Veer – Zaara (2004)

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Veer – Zaara (2004)
Cast: Shahrukh Khan, Rani Mukherjee, Preity Zinta, Kirron Kher, Divya Dutta
Director: Yash Chopra
Music Director: Madan Mohan (late)
Nutshell: Lush and beautifully presented yet not quite the legend it seeks to be
Reviewed by Faiz M. Khan AKA BF

 

“Dil ki waadi main chahat ka mausam hai” says Yash Chopra as his film opens with lush background scenes of sarson ke khet, waterfalls, dupattas flying in the wind, etc, the hallmarks of all Chopra movies. You almost feel like breaking into Yeh Kahan Aa gaye hum, expecting a dream sequence with Preity and Shahrukh perhaps touching the badals of Switzerland yet again. But the song has been cut and instead of the customary introduction of the heroine with song and flower petals (that all comes later) we have a glum beginning. However, do not be dismayed, Veer – Zaara is predictably, yet another love story. No different from any of his earlier films, Yash Chopra however, urges you to believe that his tale of undying love would perhaps join the great folk tales of the past, of Laila Majnu, Heer Ranjha, Sohni Mahiwal. The title of the film is a clever ploy to make you believe that what we have here is, a modern day Romeo and Juliet, except that Veer – Zaara doesn’t even come close; it firmly slots into one of his lesser works. Without being completely expendable, it does have enough to keep you happily engaged. What it does carry is a strong message one that gives the film a greater depth than it deserves.

The setting of the film is different as Yash Chopra takes advantage of the thaw in the relations of the two neighbouring countries and places his protagonists on opposite sides of the border. Veer Pratap Singh (Shah Rukh Khan) is a Hindustani and Zaara Hayat Khan (Preity Zinta) a Pakistani. Chopra is at pains to show you that nationality is immaterial, that we are the same people, despite caste creed and religion. And this is what gives the film merit.

On a trip to India , Zaara bumps into Veer who is taken by her beauty and her resolve to see her “Bebe’s” asthiyan returned to Kiritpur. A journey of a day turns into another day when Veer takes her home to his village to show her something of his des. Of course, Chopra manages to convey, with every character, with every song, that “jaisa tera des, waisa mera des”. On Zaara’s return to Pakistan , Veer pours out his love to Zaara upon finding that she is betrothed to another (Manoj Bajpai). It is at this point that Zaara realizes his love for her, unbelieavable as it may be, both to her and to the audience given the two days of fun and frolic and nothing much else that they have spent together. Events develop whereby he arrives in Pakistan to win back his love only to find that he is forced to give her up and maintain a silence in a Pakistani jail, al for thesake of her honour. Zaara is to be married off to Bajpai and Veer’s silence will ensure for her, a life of happiness. And this is how the film opens, with Veer in a Pakistani jail serving, silently passing the years away until his cause is taken up by a lawyer Samiya Siddiqui (Rani Mukherjee), fighting her first case. The story unravels in flashback and we move slowly to the denouement, waiting to understand the fate of Zaara and whether Veer will ever return to his homeland.

Yash Chopra is the master of romance, the love king and he translates this beautifully on screen. His heroines are immaculate, untouched virgins whose dupattas fly high and smother the hero, songs aplenty usually to the dulcet tones of Lata, and set to in the valleys of Switzerland .. His stamp is unquestionable but quite clearly the tedium seems to have set in somewhat. One now wishes that he would try his hand at an Ittefaq…but Yashraj films is too big for that….and the king of Romance cannot turn his back on the purest sentiment of all…love. Veer Zaara on paper is an old fashioned ballad which Chopra somehow does not quite manage to tune. Like the ever amazing Lata, who falters in this, Chopra shows signs of perhaps creaking a little. The passion seems to be waning, the fire not burning as fiercely as before….its the same ol chocolate cake from your local shop dressed up as something from Harrods. The script is maudlin and farfetched … it actually never really convinces you or touches you, not really. There are parts that are moving but by and large, its rather overstretched and unaffecting. The subsequent sacrifice is a travesty. But it’s all to be in the tradition of the old folk tale….which it fails to emulate successfully.

However, the sentiment with Yash Chopra is genuine and perhaps the most striking scene is the final dialogue in the Court room when Veer says “Main qaidi 786…” It stirs the soul, it hits home the oneness of our people, of India and Pakistan , of the same culture, of the same food, of the same respect. For this itself, Veer Zaara is worth a visit. For the cynically minded, it’s a clever ploy by Chopra given the thaw at present between India and Pakistan . I think not. If one was to be less cynical, more trusting, there would be no bridges to mend.

Shahrukh Khan, bleached hair and backpack in tow, looks nothing like the pilot that he is and more like he slipped off the set of dilwale dulhaniya le jayenge. He simply sleepwalks through this role, with nothing new to give. Are we bored of the quintessential romantic hero…perhaps we could do with a change? Preity simply does not fit the mould of the typical Yash Chopra heroine. Whilst a brilliant spontaneous actress, she somehow doesn’t quite gel in this milieu of a Pakistani muslim girl… Therefore, she doesn’t really impress. Rani Mukherjee, with the smallest role simply eats up the film in her much too brief appearance. It is a performance full of sincerity and control. Yep folks, she walks away with the film.

Technically, the film is majestic..shot beautifully and set in exquisite interiors and exteriors. I wish we had houses like that in Pakistan though. Aditya Chopra has written some good dialogues but interspersed with a great deal of corn…He makes his point and makes sure its shoved down your throat….the fact that it’s a welcome point to make makes it palatable…

The music by the Late Madan Mohan is a let down although tere liye does send a shiver down your spine with its fluidity and main yahan hoon yahan is a beautifully written and sung song. All in all, Veer Zaara is old wine in a new bottle, perhaps not packaged as well it certainly has it heart in the right place.