Directed By: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Starring: Ranbir Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor, Salman Khan
Tag line: "When he first fell in love..."
Trivia: Music director Monty Sharma and director Sanjay Leela Bhansali spent two and a half years working on the film's soundtrack
It only took me about six years to finally get around to a Bollywood film, and while 2007’s Saawariya, directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali and starring distant cousins Ranbir Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor, may not have been the ideal movie to start with, it definitely has its charms.
Singer / dancer Ranbir Raj (Ranbir Kapoor) has just blown into town, and quickly wins the heart of the prostitute Gulabji (Rani Mukerji), who, despite her feelings for the young man, knows that a relationship with him is completely out of the question. Hired to perform at a local nightclub, Raj decides to stick around for a while, and rents a room from the elderly Lillian (Zohra Segai), who he affectionately nicknames “Lillipop”.
One night, Raj meets a mysterious beauty named Sakina (Sonam Kapoor), and falls instantly in love with her. Unfortunately, Sakina is herself head-over-heels for Imaan (Salman Khan), a traveler and former boarder of her grandmother’s. Before leaving, Imaan promised to come back for Sakina, telling her to meet him on the town’s bridge exactly one year later. Will Raj sweep Sakina off her feet before Imaan returns, or is theirs a love that was never meant to be?
With its lavishly decorated sets and spirited dance sequences, Saawariya is an oftentimes stunning visual treat; the opening musical number, where Raj sings the title song as Gulabji watches, gets the movie off to a great start, though my favorite scene is when Raj tries to woo Sakina during a rainstorm. Yet as gorgeous as Saawariya is, it’s the cast itself that is responsible for most of the on-screen magic. Rani Mukerji and Sonam Kapoor are both extraordinary as the ladies in Raj’s life, while Zohra Segai (who was nearly 95 when this film was made) lights up the screen as Lillipop, the initially bitter old woman who warms up to Raj because he reminds her of the son she lost many years earlier. As for the men, Salman Khan is excellent in the brief but pivotal role of Imaan (we see him primarily in flashbacks), but it is Ranbir Kapoor who commands our attention. Ridiculously charismatic, Ranbir dances his way through most of the picture (someone else provided his singing voice), doing so with style to spare.
Where Saawariya falters is in the story department, meaning there isn’t nearly enough of one to keep a feature-length film afloat. It’s not unusual for Bollywood productions to run long (2001’s exceptional Lagaan: Once Upon a TIme in India is just shy of four hours), and by normal standards, Saawariya’s 132 minutes is relatively short. Alas, it’s not quite short enough, and at times the movie is even a little dull.
But in those scenes when Saawariya soars high, it’s truly a marvel to behold.