October 7 2016
Visually resplendent, and beautifully produced, Indian director’s epic romance delivers handsomely in parts and should be generously applauded for sheer effort and artistry…
OPULENT, grand and majestic “Mirzya” is an undeniable feast for the senses.
But…yes, sadly, unfortunately, and even a little painfully, it does have its issues… while the cinematography is lush and impressively seductive, the newcomers in the lead parts very effective, and the music rich and absorbing, the film as a whole doesn’t hang together as it might or should.
Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra is a sumptuous talent as a director (“Bhaag Milkha Bhaag”; “Rang De Basanti”) and a source of intelligence and bravery in a Bollywood industry that so often plays safe and dares not risk much or anything – in that respect, little different to its smaller western counterpart, Hollywood.
Some have likened “Mirzya” to Baz Luhrmann’s “Moulin Rouge” an all signing-dancing immersive tale of love, laughter and high jinks.
It isn’t – first of all, this is tragedy, writ large and epic, and based on old Indian/Punjabi folklore.
It aims for the same commensurate pathos as Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet”. It has the same ineluctably tragic, explosive conclusion (not really a spoiler).
“Mirzya” has its very high points – the modern contemporary part is well executed. It might be a little Conde Nast Traveller lifestyle – but in some ways we don’t see the moneyed in India on the big screen quite like this.
Suchitra (Saiyami Kher) is a police commissioner’s daughter and falls sweetly in love with the prince of Jodhpur, Karan (Brit-born model/actor and relative newcomer Anuj Choudhry).
Theirs is a lavish life, funded by his family’s more recent wealth as hoteliers – polo meets, safaris, and meals by the poolside with a 100 servants on hand.
This is beautifully depicted and in some ways a film within a film – for the most part, this is the most convincing segment, personally.
But into this, Mehra inserts two other major plot segments – firstly, the original childhood friendship of Suchitra and Mohnish (the adult Aadil played by Harshvardhan Kapoor).
The childhood friendship is sweet and is just about believable with our introduction to Suchitra’s father (Art Malik, as Commissioner Rathod, in splendid form).
The final plot turn in this part is over the top and drains Mohnish of any sympathy we might have for him later.
To many he will seem a tainted and dark figure with little that can redeem him.
That he turns into a swell of a man – MAN – should we shout – bare-chested, suitably and fashionably facially hirsute, and broody, and in charge of Karan’s stable of horses, will set some pulses racing and that is all good cinema…
Harshvardhan carries his own scenes well, as does Kher, who probably shows the greater promise as as an actress who can hold the screen and more with a look, a gesture, a feint glance. Individually, they are both excellent.
But this film is not about them as individuals, it is centred around them as a couple, as two people hopelessly, deliriously, and almost maddeningly, in love. Mehra doesn’t show them laughing and reminiscing enough really.
Suchitra’s dissonance from Karan is not well done – one flashing rebuke for picking up Aadil’s motorbike keys, the trigger for a short and modest (in temper) rebuke about the necessity to carry herself as a Queen and not stoop down to pick her horse-riding instructor’s keys.
Apart from that one loss of cool, Karan seems like a decent bloke – maybe a little haughty, but he respects Aadil as a horseman and so there is little conflict there.
For this critic, this isn’t enough to send Suchitra scurrying into the arms of Aadil, however delicious that might seem and throw away a life of luxury and repose.
Of course, love makes you do crazy, stupid things. At least in films. But the problem here is that Mehra hasn’t convinced us, that these two are inseparable and intertwined like the knots in a rope.
Everything but this is almost done to perfection – the stirring music by Shankar Eshan Loy (Shankar Mahadevan; Eshaan Noorani and Loy Mendosa), the legendary Gulzar’s haunting lyrics.
Two folklore dances are dropped in and don’t move the story at all – nice though they are to look at.
Most worrying of all, are perhaps the fantasy scenes, recreating the old folklore tale of Mirza-Sahiban.
Though the landscape is stunning, and this section beautifully shot, and totally dependent on music and mood with no dialogue, it isn’t very clear what transgression is being committed for Sahiban to fall for Mirza’s outstanding horsemanship and bow and arrow prowess.
Maybe that is at the heart of this tale – the original – that love sees no boundary, no frontiers, no religion, colour, cast or creed – but the real world does and will exact its price.
Well done, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra for taking this on and giving us “Mirzya” and it is an experience and an undoubted and very welcome expansion of the Bollywood/world cinema repertoire.
But you can’t help feeling that had he fixed a couple of smaller things in the larger context of this film, this really could have been an untouchable masterpiece. (Sailesh Ram)
ACV rating:*** (out of five)
‘Mirzya’ is on release from today and screened at BFI London Film Festival Love Gala Screening (see video on youtube channel) yesterday. The festival continues until October 16.
Check listings for tickets, etc. http://whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff/Online/