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Black (2005) More at IMDbPro »

2007 | 2006 | 2005

1 item from 2007


9 November 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Many eyes are on Saawariya (Beloved), Sony Pictures' debut Bollywood production opening today worldwide, including in North America.

Sony, a leader in the co-production of Chinese-language films, now means to get involved in producing Indian films. The studio has banked on one of Bollywood's leading filmmakers, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, who helmed the assured Black in 2005. He more than delivers the goods -- for Indian audiences, anyway. Saawariya is a lush production featuring fabulous though deliberately artificial sets, an extravagant musical score, 10 new songs and two newcomers with much potential as the story's star-crossed lovers.

The film, which opens on Diwali, India's biggest national holiday, will resonate with Indian audiences everywhere as well as those who delight in Hindi-language commercial cinema. But the film is unlikely to create any meaningful new fan base among those unfamiliar with Bollywood films. For audiences unaccustomed to the format, the film runs too long -- though it is short by Bollywood standards -- and is repetitive, sentimental and cliched.

The story, supposedly based on Dostoevsky's short story White Nights, takes place in a mythical city designed by art director Omung Kumar. Imagine a set for La Boheme with Venitian canals and Mogul architecture. In a nice red-light district, a flamboyant, goodhearted prostitute named Gulab (Bollywood queen Rani Mukherjee) tells the tale of Raj, a singer-musician who is consumed with love even if that love is not returned.

Raj is played by lanky, rubber-legged Ranbir Kapoor, who beguiles with his doleful eyes, delightful clowning and athletic moves. Kapoor is fourth-generation Bollywood royalty. His late grandfather, Raj Kapoor, was the first superstar of Indian cinema, and his dad, Rishi, once a major star, is now a producer. In his feature debut, Kapoor carries off the big emotional moments with the same flair he brings to the musical numbers.

Raj no sooner gets a job as a singer in a nightclub, then spies a girl draped in black, standing alone and crying on a canal bridge. He is instantly smitten with Sakina's haunting beauty. Sonam Kapoor catches Sakina's ever-shifting, enigmatic moods from melancholy to laughter and then despair. She relishes Raj's attention but has already lost her heart to a mysterious stranger, Imaan (Salman Khan), who briefly lodged as his mother's haveli the year before. She waits for his return, forever if necessary, on that bridge.

This more or less static situation goes on for more than two hours, giving an audience time to savor the musical numbers, lavish sets and colorful costumes. Monty Sharma's plush musical score washes over this exotic cityscape where it is always night and love, requited or otherwise, is in the air.


Columbia Pictures

An SLB Films and SPE Films India production


Director-producer: Sanjay Leela Bhansali

Screenwriters: Prakahs Kapadia, Sanjay Leela Bhansali

Based on a story by: Fyodor Dostoevsky

Executive producer: Deepak Raai Sharma

Director of photography: Ravi K. Chandran

Production designer: Omung Kumar

Music: Ismail Darbar, Monty Sharma

Costume designers: Rajesh Pratap Singh, Reza Shariffi, Anuradha Vakil

Editor: Bela Leela Sehgal


Raj: Ranbir Kapoor

Sakina: Sonam Kapoor

Gulab: Rani Mukherjee

Lillian: Zohra Sehgal

Imaan: Salman Khan

Sakina's mother: Begum Para

Running time -- 138 minutes

MPAA rating: PG


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