Will Bollywood films get over love stories
Veer & Zaara - The legend of a love
Production / country
German & OmU
The Indian pilot Veer Pratap Singh (Shah Rukh Khan) saves the life of the young Pakistani Zaara (Preity Zinta). They then spend a single day together, which brings them closer together and lets them experience their common roots. After that, nothing is the same for Veer and Zaara ... 22 years later, the young lawyer Saamiya Siddiqui (Rani Mukerji) is supposed to uncover the secret of Veer, who has been living neglected in a Pakistani prison for a good two decades. He speaks to no one and not even Saamiya suspects what has happened to him. With a lot of patience and personal commitment, Saamiya begins a struggle for the love of Veer and Zaara, for political and also their personal justice.
Seven years after Dil To Pagal Hai, legendary director Yash Chopra returns to the director's chair. Can he still? Yes, although "Veer-Zaara" contains almost more of Yashji's son Aditya. But whoever deserves the greatest praise: The film is great, passionate cinema with an epic dimension. The love of two separated people becomes a parable of the relationship between India and Pakistan. Chopra throws in reconciliation dialogues in several places, songs that put nations on an equal footing ("Aisa Des Hai Mera"). You can tell that Yashji witnessed the breakup up close and, like many Indians, doesn't get over it that easily. Of course, the cross-border relationship is also a dramatic instrument, but the interpersonal level is just as important to Yash Chopra as the inter-national one.
Visually, "Veer-Zaara" is splendid. Behind the camera was Anil Mehta (Lagaan, Kal Ho Naa Ho), India's second best cameraman after Santosh Sivan. He manages the wide fields just as well as the Swiss Alps and the Pakistani interiors. Most of the songs are dominated by the primary colors, the luminous element, but Mehta also has the courage to darken rooms and put shadows on faces - something that many Indian cinematographers still do not take for granted.
But the tone is almost even more important than the successful look. For the soundtrack, Chopra had unreleased songs by Madan Mohan, who died in 1975, recorded with the most famous playback singers in the country and landed a triumph. I am usually not the greatest friend of the 70s songs, but Chopra and his team manage to keep these classic tones classic and present them in a modern way. The result are timeless songs like "Lodi", "Tere Liye" and "Dol Pal". In a three-hour film, the songs are sometimes just one element that makes an already long strip even longer. Not with the Chopras. The pieces are an integral part of the film, even the plot. And instead of switching to pause mode for every song, these numbers go off - visually, emotionally and in terms of action. In any case, this embedding is part of the better thing I'm used to from Bollywood.
But picture and sound do not make a film. It takes actors who do the whole thing. Here, too, Yashji has shown a lucky hand - although he made it easy for himself and simply summoned the best actors in India. Shahrukh Khan plays the title role that is hard to imagine with anyone else. It is not his best performance, but a very mature one that, despite the severity, always offers space for his humor and charm. He is an ideal cast. In Preity's role, on the other hand, you could easily imagine someone else - which doesn't mean she's doing a worse job. Her tearful eyes, her happy dances are awesome and her charisma with Shahrukh after Kal Ho Naa Ho is again excellent. Rani Mukherjee completes the top trio with a graceful, strong performance.
But as is so often the case, it is the supporting roles that give the film that certain something. The old stars Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini, fresh from their duet in Baghban, are simply delicious (6) and one wished for more from them. Divya Dutta offers a very touching performance, Kiron Kher and Manoj Bajpai come a little short, but are solid. The same applies to the otherwise somewhat better Boman Irani. Kiron Kher's husband Anupam Kher (7) arrives late, but he fills the part with the necessary rigor.
To see these actors in a poor movie would be a joy in itself. But "Veer-Zaara" is not a bad movie - and that makes it amazing as a whole. The music, the pictures, the actors, the great emotions. Are there any flaws? Oh yeah. For example, the film is very thick. If you are not ready from the start to have feelings properly drummed into you, you should not switch on at all. But I suppose most Bollywood fans are prepared for this. Then, despite a few twists, the film is pretty predictable and has some dramaturgical tricks that we know well enough. That brings me to Aditya Chopra.
The man deserves a special chapter. Yash's son wrote the script and dialogue and was also a producer. That is why he puts his stamp on the film - mostly in a positive way. For example, Aditya is an amazingly good screenwriter when it comes to structure. He steers his films in one direction more determinedly than Bollywood writers usually do. Perhaps more here than in earlier works. And his dialogues are heavenly. But the parallels to DDLJ are almost cheeky. Not only the song "Hum To Bhai Jaise Haan", which resembles "Mere Khwabon Mein" (8), not only the Punjab aesthetic in certain songs and the separate love, the station scenes, the moral determination of the main character, the conflict with potential Father-in-law and the one with the fiancé favored by the in-laws. Standard moments appear again and again that seem to have been borrowed from DDLJ. That doesn't bother me so much, because I love DDLJ - but Aditya makes you feel like he's already run out of ideas after a few films. He also uses typical Bollywood cliché situations from other sources. Most annoying about the passage in which a relative becomes terminally ill in order to force the child into a false love. There are so many Bollywood films that you could expect better from an Aditya Chopra. And the question is allowed again at the end: How much Yash and how much Aditya is in the film? Only the two of them know that.
In the end, it's not that important either. It is important that "Veer-Zaara" takes you with you for three hours with great music, an impressive, cross-border love and once again properly cleans the tear duct. Not as much as the films by Karan Johar (who, by the way, was Shahrukh's costume designer ...), but hardly anyone can do that either. Not even a Yash Chopra, who has impressively reported back in old age. His film is old-fashioned in certain respects, but almost visionary in others. It is this timeless mixture that raises "Veer-Zaara" far above the majority of popular Bollywood films and perhaps makes it not exactly a legend, as the advertising would suggest, but a film that will not be forgotten anytime soon 99% of the assembly line productions. "Veer-Zaara" is big cinema. And it will be in a few years.
One last word about the rating: The four stars are really only a hairpin. In a sense, the film entertained me less well than the SRK competitor from the same year, Main Hoon Na. But the qualities of the filmmaker are greater. A professional is at work here - and you can feel it. "Veer-Zaara" is never the best Bollywood film, but it is a big cinema with big stars and great music. That has to be highlighted somehow and therefore the four stars. But it does not come close to the true modern classics such as Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge or Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham.
Movie poster / cover
SA / AP 59465 V419
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