By: By Subhash K Jha
Critic's Rating: 17/5
Friday 12 November 2004
Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta, Rani Mukherjee, Kirron Kher, Boman Irani, Anupam Kher, Divya Dutta, Manoj Bajpai, Amitabh Bachchan & Hema Malini
?Which era do these people belong to!? Rani Mukherjee exclaims about the Pakistani girl and the Indian man who live with the IDEA of love for 22 years.
Old yet passionate, frail yet sublime, the estranged lovers in Yash Chopra?s eagerly awaited film are no ordinary love-birds. Their body language, demeanour, speech and attitude hark back to an era when emotions were hallmarks of human nature, not designer-thingummys to be used as and when required in bubblegum concoctions that masquerade as romantic musicals in our wretched times.
By the time the utterly evocative theme song about two inseparable souls torn apart by fate comes on, we?re so enamoured of Yash Chopra?s pristine pastel and yet striking passions that we surrender entirely and unquestioningly to his prescription of romantic passion.
Just when we thought heartwarming tales of undying love were a dying art-form, Veer-Zaara comes along. It is the sort of sublimely designed, delicately threaded romantic fable that comes once in a while to win hearts and influence people. That it would succeed in doing so is almost a foregone conclusion.
After all, a film directed by Yash Chopra is no ordinary event. Veer-Zaara is a little more extraordinary than we expect it to be. While telling a fluent story about a love that cuts captivatingly across the Indo-Pak wire fence, Yash Chopra, for the first time in his romantic oeuvre, introduces ideas that transcend romance and other intimate preoccuations. Through the strong and very memorable character of the rookie lawyer Samiya (Rani Mukherjee), ideas on female literacy and women?s empowerment seep into the narrative with nourishing niftiness.
Nothing about the romance between the Indian airforce pilot and the Pakistani aristocratic girl is over-stated. There are no raised voices (even when the heroine?s dad scolds her, he does it sotto voce). There's no screaming, no attention-getting tactics- and yet the films gets it- all of our attention, though it takes a bit of time to get over the longish bits of Punjabi dialogues among Amitabh Bachchan (playing Khan?s prankish old man), Hema Malini (hopelessly out of her depths in the robust Punjabi milieu), Khan and Zinta.
Once the slight hiccups are done, it?s as simple as falling in love for us to get into the timeless grooves and gorgeous rhythms replicating and relocating the romance of infinite resonances into an obtainable and accessible format.
Veer-Zaara builds its case for the protagonists? unbreakable bonding through a neo-classical blend of song and emotion. Chopra unleashes a temperate tidal wave of feelings that swim teasingly just beneath the surface. The surge of love between two people belonging to entirely different cultures and lands, is collected into a quaint and quivering collage of memory and melody.
The narration moves at its own melodious volition. The music and songs by the late Madan Mohan and the profound yet simple poetry of Javed Akhtar supplement the melody of romance with enchanting articulations of hearts that know not why they love and sing. They just do.
The narration is constructed as a celebration rather than a lament on lost love. No matter how deep the hurt and how prolonged the separation between the lovers, there?s always the melody playing a deeply-felt song. We simply sink into the sounds of romance.
In terms of the space employed to cover many decades in the lovers? lives, Veer-Zaara is remarkably equipped to qualify as an outstanding romantic musical. Whether it?s Pakistani lawyer Rani Mukherjee in recreative conversation with the Indian prisoner languishing in jail for crimes he never committed, or the way the supple stretches in the courtroom are used for the Khan-Zinta reunion song, Chopra proves himself a master storyteller with an incredible grip over his narrative.
He has terrific help from cameraman Anil Mehta who beautifies the rugged rural landscape without making it appear fairytale in proportion. Khan and Zinta fill the splendid rustic spaces with sounds of love.
Many moments in the screenplay stay with us long after the gasp-inducing symbolic union of the India and Pakistan as Veer and Zaara walk into what Chopra hopefully sees as a new beginning in the relations between the two countries.
But the protagonists? geopolitical credentials never appear forced or laboured. Veer and Zara are who they are. In sequences such as the one where Veer meets Zara?s fianc? (Manoj Bajpai) on the railway station, or when Zara?s mother(the brilliantly passionate Kirron Kher) implores Veer to give back her daughter for the sake of the family honour, are potentially clich?d situtuations converted into a celebration of life?s most cherishable experience through the writer?s imagination.
The writing skills imparted to the story of ?forbidden? love are immense, and so?s the performance level of the cast. Rani Mukherjee?s deeply studied utterly heroic part of the activist?lawyer is uplifting.
Once again Shah Rukh Khan confers his charismatic personality on a role that has many shades of emotions clumped into a captivating clasp of screen heroism. His performance as the old man in the courtroom where after being absolved of all crimes he reads out a poem, is rabble rousing.
And those who thought Preity Zinta couldn?t be rustic and earthy, better watch how she slips into Zaara?s slippers, imparting a coltish seductiveness to the part. Kirron Kher, Divya Dutta and Manoj Bajpai bring tremendous feelings to the supporting parts.
But the director?s true allies in this creative endeavour are the photography and music. The use of spatial harmony in the haunting climactic song Tere liye is a measure of Yash Chopra?s power and skills of narration. The caliber of the late Madan Mohan?s music is certainly high-grade. Many scenes are elevated by the quality of music.
Veer?Zaara is a very simple story of immense nobility and idealism. Its contours are fleshed out with the most precious colours of life to complete a picture which is at once symmetrical and sublime, sweet tender and yet secreting a core of strength and conviction that takes it beyond the conventional romantic musicals.