CAST: Harshvardhan Kapoor, Saiyami Kher, Anuj Chaudhary, Art Malik
DIRECTION: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra
DURATION: 2 hours 10 minutes
Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s film Mirzya have released today. The film is based on Gulzar’s first screenplay in 17 years.
That alone should be deemed a huge draw for those that value the subtlety of his ideas couched in poetic flights of fancy.
Mirzya is toplined by two Bollywood first-timers, Harshvardhan Kapoor and Saiyami Kher.
Moreover, this film is the Rang de Basanti and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag director’s first full-on love story.
Unfortunately, all these points of interest do not add up to much in the end because this tale of star-crossed lovers seems doomed from the very outset.
Mirzya is a blinding blob of colours – Polish cinematographer Pawel Dyllus is in his elements – and a mish-mash of musical sounds that traverse the entire distance between the deeply melancholic and mournful to the energetically peppy and playful.
Gulzar contributes a stunning range of lyrics to the project and Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy provides the film’s robust musical spine. To Mehra’s credit, a few of the songs are woven wonderfully well into the tale.
Unfortunately, the other numbers, visually and musically arresting as they might be, look like standalone creations. They do little to enhance the many moods that the film seeks to capture.
In Mirzya, Shakespearean chorus meets Bollywood song in a fanciful but disappointingly ineffectual way. Such a waste!
But these are only minor irritants in a film that does worse – it wafts by like a disjointed blur of light and sound that leaves behind no ripples of either emotions or sensations.
For a story of young and defiant love, Mirzya is too passionless to exercise a sustained hold on the audience.
The director is overly intent on putting an experimental spin on a flamboyantly filmed but rather undercooked drama in which a girl and a boy sustain their love across two births only to run into a high wall of resistance on both occasions.
Mirzya has been shot on locations in Ladakh, Jaisalmer, Mandawa and Udaipur. So the visuals are inevitably lush. It’s the emotions that do not seem to work.
At no point in the film is the audience fully invested in the fate of the two protagonists as the duo fights heavy odds to consummate their love.
The principal problem with this retelling of the mythic Mirza-Sahiban saga is the savage disconnect between the screenwriter-lyricist’s subdued approach to storytelling and the director’s penchant for excess.
One part of the film is steeped in poetry. Om Puri, playing an ironsmith who is also the sutradhar (narrator), voices lines that stand out on account of their exquisite softness.
The other is flashy, loud and self-consciously showy. With the two impulses pulling in different directions, the mismatch can only work to the detriment of the film.
Mehra’s love for over-dramatisation comes to the fore from the get-go, with the very way that the title appears on the screen. An arrow pierces through the heart of the letters in Mirzya to the accompaniment of deafening clank.
That flourish sets the tone for a film that has very little scope for moments of silence and repose even when the young lovers are with each other professing undying affection for each other.
It is either the obtrusive background score or a musical set piece that gets in the way of the flow of the emotions.
The first lifetime of the lovers is set in an indeterminate period in which Mirza (Harshvardhan Kapoor) is on horseback, is armed with bow and arrows, and is a deadly marksman.
He dodges a fusillade of fireballs and arrows in what looks like a bitter combat with a bunch of dour men standing around a wide-eyed girl (Saiyami Kher), obviously the object of the valiant horseman’s affection.
It is never clearly established who the men fighting the hero are and what all the bloody violence is for.
Cut to contemporary Jodhpur, where a 12-year-old school-going boy Munish and his classmate Suchitra, the only daughter of a police officer (Art Malik), are inseparables.
The boy doesn’t do his homework, she covers up for him. On his part, he carries her schoolbag and stops at nothing to protect her from harm. A crime is committed and the juvenile love affair ends abruptly.
Many years later, the action shifts to the grounds of a royal palace, where a prince (Anuj Choudhry) is all set to exchange marriage vows with Suchitra.
The brave warrior of the past is now a humble stable boy who is ordered to teach horse-riding to the prince’s wife-to-be
The pert princess and the pensive pauper, who now lives in the home of an ironsmith (Om Puri) and has a soft corner for the latter’s daughter Zeenat (Anjali Patil), rediscover their past connection and renew their dalliance in the face of grave danger.
The Mirzya story, whatever there is of it in this film, moves only in little spurts. Virtually every single sequence is followed by an elaborately staged song and dance performance, employed expressly to serve as a commentary on the proceedings.
Once the novelty of that structure wears off, Mirzya veers towards the tiresome.
Harshvardhan Kapoor’s visage is hidden behind an overgrowth of facial hair, which prevents his expressions from coming through with full force. So an assessment of his emotive skills will have to wait until he reveals more of his countenance on the big screen.
The colour of Saiyami Kher’s eyes change frequently, but her performance is largely single-note.
That is true of the film as a whole. Mirzya is a colourful but tepid tableau populated by pretty but comatose marionettes that even Gulzar’s poetry cannot stir to life.