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Raja, a fisherman is secretly in love with Mona. When wealthy Ravi comes to live with his grandmother, Kamladevi, he sees Mona and falls in love with her. Mona also reciprocates his love. Raja is devastated by this turn of events. But when Kamladevi gets to know that Ravi is seeing Mona, she puts pressure on Mona to give up Ravi and marry someone else. Written by
Ramesh Sippy's Saagar was very enjoyable. It is a love triangle - a traditional one but not a typical one. Sippy's direction is unsurprisingly excellent. He keeps everything about the film simple, whether it's the characters, the dialogues, the situations. Nothing is overdone, nothing is particularly melodramatic as one would expect from a 80s mainstream Hindi film. The story may have its share of clichés but Sippy refines it. I can name several filmmakers who would have made this film into a cheap soap, but Sippy is not one of them. It may be quite poor on script, but the execution is fantastic.
The film is set in an exotic fishing colony on the seashore, where Mona, a young beautiful girl, helps her father run the local pub. Her childhood friend Raja is a fisherman and is in love with her but she considers him just a good friend. She later falls for Ravi, a wealthy young man who befriends Raja. Yes, sounds ancient, and it actually is, but it is done in a very refreshing way, and it's not the film's best aspect. What makes Saagar so special is its entire approach towards the genre and the different way in which emotions were shown. The film was long but the pace was fast, though I would still delete a few scenes which I found unnecessary.
I also extremely liked the depiction of the small village of Goa. Sippy portrayed it with authenticity, exhibiting the cultural influence of the Portuguese India, and that's thanks to the fantastic sets, the simple non-traditional costumes, the characters' names, and the music (particularly "Oh Maria"). All these aspects gave the film a sense of everyday realism. The film is beautifully shot across some amazing locations. The shots of the sea in times of sunrise, sunset and twilight, are particularly breathtaking. RD Burman's music is wonderful, with the romantic "Saagar Kinare" leading the list. The songs were pictured very well on-screen.
The acting is excellent. Rishi Kapoor is quite good as Ravi, but the film's owners are Kaamal Hassan and Dimple Kapadia. Hassan showcased both his comic and dramatic talent in the role of Raja. He acted with sincerity and depth, and I loved the scene in which he found out about Ravi and Mona's relationship. Dimple Kapadia is incredibly sexy as Mona. She is beautiful, convincing and charming throughout and her wardrobe was also very well chosen. She was way too hot in her bartender dress and all the other tight dresses she wore, and how can one forget her brief and well-executed topless scene? The entire sequence with her swimming in the sea was pure magic. An awesome comeback for an awesome actress.
Supporting actors do pretty well. Madhur Jaffrey is brilliant as Ravi's vicious grandmother Kamladevi. What a superb actress - every facial expression, every dialogue is so precisely displayed. Nadira is wonderful as the kind-hearted Miss Joseph. Saeed Jaffrey is good as Mona's loving father. Apart from the camera work, which has always been great in Sippy films, the cinematography is very good, the editing is great and the background score is lovely, particularly the tunes playing over the romantic sequences between Kapoor and Kapadia.
Saagar is not without its flaws. I for one never understood why Kapadia preferred Ravi to Raja and this was not cleared to the viewer. Raja is portrayed as far more kind, likable and brave, while Rishi Kapoor looks overweight and goofy. Also, the entire Vikram track, who wants to win Kamladevi's fortune, should have been deleted. Towards the end the film got very confused and seemed to have turned into a typical action film. The action was not overdone like it was in most of the mindless action films of the times, yet it was somewhat out of place.
Anyway, I liked the ending, and Saagar is a very good film nonetheless. It was very well made, superbly directed and acted. I recommend you to watch it - it is one of the better triangular love stories Hindi cinema has produced.
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