These days way too many Bollywood directors are devoting a lot of their time and creative energies in the pursuit of what they think is transcendental perfection. Some in certain parts, others in toto, want their films, or some frame therein, to not just look gorgeous, but also stunningly perfect.
It’s a certain kind of stagey, opulent beauty they go for.
These films, or scenes, are visually seductive, with the art and costume departments in total control, and the music and choreography in perpetual overdrive.
The extravagance, the excess in the look and sound of the film makes these frames ravishing. They overwhelm at least two of our senses but, in the pursuit of the ultimate razzmatazz, the story and characters become peripheral, turning the entire enterprise into a dazzling yet soulless experience.
I call it the curse of Sanjay Leela Bhansali.
Mr Bhansali, of course, takes ravishing to another, obsessive, mental level. But, for me, not to much effect. Neither of his three “gorgeous” films have stayed with me. They were dead on arrival. They had no heartbeat, no pulse.
But I still have feelings associated with Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, even Guzarish.
It takes another kind of man, another level of director to execute opulent perfection and yet tell a story where the characters bristle, where the drama, and not the tapestry or perfect pleats of a ghaghra, is centre stage.
Sadly, we don’t have a K. Asif, Kamal Amrohi or Raj Kapoor in our midst today.
We do, however, have Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, a man I’ve always found more interesting than the films he makes.
His films usually toggle two genres — the drab and the bonkers. Mirzya is bang on. When it’s not bonkers, it’s boring.
Mirya, his fourth feature film, is rather short by his standards, and yet it tests our patience from the word go.
Mirzya, shot in Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Mandwa and Ladakh, is beauteous. Visually it’s a darling, really. But I just didn’t feel the love in his lyrical love ballad.
The story, the very little there is of it, arrives only for brief spells, to fill the gaps in what is essentially a folksy, singing-dancing opera set in two eras.
The film — about janam, janam ka love — has a past and is set in the present.
The past, which takes place in the harsh, formidable, hypnotic Ladakh, exists essentially to execute full seduction of the audience by Harshvardhan Kapoor.
With a tight, top, warrior knot, his face partly hidden, he arrives galloping on a horse, arousing a beauteous splash of liquid crystals in slo-mo. And then he shoots blue-tipped, cosmic arrows to upset the other contenders in what is a very strange swayamvar of a warrior princess.
She’s stupefied by his mysterious being, by his cool warrior-panti. And just as she hints that she’ll be his, something bad is about to happen.
We know, by their clothes, the setting and Game of Thrones, that this is a mythical past. Not a single word is spoken, till the heavily made-up lady who is beholding the star kid for us lets out a shrill squeak…
So shrill is she that the film jumps to another yug, another era.
Two 12-year-old kids in Jodhpur — Suchi and Munish — share a bond that goes beyond holding hands and sharing laddoos.
She is the daughter of a cop (played by Art Malik), who is slightly bizarre, rather creepy.
He reads Romeo and Juliet to her, and calls her Ms Shakespeare. He also smells her hair at times.
And then something bad happens and there’s bichadna…
Cut to a colony of lohars (ironsmiths) in Jaisalmer, which arrives with a voiceover by Om Puri, the prophetic lohar.
He is also Abba to Arif (Harshvardhan Kapoor) and to a girl who I initially thought was our hero’s muh-boli behen till I realised she had the hots for him.
There’s also young, campy prince Karan (Atul Chaudhary), who is dying to get married to Suchitra (Saiyami Kher).
She was a princess then and is now promised into princesshood.
Her eyes, blue eyes then, are now green.
He was a man on a horse then and is the man who runs the royal stud farm now.
Her cop daddy is the commissioner and is friends with Karan’s daddy, the royal hukum (played by the fabulous K.K. Raina).
She had a green liquid then, and she has green capsules now. Because life, you know, is a cliché. It repeats itself.
Throughout the film, but especially now, in this lohar colony segment, there is lots of pretty banality.
Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra does his damnedest to give Munish-Suchita’s love story epic proportions. Every time the lovers are, say, holding hands or just having a moment, the camera immediately soars up and above to observe them with heavenly, benign eyes.
This is immediately followed by a thundering love ballad — loud and lovely initially, but after the fifth-sixth time the hollering became fatiguing — which gives way to a group of contemporary jazz dancers in ghaghras and backless cholis.
The choreography — which involves lots of male and female bodies twirling around each other when not twirling around themselves — is nicely done but, sadly, lacks soul.
Despite the sound and fury suggesting some high drama, nothing really happens.
Mirzya‘s screenplay by Gulzar gets zero marks. The characters remain flat, and in total about 10 things happen. Yet, bums turn to stone and the mind wilts and droops as random men and women begin to twirl around one another each yet again…
The film, though just over two hours, felt like at least two tedious lifetimes.
Imagine a catapult and in it, rolled into the foetal position, a star kid. A director is hired to gently launch the kid, and we are all invited to watch and gasp as yet another Bollywood baby is unfurled.
Traditionally, all star kids are launched in love stories, to give them a soft, first landing. And so is the case with Harshvardhan who, I believe, from his hair and acting style, is the biological son of Anil Kapoor and Jackie Shroff.
I swear, go take a look and tell me that he’s not. Things are possible today that you and I don’t know of.
But, seriously, in the “past” sequence his styling is very cool, hairdo especially. Though his face is all hair, yet he uses his eyes and the slo-mo to make it seem like he can hold an expression. I found him different and interesting.
Ms Kher, tall and slender, has a charming, expressive face, body confidence and a full smile.
The film completely wastes Om Puri and Raina, but gives us a talented young actor, Anuj Chaudhary. He does jealousy and pathetic person seething well. It’s rare to see a young actor who is able to turn his face into a mirror of his soul — I saw shifts in mood on his face that surprised and delighted me.