Taking obvious cues from Moulin Rouge and Lurhman’s other romantic hit Romeo+Juliet, Saawariya is an interesting Bollywood film which, although still yielding too much to traditional trappings, manages to also be a sumptuous visual experience that in many ways out does its Hollywood siblings.

Set in a mystical faraway yet familiar land, the lives of a happy go lucky community are changed forever when an even happier stranger arrives. Saawariya (an ancient term for a man in the perpetual state of being in love) soon finds a home with surrogate mother Lillian and friendship with local lady of the night Gulubji. He then falls madly in love with a local girl, Sakina, but she is in love with a man who may or may not exist. While trying to woo the girl of his dreams, Saawariya ends up succumbing to many of the pitfalls that first time love brings, but will he be able to win the girl in the end?

Too long and boasting a few too many song and dance numbers, the successes of this film far out way any shortcomings. It really is visually stunning and although a knowing nod has been paid to other films, the set designs add so much that they create their own very distinctive universe. Part whimsy, part nostalgic the basis of this story is very much set in this unique location. Of course it is pure escapism, but if you are going to do this then surely this the way to do it. The performances from newcomers Ranbir Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor as the young leads areup to scratch, and a brief turn from stalwart Salman Khan is suitably broody but the film belongs to Rani Mukherjee as the ‘tart with a heart’ who narrates the tale. She plays her character with genuine audacity and bravery and it’s a fantastic performance that confirms her as a versatile screen presence following on from her internationally renowned appearance in Black again for director Sanjay Leela Bhansali. The film boils down to a yearning tale of unrequited love and missed opportunities. It does toy with ideas from literary and cinematic classics and thankfully avoids ending in a sentimental pulpy mess, which one might fear. Infact if anything, given the lengthy runtime the conclusion might be a little brief for some.

All in all this is a surprisingly enjoyable and genuinely involving melodrama. They don’t make them like this any more in Hollywood, and they would be well advised to make a few more like this from Bollywood.

Official Site
Saawariya at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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