Director: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra
Cast: Harshvardhan Kapoor, Saiyami Kher, Om Puri, Art Malik, Anjali Patil
The visual blandishments on offer in Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra's Mirzya, scripted by Gulzar, are plentiful and yet not enough to help the flashily mounted film paper over its rather thin and trite storyline.
In a bid to inject some novelty into the treatment of the love story, the director resorts to what are essentially tropes borrowed from theatre – the use of a sutradhar (narrator) and the employment of songs as a commentary on the action.
Mirzya moves between three distinct time-frames – one set in the distant past, the second some years ago in Jodhpur, and the third in the present in and around a royal palace in Rajasthan – to showcase the ageless saga of Mirza and Sahiban, whose unrequited love is the stuff of legend. But the film is unable to generate the emotional intensity that is needed to turn a story of doomed love across two lifetimes into a drama riveting enough for an audience looking for instant emotional connect. What unfolds on the screen remains there – static, bland and superficial – despite the sparkling camerawork by Polish director of photography, Pawel Dyllus, and the sheer depth and power of the poetry with which lyricist Gulzar occasionally infuses the film's huge complement of songs.
Newcomers Harshvardhan Kapoor and Saiyami Kher are a fetching sight as they play the young lovers whose passion for each survives for eons but cannot find a way around societal opposition to attain consummation. In a contemporary reworking of the tale, the film homes in on a school-going boy and a police officer's daughter who dote on each other. But in a tragic turn of events, the classmates are separated. Several years later, the boy, Munish (Kapoor), now renamed Adil Mirza by the ironsmith (Om Puri, also the narrator) who makes him a part of his family, serves as a stable attendant on the grounds of a maharajah's abode.
The girl, Suchitra (Kher), daughter of a senior police officer (Art Malik), is about to marry the prince, Karan (Anuj Choudhry), when her path crosses that of her lost childhood love. Sparks fly again and the reunited lovers court danger just as they had done in a past life. Since it is known exactly how the story will pan out, most of the interest centres on the route the film takes to the climax. Mirzya delivers no real surprises as it follows the lovers' struggle to stay together no matter what. This genre has assumed numerous forms over the years in Hindi cinema.
Mirzya, laced with Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy compositions and Gulzar's lyrics, offers another variant. If only the film had a stronger storytelling spine and more consistent acting, it might have yielded better results. But in the form that it is before us, Mirzya is a slow, meandering mess. The two leads are passable, but they are unable to consistently capture the madness of thwarted love. The blame for that lack of heft cannot obviously be laid wholly at their doors. The one actor who stands out amid the ruins is the sultry Anjali Patil in the guise of a girl who has a soft corner for the hero but is acutely aware of the futility of her feelings.
If Mirzya doesn't work in its entirety, it is primarily because Mehra's experiment with the genre and its form, daring as it may seem at certain points of the narrative, is too far-fetched to be consistently effective. Watch Mirzya for its visual gloss and poetic flourishes. As for the rest of the gratuitously flashy film, it is disappointingly underwhelming.
By Saibal Chatterjee