Arthouse fare masquerading as a potboiler
Bhansali truly is a victim of his own making. After two critically and commercially acclaimed films, Devdas and Black, it was only fair for audiences to demand something even more spectacular from Saawariya – especially when it served as the launch vehicle for star kids Ranbir Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor.
However, what we saw on celluloid was a festival film, aimed at a niche market that appreciates arthouse fare. From the subject to the cinematography, the film truly is a moving canvas that has been packaged into a feature-length, mass-media movie.
The director made a colossal mistake in doing so, however, because Saawariya seemed to stroke his own ego. For a film to be a commercial success, it's the audience who should be made to feel special when they watch a story come alive on celluloid. But to give Bhansali his due, Saawariya is technically brilliant and backed with a story that has a lot of potential. Based on Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky's White Nights, it captures the innocent bond between two youngsters.
Raj (Ranbir Kapoor) is a dreamer who arrives in a fictional town to inspire his inner artist. What he finds is a place rich in rustic folklore, flourishing with colonies of artists and weavers. It is here Raj meets the lovable courtesan Gulab (Rani Mukerji), who secretly loves him but knows she can never utter the words because Raj's heart belongs to Sakina (Sonam Kapoor).
When the two protagonists collide one stormy night, Raj instantly falls in love. However, Sakina is pining away for Amaan (Salman Khan), who's away on a long journey but has promised to reunite with his love on the first night of Eid – a mere four days away. As Raj adopts the age-old Bollywood mantra of song and dance to woo Sakina, the clock is ticking away to mark Amaan's imminent arrival.
Music is a very essential part of this film, and debutant music director Monty Sharma does not disappoint, with hummable tracks like Jab Se Tere Naina and the title track itself.
Added to that are the flamboyant costumes and the opulent sets, which are stunning but yes, suffer from blue fatigue – the colour permeates everything.
Indeed, Saawariya's cinematic failure can be chalked up to many reasons, and those in need of specific answers can clearly find the film's DVD an eye-opener.