Tuesday, July 05, 2011

From the Heart

On a chilly, windy night at a sleepy Railway Station, Amar Varma asks for a maachis. His hopes of lighting a cigarette went in vain, but it unexpectedly kindled something else – love.

Ishq par zor nahi, hai yeh woh aatish Ghaalib;
Jo lagaye na lage, aur bujhaye na bane.

He would soon find out. 

When Mani Ratnam decided to take us on a journey through the seven shades of love, little did people expect it to be a heady mix of politics – 50 years of Indian Independence, Kashmir unrest, the troubled North-eastern region – love and terrorism. And in an irony of sorts, the lead pair comes from two opposite worlds – one is a terrorist, the other works for a Government organization (AIR); one has gone through harrowing times, lost loved ones and is hardened by harsh realities; and the other has all the comforts life has to offer. And the twain shall never meet. Or so we thought.

A smitten Amar Varma ends up following the mysterious Meghna; else fate sees to it that their paths cross. And what follows is a saga of unconsummated love – with violence, unrest and terrorism for a backdrop. What starts as an attraction, moves through the stages of infatuation, love, reverence, worship, obsession, and culminates in death.

It was not a commercial success, post its release in India, and I feel this is still an under-rated movie. The moment I caught this movie for the first time on TV, back in eighth standard (the day before my Maths exam, at that!) – I knew this one was for keeps.  I could go on and on about what I love about this movie, but given the limitations, let me mention why it works for me.

Music – Do I need to say more? This album is one of Rahman’s best. Whether it is the peppy Chaiyya Chaiyya, the romantic Dil Se Re, the painful Ae Ajnabi, the lustful Jiya Jale or the intoxicating Satrangi Re – each song sets the mood it intends to create, touching the soul like no other. Chaiyya chaiyya was a landmark in choreography, which Shahrukh Khan and Malaika Arora immortalized by dancing on a train. I can still break into a jig on hearing it. Dil Se Re stands out for how beautifully it weaves terror and love in a seamless fashion – it’s a melange of beautiful moments. I love the video and the chemistry between the pair. Talking of chemistry, it reaches a high in Satrangi Re, where they get ensnared and enslaved by each other – a kind of passion that is intoxicating and irresistible. Ae Ajnabi brings out so much angst, it’s hard not to feel it – whether one is in love or not. The picturization of each song is spectacular – and they are as much a delight to watch, as to hear. Santosh Sivan and Mani Ratnam create magic on celluloid.
And to realise that I actually missed Shahrukh Khan, when he came to my hometown for shooting Jiya Jale – remains a regret for me! Yes, the next time you watch Jiya Jale, look out for a shot of him doing Kalari Payattu-inspired steps, surrounded by elephants on a hill – that place is called Vilangan kunnu and is just a fifteen minute-drive from my home! My Mom’s cousin got there and took a picture with SRK! Till date I am insanely jealous of it. Enough said!

Chemistry and Performances – The relationship (if you could call it that) of Amar and Meghna has this beautiful tension that runs throughout the entire movie – it almost drives you crazy when they are so near and yet so distant. I particularly love the scene where they spend a moonlit night in Ladakh – how the casual conversation on likes and dislikes  turns intense when he claims that the thing he hates the most are her eyes – for the more he looks into it, the lesser he sees anything; and he loves it the most for the same reason. I admit – maybe I am a sucker for the SRK charisma; but the man has a way with it – the look in his eyes, the searing passion, the smouldering expressions… ok I should stop it right there!
And as for Manisha Koirala – I think it’s her best performance in her career. I fail to recollect other exceptional performances of hers (maybe Bombay and 1942 – A Love Story qualify). She was a complete natural (appearance and otherwise) in her role – and brilliantly wove the mystery around her character. She enacts the torment of being torn between two worlds, to perfection – one she was forced to choose, the other she didn’t know existed. The dichotomy of the head and heart baffle her and tear her apart – and that is demonstrated in various ways – like when Amar plays Ae Ajnabi (on air), and she can’t decide whether to listen to it or not.

