(Published in City Express, The New Indian Express, dated 26 September, 2011)
Cast: Shahid Kapur, Sonam Kapoor, Supriya Pathak, Anupam Kher
Director: Pankaj Kapur
Rating: 3 stars
Mausam had me at the trailer. Shahid Kapur sporting teen mousche and Tom Cruise aviators, Sonam Kapoor dancing ballet with kathak hands, and the Indian Air Force unwillingly dragged into the mix...a must-watch.
The movie opens with a disclaimer: “The Indian Air Force sequence is a work of fiction and may not represent the actual working of the Air Force.” One hopes. Fervently. Because later in the movie, Shahid Kapur describes the anatomy of a fighter jet to three serious-looking Squadron Leaders, hours before they set out to capture Tiger Hill. Minutes before they hop into their cockpits, he asks, almost as an afterthought, “did you check the fuse on the bombs?” He also drives a bike with a Punjab registration number in the middle of an airfield near Drass, but never mind.
Now, this is the story of love at first sight between a Kashmiri Muslim girl, Aayat, and a Punjabi Sikh boy, Harinder ‘Harry’ Singh. Complicated, right? Uh, no. Surprisingly, both families are happy in the knowledge that their future child-in-law is a good person, and doesn’t drink. Aww. So, where’s the conflict? After three hours of watching the two trace and miss each other across several countries, my conclusion is – they’re just bad at keeping in touch.
When the movie begins, and until a little after Sonam appears, you’re laughing with it. By the time it ends, you’re laughing at it. With his boyish cheeky appeal, winning smile and goofy friends, Shahid Kapur sets the pace at the start. All the other ingredients are in place – the Punjabi patriarch, the malfunctioning car, the silly politician, the dutiful son, the buck-toothed single aunt who beats up her nephews at the least provocation, and a roomful of turbaned little boys. Even the slapstick sequences are artfully choreographed, and will have you guffawing.
Enter Aayat, the daughter of a man who will save his Kashmiri Pundit friend from the militancy that’s just broken out – oh, yeah, it’s 1992 – even at the cost of his own life. She spends the next two and a half hours of our lives – and the next ten of hers – alternating between burkhas and cleavage-showing tank tops. Yep, the movie lasts ten years and beyond. It takes us through Ayodhya, the Bombay Blasts, Kargil, 9/11, and just when you begin to anticipate Mumbai 2008, it stops at Gujarat 2002.
So, where were we? Yes, Aayat. Among her other talents is positioning herself at the window such that her right profile is displayed when she does namaaz, irrespective of which part of the world she is in. Inexplicably, everyone in her family does namaaz at different times, and facing different directions. She’s proficient at writing Devanagari, despite having lived in Kashmir all her life. She also has a penchant for dipping Harry’s handwritten notes in water, which no one in the movie hall quite got the logic of. And she makes orgasmic noises every now and again – apparently, that’s how she wakes up from a bad dream. Another quirk is that she paints her lips scarlet whenever she wants to kiss Harry.
Harry falls in love – a sequence that begins with him falling back on sheaves of wheat, and is a callback to the nineties. You’ve been with the movie thus far, so you wonder whether it’s parodying the genre. Turns out it’s not. Only Shahid Kapur’s considerable talent for underplaying a character saves the montage. Then, you wonder why Sonam wears the same white dress and red sweater throughout the song, which takes place over several days. Turns out she’s in school. Yeah, right.
Without bigots in the picture, we must depend on political events to intervene. And they send Aayat to Punjab, Bombay, Scotland, Punjab, Ahmedabad, US, Switzerland, Punjab and Ahmedabad. They send Harry to Scotland, Rajasthan, Kargil, Punjab, Switzerland, Punjab and Ahmedabad. And every time the two meet, the scriptwriters throw in a couple of lines about religion, as if to remind themselves that communal harmony could become a sub-plot if the need arises.
Well, fast-forward to Scotland, where Sonam’s doing all right with the accent, till she begins to sell tickets for “twontty pounds”. And this is where the movie starts going downhill. Aayat and Harry reunite at a silent lunch where they read each other’s minds. Harry leaves with Aayat’s handkerchief, which he sniffs regularly, grossing the audience out. Aayat takes one ballet class, before the camera cuts to a ballroom dance right out of the early twentieth century, seemingly for no better reason than to let the audience watch Sonam try to avoid stepping on the more graceful Shahid’s toes. Shahid’s character has become Squadron Leader Harinder Singh, within seven years of registering for training in the armed forces – and in peace time too. As if to make up, he doesn’t get any more promotions, despite his heroics in the Kargil War.
Aside from the fact that Harry doesn’t race trains with a cycle a la Anil Kapoor, the movie’s fidelity to reality also comes through in the failure of the village-belle-who-once-loved-
Harry to want to unite him with his one true love. Its other positives are good music, lovely cinematography, and Anupam Kher, five of whose eleven lines are funny.
But the movie has more to offer – the thrill of watching a partially disabled pilot rescue animals from burning fields and babies from Ferris Wheels, even as he and his girlfriend tear off each other’s clothes to douse their fires (I’m not being metaphorical); the image of a happy family walking off into the sunset after a riot, complete with a white horse; the sight of a pregnant woman catwalking as she protectively clutches the lopsided bundle around her middle; the same woman – now with abs– jiving, gyrating and slow dancing to bhangra at a discotheque, soon after delivery (Don’t worry about the baby, there’s an Aunty on hand to relieve her of it every time she wants to molest her husband); dialogues that beg to be spoofed.
So, go with a gang of friends, and entertain the audience with the best asides you can come up with.