"Veer" is a sprawling, action epic starring Hindi cinema's favorite action hero, Salman Khan. The violence and gore is reminiscent of "Gladiator", and the elaborate fight sequences centering on the hero-who-can-do-anything will remind you of Brad Pitt in "Troy". Of course, Salman can do something that neither Russell Crowe nor Brad Pitt can do - dance! But more on that later.
"Veer" opens in 1870s colonial India: various tribes and chiefdoms vie for power by collaborating with the occupying British. One of these tribes, the Pindari, are a rough bunch who live by a strict code of honor - a code that is often maintained through duels within the tribe itself. One thing the Pindari refuse to do, however, is collaborate with the British. When they are betrayed by a more sophisticated Indian chiefdom, they become even more entrenched in their hatred for the British and their Indian puppet-kings.
Our hero, Veer, is born to the Pindari tribe after this great betrayal, and he is raised to be fiercely anti-British and physically aggressive. However, unlike his father, he is also raised to be educated so that he might one day match the cunning of the British. Veer is sent to England, ostensibly to join one of the schools meant to educate the "natives", but really to learn the ways of the evil occupiers.
As one reviewer noted, it is true that this film portrays sections of society in rather black-and-white terms: the British are always evil; the Pindari are always fighting for what is right; and other Indians who collaborate are good at heart but unfortunately stuck with corrupt rulers who follow the British. This film suffers from what almost every other Hindi film suffers from: mediocre actors in the "white" roles. I've always been puzzled as to why this is the case, or where Indian studios find their white actors, but they never quite live up to their Indian counterparts in the acting department. So, be prepared for some stiff acting from the British actors.
On the Indian side, however, the casting is superb. Mithun Chakraborty looks fantastic and entirely believable as the chief of the Pindaris; Jackie Shroff is also great as the corrupt ruler of the kingdom of Madhavgarh. Zarine Khan is beautiful and fits the role of a crown princess who is also being educated abroad. Her character is a bit more passive than I would have liked, but to be honest, this film is really not about the women. Salman Khan is, of course, perfect for the role (since he wrote it himself).
The locations are stunning, particularly the shots of Rajasthan. It's the costume design that is strangely divided: the Indian costumes are magnificent, the British ones less so. The time period should be turn of the century, but the Western costumes seem to run the gamut from late 19th century to 1920s in style. It feels as though the costume designers weren't too sure about the Western outfits, particularly for women, and they're not as high quality as the Indian costumes.
The music is pretty good - the opening song, "Taali", is a rousing number that features Mithun, Salman, and Sohail Khan with some good choreography. "Meherbaniyan" is a catchy song with some bagpipe-sounding elements. I particularly like the choreography for this one, because it's creatively structured around the fact that Veer is supposed to have an injured leg at this point in the story, so the steps are meant to highlight that Veer's dancing mostly on one leg. Very fun, and Salman's a great dancer. "Surili Akhiyon Wale" is the main love theme and it's very nice - especially with the fantastic Rahat Fateh Ali Khan on lead vocals - but it would have been better without the female English part.
Overall, the story is a bit lacking in nuance, but if you're a fan of big historical epics, then it's worth watching. I was particularly struck by the amount of violence and blood, which I haven't seen very frequently in Hindi movies. Veer is a vicious, tribal character who also adheres strictly to his code of honor. His character is perhaps the most nuanced, as he wrestles with very violent rage alongside a desire to be humane.