September 23, 2011
Shahid Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor
I can’t believe that Pankaj Kapur has done what he’s done to Mausam! About one hour into the film I found myself thinking, Great job Mr K – you’ve got a winner on your hands. And then the film went on and on and on … and on and on and on … coming up with twists and turns that seemed deliberately and painstakingly contrived (no other word for it!) to keep the lead pair apart! Oh Mr Kapur, how could you have willfully spoilt what could have been a gem of a film?!
The basic story is this: Harry is a carefree youngster in Mallukot in Punjab. The year is 1992, the state is remembering to forget the ghosts of its recent terror-torn past, and Harry is surrounded by family, friends, happiness and laughter. Enter the beautiful Aayat who’s been sent to a relative’s home here by her father to escape from terror-stricken Kashmir. When Harry says to his friends one sunny afternoon in Mallukot, “Bluestar mara nahin, Ayodhya paida ho gaya,” you know this will not be a simple love story. Harry is smitten by Aayat but before she can reveal her feelings to him, she leaves Mallukot without a word. The years pass, they meet, they part again, and the cosmos seems to be plotting against them. Mausam takes us through a decade in India’s communal calendar – the demolition of the Babri Masjid, the Mumbai bomb blasts, Kargil, the Gujarat riots – and global events that keep two young lovers apart.
I can imagine what debutant director Pankaj Kapur was striving for in this film – an epic tale of star-crossed lovers torn apart by historical events, at the scale of Dr Zhivago. Perhaps as a tribute to David Lean’s classic, there’s even a scene in Mausam in which Harry on a moving train spots Aayat outside while she fails to see him. But Yuri Zhivago and Lara were separated by credible circumstances and events that flowed naturally and believably. Many of the developments that keep Harry and Aayat away from each other, however, seem to arise from their own foolishness or the scriptwriter’s lack of imagination. The first part of the film in Mallukot is well-written and well-directed, but years later when the couple are re-united and Aayat explains to Harry the reason for her disappearance, all I could think was: “And you couldn’t have just walked over to his house and told him that back then?!!!” Too many coincidences, too much happenstance … calls don’t get connected, people aren’t at home just when the protagonists phone them, people don’t try again if they get an answering machine the first time … I could have forgetten all those in the tenderness of Harry and Aayat’s final coming together IF the director had not then proceeded to stretch the story even further with a baby and a white horse that is meant to be symbolic but really looks quite silly! And nothing, yes nothing, screams out a director or producer’s lack of confidence in their product more than a song-and-dance at the end that’s in complete contrast to the mood of the entire film.
But let me dwell on the loveliness of the first hour of Mausam for a while. The languorous, old-world romance between Harry and Aayat is so appealingly different from the frenzied pace of love we’re more used to seeing in Hindi films since the 1970s. The couple are rarely shown touching, but when he sees her on an upstairs balcony in her home, he caresses her shadow that falls on the wall below. In the first real ‘conversation’ they have, they write notes to each other while seated in the same room, because they don’t want to awaken his sister who is lying fast asleep between them. There’s energy, humour, poignancy and pathos in that tightly executed first half, and actors Shahid Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor carry it through with conviction.
Shahid is completely, utterly loveable as the chirpy, youthful Harry with not a care in the world. But he doesn’t quite manage to pull off the more intense, older Squadron Leader Harinder Singh in later years, despite some very subtle make-up changes that add a few barely noticeable lines to his forehead to signify the passage of time. Sonam as Aayat is given barely any meat to sink her teeth into, but within those limitations she sustains her part throughout, playing a diffident yet mischievous girl in the first half and the tragic woman in Part 2.
A word about Shahid’s moustache in his Air Force officer avatar – doesn’t work! If the team was looking for a way to make that likeable boyish face appear older, they should have opted for the stubble and then beard he adopts right towards the end.
At a political level, the film starts off on solid ground but ends on a whimper. By making Aayat a Muslim, Mausam bravely makes the point that terror has affected the lives of everyone in Kashmir irrespective of religion. But unlike director Onir’s beautiful 2011 film I Am that takes a tough position on the misfortunes of Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims, unlike that lovely Dharm in which Pankaj Kapur played a Hindu priest who adopts a child without realising that it was born of Muslim parents, Mausam plays it safe. Considering that there are many right wing elements in our society who believe Godhra was a justification for the Gujarat riots, Mausam’s decision to skip Godhra entirely and jump straight to the Gujarat riots feels like a cop-out, providing fodder to fundamentalist Hindus who accuse secular, moderate Hindus of being apologists for the Muslim community. Forget that tricky question, Mausam even pussyfoots around the communal divide between our lead couple – we are told that her father worries because Harry is a Punjabi and Aayat is a Kashmiri, not because of their religious differences. Oh c’mon, after the Saif Ali Khan-Kareena Kapoor-starrer Kurbaan in 2009 in which a man frankly raises concerns about his prospective son-in-law’s religion, such gingerly behavior from Mausam appears odd.
