Friday, February 6, 2009
I'm not sure what it says about Saathiya ("Beloved") that I ended my viewing experience more irritated with Vivek Oberoi's tendency to run his hand through his hair than I did happy about the movie itself. The movie's inoffensive and sometimes even cute; however, Vivek does NOT stop playing with his hair the entire time. The ENTIRE time.
The movie starts pretty traditionally: with a song (the soundtrack's written by A.R. Rahman with lyrics by Gulzar and I loved it with one single exception). However, the song accompanies Aditya's (Vivek's) ride through Mumbai on his motorcycle. (Note to Indian film-makers: I know, motorcycle helmets spoil the shot--along with destroying the opportunity to see Vivek run his hand through his hair and smile smugly about half a million times, but please. Save some lives and make it cool to be, you know, responsible with your BRAIN.) He navigates the sunny streets! He almost drives through the scene of an accident because in addition to not wearing a helmet he is wearing headphones and listening to "O Humdum Soniyo Re!" He flirts with some girls at a railway station who apparently know him and Suhani, to whom he is apparently married. Kaun Suhani?
This is Suhani! Rani--yaaaaay! But we're not supposed to know that yet because they haven't gotten to the twirling-in-the-yellow-flowers-while-wearing-matching-colors bit. Instead, we watch an increasingly worried Aditya wait as more and more trains flow by his platform, giving him additional opportunities to run his fingers through that pelt and make frantic phonecalls to a hospital where Suhani works. Flashback!
Suhani is dancing, singing about tears overflowing. Oh, it's her friend's wedding, of course we're singing about weeping. The bride looks appropriately downcast because GOD FORBID any Bollywood maiden be happy to leave her home, be it ever so dysfunctional (or not). It just would be wrong. Indecent, even. So Rani dances around acting happy for her moping friend. She then sassily rebukes Vivek when he shows up with the groom's party and jokes about sticking heads into nooses. Of course, he is instantly smitten (who wouldn't be? she's Rani!) and makes all sorts of efforts to woo her. These efforts include: asking others what her name is, telling her he expected a "simple" girl from the boondocks, staring at her longingly from a train moving in the opposite direction from hers (she goes into the city to study medicine), and finally, that tried-and-true filmi technique for wooing the object of your desire: stalking. But it's all done in a very sweet and non-creepy way, and Suhani could have told her father any time she wanted to get rid of Aditya, so it's okay with me if it's okay with her.
Finally, Suhani begins to soften toward Aditya. He starts singing "Saathiya!" to her in Sonu Nigam's voice (!) and that's when the twirling-in-the-yellow-flowers-while-wearing-matching-colors bit happens.
Suhani nuzzles lambs shortly after dancing with a bunch of tea-harvesters who apparently operate a dance troupe in their non-tea-leaf-picking hours. She and Aditya travel to very cold places and dance in be-sequined and tie-dyed garments. Very pretty! At one point the Trenchcoat Mafia twirls by, holding some BDSM models hostage, but Aditya and Suhani are too wrapped up in their censor-board-approved nuzzling to call the police. That's okay, though, because given Suhani's next outfit I'm pretty sure she crossed over to their way of thinking.
Yeah. Um, in case it isn't abundantly clear, by this point in the film I started seriously wondering if it was working for me. Especially when I was more worried about Rani's back roasting on those shale cliffs than I was entranced by the image of her reclining with Vivek in the wilderness of lurve.
However, then the movie kinda veers. It becomes simultaneously more filmi (socio-economic gaps! angry parents! forced separation! secret relationship continuance!) (that is totally a word when you're in my blog) and less. By less I mean that it portrays the fall-out from a not-deeply-thought-out commitment quite realistically, as Aditya's and Suhani's relationship slowly begins to crumble under the strain of isolation and economic pressures, along with a certain level of immaturity on both their parts. I liked it from that point forward, very much. In fact, I felt so invested in their relationship that when the ending freeze-frame abruptly shrank to credits, I hollered, "WHAT!" and threw a pillow at the TV for not giving me a proper resolution. (Then I remembered that it was actually Mani Ratnam's fault and apologized to the TV. It still isn't speaking to me though.)
Rani does her usual good work as Suhani, portraying a determined yet idealistic woman who isn't really prepared when love comes her way. Vivek is sweet as Aditya, a slightly callow guy who has yet to find his identity (although his on-screen anger is less than convincing--I wanted to burst into giggles and pat him on the head while he was ranting) and clearly enjoys his hair a great deal. The two smoke together--you could easily believe that a strong physical attraction was the strongest thing Aditya and Suhani had going for them at times, especially in "Aye Udi Udi Udi."
The supporting cast is good, especially Aditya's "gang," which includes Not Kal Penn from Main Hoon Na and the "Aaaaaakaaaash!" girl from Dil Chahta Hai. Sandhya Mridul also makes a good impression as Suhani's loving and supportive older sister, but the rest of both their families could go hang as far as I was concerned. Jerks. There's a couple of guest appearances by SRK and Tabu, playing a married couple--and they were very good together. I'd like to see them together in a full-length situation but given the differing focuses of their usual projects I'd be surprised if that happened. Oh, and right before that some Shetty sibling does an item number in the one song I detested, the gratingly hyperactive "Chori Pe Chori." I didn't even know that much about her till I looked it up on Wikipedia and kept on trying to figure out if she was Rakhi Sawant while I was watching the movie.
Saathiya is a decent watch and I don't regret doing so; still, there's nothing much about it besides the soundtrack that makes it rise above "decent." I liked it, and I know from reading its thread at BollyWHAT that some love it, so it's definitely worth at least a viewing. And Vivek wants you to know that his hair should have received top billing.