As the first Bollywood film to be produced by a major Hollywood studio, Saawariya has been surrounded by hype and high expectations since its conception. Helmed by master filmmaker, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, and featuring the screen debut of star kids, Ranbir Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor, on paper this Bollywood adaptation of Dostoyevsky's White Nights has the ingredients to be a crossover hit. Disappointingly, neither India's most artistic director nor his new discoveries can prevent this song-packed extravaganza from being a beautifully crafted bore.
Set in a fantasy town whose landscape is a bizarre mix of Venice and Mumbai, Saawariya begins with the arrival of Raj (Ranbir Kapoor), a young minstrel who dreams of becoming a rock star. With no money or friends, he befriends Gulabji (Rani Mukerji), a sassy prostitute working the red light district near the bar where he performs. While she is smitten by his puppy dog charm, his affections are aimed at Muslim beauty, Sakina (Sonam Kapoor). Unfortunately, her heart belongs to the mysterious Imaan (Salman Khan), whose return she awaits every night on a lonely bridge. Cue little else but an age-old story of unrequited love played out over the course of four nights.
"A CASE OF THEATRICAL STYLE OVER SUBSTANCE "
After classics like Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Black, Bhansali misfires on a massive scale by stretching a short Russian story into an extravagant full length Indian feature. It's a clear case of self indulgence and theatrical style over substance; with the director paying little attention to fleshing out the skeletal screenplay, preferring instead to focus on coaxing 'good looking' performances from his young muses. By setting each scene in the darkness of night, sticking to a blue-green palette, and shooting all interiors and exteriors on eight lavishly created sets, Saawariya is akin an oil painting with no tale to tell.
Saawariya (Beloved) is out in the UK on 9th November 2007. In Hindi, with English subtitles.