Sunday, May 3, 2009

Veer-Zaara (Vash Chopra, 2004)

An epic romance, some three hours of singing, scenery, love, loss, despair, hope, and reconciliation. Beautiful Pakistani human rights lawyer Saamiya Siddiqi (Rani Mukherjee) visits an unidentified Indian prisoner who has been silent in his prison for 22 years. After calls him by his real name, he tells his story. A beautiful Pakistani girl, Zaara (Preity Zinta) left Lahore a little over twenty years ago, to bring her Aya’s ashes to the Sikh temple in India--an act of personal integrity and devotion, honouring the old woman's beliefs even though her Muslim family forbade it. But on the way her bus crashes and she is the last passenger to be rescued by handsome Indian policeman Veer Pratap Singh (Sharukh Khan). Veer helps her honour her aya and takes her to his village to meet his family. The inevitable happens. Veer and Zaara fall in love. However (of course) she’s already engaged, promised to the son of her father’s potential political ally back in Pakistan. They part, but Zaara's affianced groom, to avenge what he considers a slight to his honour, arranges to have Veer thrown in prison. There he remains for years and years. He will not tell his story because he has sworn never to speak Zaara’s name, to protect her honour.

The movie is deeply romantic, filled with yearning for homeland and joy. And it affirms generosity and openness. And because the story is framed with the dogged persistence of the lawyer who insists on opening Veer's case, equally moved by the injustice of his incarceration and by the romantic pathos of his suffering, and because the whole rotten plot against Veer and Zaara was made possible by the patriarchal orders of her family, the film has a strongly feminist slant. Moreover, the story constantly undermines communalism with appeals to common humanity--a romance between a Sikh and a Muslim, a Pakistani human rights lawyer consumed by indignation against mistreatment of an Indian prisoner. The good people, especially Saamiya, Zaara’s mother, and Veer’s family, all embody an amazing warmth and understanding. Granted, the plot may be predictable, but it is still very moving, filled with deep sadness and joy, the music and dancing very good, the photography excellent, and the colour brilliant.

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