Thursday, September 24, 2009

Veer-Zaara

Yash Chopra, India, 2004 (8.0*)
This is a legendary love story, an epic musical-romance in the tradition of Austen and Bronte meets Bollywood. Veer Singh (played by Shahrukh Khan) is an Indian Air Force rescue helicopter pilot, who meets a beautiful young Pakistani woman, Zaara Khan (Priety Zinta), who has come to India to scatter the remains of her loyal servent in her homeland (which is a great scene), when he rescues her from a bus crash on a mountain road. She wants to repay him, so he asks for one day to show her his home village; of course, in a musical-romance, one day is all you need to fall in love for eternity.

Thus begins a three-hour epic with about 10 songs, some of which are needlessly thrown in, but others are perfect for both setting the mood and opening up the culture of this area for filmgoers as well the visitor from Pakistan. I especially liked "This Is Our Land" for that reason, a colorful Hollywoodish outdoor musical number with lots of locations and people. This is a long and evolving story, told as a flashback to a lawyer, with several interesting plot twists, for Zaara is already engaged to an arranged and political marriage fiance (to a bore) in her home town, so the plot immediately gets sticky for the romance.

This is typical of Bollywood films today: three hours, and with 6-8 musical numbers with pre-made videos for tv, a couple are quite exhilirating. It's also a good example of their two styles of film: a light-hearted musical with dancing crowds and vibrant colors, then a long slow drama with serious societal and humanitarian overtones. This film, with an intermission, is pretty much divided that way into two halves, with most of the music and cheeriness in the first half.

This could easily have been done in two hours, with about 4-5 songs, so I'm downgrading it some for that reason, but it's still a classic love story and entertaining musical as well, in the tradition of 50's Hollywood musicals (Sound of Music, Oklahoma, American in Paris).

Winner of 8 International Indian Film Awards, including picture, director, actor, actress (a lawyer, not the lover), story, music director, makeup. The awards page at IMDB, 20 wins, 47 nominations (rated 7.3/10 at IMDB, a reader's poll open to all viewers)

3 comments:

Kogi Kaishakunin September 25, 2009 at 9:38 AM  

You must have some stamina to sit through this film! :-) There so many better Hindi films out there. For a pulp one that became a huge hit, check out Dil Chahta Hai. For something more serious and recent try watching Mumbai Meri Jaan.

Jose Sinclair September 25, 2009 at 3:16 PM  

I did say 'trim off an hour, cut out a few songs' - but I loved the story.. we have a problem in the US, not enough Indian films are available on dvd from Netflix, like NONE of the Apu trilogy from S. Ray - argh!!

..but I love the "idea of Indian culture", it seems very happy, lively, outgoing by comparison, so I'm always glad to see an uplifting film that shows the culture to us in the west, like Veer showed Zaara when she visited his village.. great stuff..

I did rate it down about 1* for the length and excessive music (I think it has 12 numbers, when 3-4 would suffice)..

THANKS FOR ALL THE SUGGESTIONS - I'm about to post the winners of the Int'l Indian Film Awards, now that I've discovered them!

My favorites so far: Nair's SALAAM BOMBAY, and Pandey's A WEDNESDAY, a terrific suspense film about terrorism..

thanks for the comments - JOSE

Kogi Kaishakunin September 28, 2009 at 8:02 AM  

Yes, lot of the older Indian films are not making it to the US. Even some of the newer ones, especially from South India don't even get cut to a DVD.

Indian culture in many ways is not happy, lively and outgoing. It is like watching Hollywood musicals and thinking the US is full of happy people :-) But I can understand your point of view. There is a lot of warmth in the culture that is indeed conveyed by these films.

A Wednesday is being re-made in multiple Indian languages. The Tamil version is called
Unnaipol Oruvan.

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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.



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