makes a cameo with their son Zeke.
On the whole, Salaam | Namaste is an immensely likeable film that should appeal to all ages, mainly its target audience -- the youth. At the box-office, this feel-good entertainer has all it takes to emerge victorious!