The climax is the highlight, where after much coaxing, she comes as close as ever to admitting that she loves him – and it cost them their lives – and thus their story (and the movie) ends with an explosion. The flame that was kindled works itself into an uncontrollable fire – taking them along with it.

Ishq par zor nahi, hai yeh woh aatish Ghaalib;
Jo lagaye na lage, aur bujhaye na bane.

She found out too.

Images: Courtesy Google


  1. Ahem... what brought this on? What can I say? the songs have been part of my growing up too - at a stage when love and loss were both shaping one's personality. Hve cried with Ae Ajnabi, and danced on Chayya chayya .... Thanks for bringing this back!

  2. ae ajnabi and satrangi re... so beautifully rhymed and both had their own different shades.. the movie was really awesome, at time even i wonder as what made it failure... may be the inteligence of all was at sleep..

  3. @ Nirvana - A R Rahman brought it all back. Actually, I was watching a show on him (and with him in it) on NDTV - they mentioned his songs, which also included 'Dil Se'. It is my eternal favourite, and so I wrote a tribute to it! :)

    "the songs have been part of my growing up too - at a stage when love and loss were both shaping one's personality."

    Well said! It's the same here!

  4. @ Bhargav - Indeed! Ae Ajnabi and Satrangi Re are two gems. I guess people couldn't appreciate this love story because it was packaged differently - or it was ahead of its time, in terms of how it suits the sensibilities of the audience.

  5. Strange - you put into words what I have been trying to for a long time. Dil Se is one of my favorite, favorite, favorite movies ever.
    This is one of the best reviews I've read for a long time, honestly. Thank you so much!

  6. Hey Mette!
    Thanks for stopping by. I am actually honoured that you left a hyperlink of moi humble blog on your site. What's more, after scouring through your site, I realised you are a Scandinavian, who loves Hindi/Bollywood movies! I am amazed at your passion for it (considering you seem to be more passionate than us Indians, ourselves!). You even learnt Hindi?!
    I'm truly happy to see your blog filled with so many reviews. I am hoping to catch upon your perspective of our movies pretty soon.
    Do tell me - how did you land up on my blog?
    Besides, you seem to be a true Bollywood buff - so many websites in the Surfboard!
    Sorry if I seem to be rambling!

    A fellow Bollywood buff :)

  7. Hey again, Vinitha.
    You really seem to like my blog, so now it's my turn to be honoured. Thank you so much for your kind words :). Well, yes, I am quite crazy about Hindi movies or Bollywood. Learning Hindi came very natural, as I love languages, especially this one, and it gave me the possibility to kind of make it a "deeper" experience to watch the films (or watch DVDs without/ with bad subs).
    I'm glad you enjoy reading my posts, and I want to read some of your older reviews as well.
    Hm, how I landed on your blog? I don't remember, I think you commented on some other blog, and I just looked up your blog, then. I do that a lot.
    Ok, I'm rambling too...

    Love, scandinavian BW buff Mette <3

  8. Glad to see you back again! My internet was giving me trouble for a couple of days, hence the delayed reply :)

    I will be catching upon your blog soon too!

  9. Hey, I saw that you follow a few Bollywood blogs that I also follow!

    Check out my blog at: http://bollyhooha.blogspot.com ,

    Where I poke fun at the Bollywood and give attention to those Zero Screentime Walas!

    The Bolly Hood

  10. I searched something and found this perchance. Amazing review.

    I am also mesmerized by this movie. The two beauties from the extreme beauties (K's Kerala and Kashmir). Both share their inner beauties, their child-like innocence. One cradled in lullabies grows into the bubbly, lively, optimistic side of India. The other cradled in pain, to be the introspective, revengeful and (even) calculating India. But innocence doesn't die that easy too, as hope kindles its flames. So does vengeance. A person stuck between these two India's, one the enigmatic, capricious, fragile, deep and the other lively, happy go lucky, simple.

    I have probably heard Aye Ajnabi a 1000 times. The lyrics, the music, the cinematography, all near perfect.

    1. Hey! Sorry for a late reply. I haven't been regular with my blog. My bad!
      Thanks for stopping by. Please do leave a name, next time?



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