So on the assets side of its balance sheet, Mausam has an attractive lead pair with good on-screen chemistry, a strong supporting cast, two good songs (Rabba main toh mar gaya oye and Saj dhaj ke), lovely locations (from rural India to Scotland and Switzerland), and striking cinematography. Its liabilities are a screenplay that weakens as the film moves along, self-indulgent direction and its unnecessary length – no, we didn’t need to see that Mozart concert or Aayat taking ballet lessons or all those extreme close-ups! What a lost opportunity Mausam is!
Rating (out of five): **1/2
CBFC Rating: U without cuts
Running time: 170 MinutesLanguage: Hindi
Photograph courtesy: http://mausam-thefilm.com/
I wanted to watch this film just because, Its a Pankaj Kapoor's directorial debut. Pankaj is a great actor and I always enjoyed his intense acting style. He is in fact, belongs to a rare group of method actors who puts great effort to his acting. But as you say this film is quite lengthy and drags a lot. I am dissapointed and thinking again whether to watch it or not?ReplyDelete
Your first paragraph PERFECTLY sums up my feelings, thank you! From now on, if people ask me what I thought of Mausam, I will point them to your review.ReplyDelete
This could have been a great first film, but ended up a self-indulgent, overblown shambles. I still love the music, and Shahid's awesome dancing, but the whole fairground bakvaas nicely encapsulates what went wrong.
Dont know why Anna...after reading your review of the movy whatever * you give i force to go n watch the movy :) so i am doing tonight booked for MAUSAM :)ReplyDelete
Mausam was impressive watch to me personally but then cinema is a personal choice :) (jus like I rate No Smoking as a classic)
There was just 1 show (yes u read it right ONE) in the city I live in and with all the negative reviews, I wasn't sure I wanted to make the effort. Shahid Kapur doesn't rate too high on my list of actors who I would like to see on big screen. Luckily or unluckily the show was on weekday night, so I had enough time to make a decision.
I saw the promo again, read all the reviews second time and then decided there were 2 reasons I will go for it
a) Pankaj Kapur
b) Something about the look/promo made me connect
And here I was, sitting in a 120 seater screen, filled not more than 70% and surprise of surprise there were few goras in the audience as well..
From the first frame, it was fluidity on screen as the camera captured an era and Punjab much unlike what Yashraj films try to do disastrously and total mis-fittingly.
Having been born in Delhi and spent lot of time in nearby villages of Punjab in the same very era as depicted, I was awed by every frame. The quirkiness of the characters, the idleness of village boys, and the Gurudwara rituals all captured to perfection.
And so we are introduced to the main characters. Aayat, Sonam Kapoor is able to put her slender frame to good purpose. The sequences focus majorly on her praying, dancing, and daydreaming. She also lives with one foot off in the clouds, presumably in a happier place where she doesn’t have to run from crowds carrying flaming torches every few years. Sonam is not an exceptional actress but even with her limitations, I saw shades of Audrey Hepburn... the longing and expressiveness through the eyes.
Shahid Kapur's Harry was pure verve, something like a Tom Sawyer. He s full of life and zest and waiting for his perfect 'memsaheb'. It is not unnatural for Aayat to be attracted to his charming energy and for Harry to be drawn to Aayat's other-worldliness. And Rajjo's character for her all her qualities, was too routine to pull away Harry.
From the writing point of view, it is the bond between the leads which ties the film together. The film goes slow to give ample chance for the romance to scale up and let the audience feel the nature of distant love between the two leads. The circular motion of events can make the audience long for closure to the emotions as much as Harry and Aayat themselves.
This is the middle portion which has been criticized alot and stops the film from being perfect. The emotions expressed in Scotland through to Switzerland do seem stunted a bit but I would still have such plotlines than Bodyguard.
This is a genre which needs to be celebrated. If this is what Pankaj Kapur is capable of in his first attempt, then definitely bring more on. We see lot of slice of life films these days which reflect the way our current society has evolved. Amidst all that, such melodramatic and stretched pieces might seem out of place.
Part 2 --ReplyDelete
But then plotlines such as Mausam are also reminiscent of the way we associated romance few years ago. And if Bollywwood does not mount melodramas on such scale then who will. Music, dialogs, whispers, cinematography ... all elements were in sync with the storyline.
The only things which I could probably complain about was the bad quality of CG for Air Force sequences and the dumbing down ferrous wheel climax. Former was a stupid budgetary mistake (cmon u spend 40 cr. on the film, few grands on better VFS won't hurt). As for the final sequence, I seriously did not understand how the Manmohan Desai kinda treatment would work in an epic romance.
I have read lot of reviews which talk about Dr. Zhivago (cult classic) but then that was based on an awesomely well written book and was a story which had serious lot of political overtones to it (how Bolsheviks and the White Army, both caused harm to the Russian society). Mausam, uses the political developments only as a backdrop with a minimalist undertone of Hindu-Muslim conflict. So I think both are very different tangents and not fair to compare.
I have been humming 'poore se zara sa kam hai' since the entire last week :)
so my take is - Please go and see the film till it is still in theaters (which might not be for long anyway).