After a seven year hiatus Yash Chopra returns with his magnum opus, a love story obviously, admist gargantuan expectations and the pressure to recreate the magic of his earlier works Dil to Paagal Hai, Mohabbatein and the like. He has stuck to a simple format avoiding jarring inconsistencies and excessive melodrama preferring to stick to a his roots with a movie that is very Indian at heart. Admittedly, the final product does not quite live up to the hype but it still remains a great piece of work and a flick that will be remembered in the years to come.
The premise of the film is simple. An ex squadron leader, Veer Pratap Singh (Khan) is a convict stuck in a prison cell in Lahore. He hasn't uttered a single word in the last 22 years for reasons best known to him. Saamiya Siddiqui (Mukherji) is an amateur lawyer determined to fight his case and prove his innocence. Why is he here? Why not an Indian prison? What was his crime? After some persuasion, Veer recites his story, about the circumstances in which he was framed, his love for a Pakistani woman, Zaara Haayat Khan (Zinta), and how they were separated due to reasons beyond their control. How Saamiya, fights his cause form the climax of the movie.
Yash Chopra is back at doing what he does best - touching the romantic within us. Veer Zaara is an intense, emotionally charged, mature love story that never loses focus. The audience are spared silly comic tracks or item numbers that have no relevance to the story. Chopra should be commended for creating a story, which despite being a tale of cross-border love it steers clear of unwanted jingoism and political overtones.
Obviously being a Yash Raj Film, the film is technically rich. The cinematography by Anil Mehta is breathtaking. The sombre colours he uses to paint the picture match the mood of the narrative, with almost each frame proving to be flawless. The music by the late Madan Mohan is not of chartbusting quality but again it goes with the ambience of the film. The picks of the lot are the Tere Liye, Main Yahaan Hoon and the Lodi song. Dialogues by Aditya Chopra are mind-blowing. Veer's climax speech in the courtroom, Saamiya's outburst at the opposing lawyer (Anupam Kher) and some of the exhanges betweern Veer and Zaara are applause worthy.
But the strongest point of Veer-Zaara beyond a doubt are the performances. I am not a big Shah Rukh Khan fan. And I never have been. I find him repetitive and unwilling to take chances with his roles - more recently so. But he finally gets out of a rut and delivers what would one define as a career best performance. As the younger Veer he is his usual sprightly self. It is as the old convict that he scores - big time. His mannerisms and expressions bowl you over and he deserves all the awards this year. Amongst the leading ladies, Preity is as dependable as ever and looks like a million bucks which is expected being a Yash Chopra heroine. She comes across as a complete natural and it is safe to say that we have finally found a replacement for Kajol. As the gritty, yet insecure lawyer Rani isn't far behind though. Of the two, hers is the shorter role but far more challenging. She is a revelation in some of the confrontational scenes and like Shah Rukh is bound to win some accolades at the award ceremonies next year. Of the supporting cast, Divya Dutta is especially good but the others are good too in their small but well written roles. Amitabh and Hema are particularly endearing in their appearances as Veer's aunt and uncle.
One of the shortcomings of Veer Zaara is it's sluggish pace. Chopra takes time to introduce each of his characters which is all well and done but at times you get restless and fidgety. Additionally, cutting a song or two will definitely work in the films favour. But besides that this is a typical Yash Chopra film with fields and flying dupattas with a story with a strong emotional undercurrent. If you are after a K3G or Kal Ho Naa Ho kinda film then you are in for a disappointment. Veer Zaara has more of a classic feel to it along the lines of Devdas and even Pinjar and is more likely to appeal to older, more mature audiences. All in all it's a very sensible and mature film that has the makings of a classic regardless of it's fate at the box office. Give it a go.