Fitoor is certainly the biggest flop of 2016 for the Hindi industry, if not of all time, and may have actually brought about the downfall of an entire studio. So it seems insulting to compare another film to it, but I didn’t actually mean it as an insult. Well, not an insult to Mirzya. I always mean to insult Fitoor, because that is a terrible terrible movie.
As I headlined my SPOILER review of it, Fitoor is mostly montages. It’s very visual, it was supposed to be a kind of dreamy magical almost surreal love story. Only, the songs weren’t that great, neither the sound or the visuals, and without that emotional power underlining the story, it all kind fizzled.
Not the case here! The songs are AMAZING! Both visuals and sound. The visuals do something really unique that I can’t remember having seen in exactly this way before. It’s kind of a combination of a Greek chorus, and the bride attendants/village people/item number dancers who sometimes express the emotions of the leads on their behalf. “Rukmini” from Roja is what I kept thinking of, and actually Ratnam uses that a lot now that I think of it. The local whoevers doing a sexy dance while the hero and heroine remain serious.
When Ratnam does it, it’s because he wants to keep the main characters serious and “real”, so he resists putting them in traditional song and dance numbers, he has other characters do it on their behalf. But in this film, it’s something a little different, that feels related to the source of the story being from oral tradition.
We open with a voice-over from Om Puri (uch, Om Puri) saying that this is a story from the blacksmith’s village. And then through out the film, we will suddenly see a large group of men and women dancers in Rajasthani outfits, in the moonlight, dancing or otherwise reacting to the recent events of the tale. But they don’t serve to add anything new to the tale through their reactions, just exaggerate what was already there, express it in a purer way.
It works really well, at least for me. I was right there enjoying all the emotions and plot twists and everything underlined by the songs. What didn’t work so well was the characters and the plot that strung together all these emotions.
Harshvardhan did his best, and there were a couple of moments that he just nailed. Saiyami Kher wasn’t as good. But I also wonder if she had some language issues? She sounded really stiff with her English dialogue, but then she seemed almost as stiff with her Hindi. According to her pre-release interview with Rediff, she grew up in Nashik, where her family ran a few restaurants and grew up away from the limelight. I wonder if she also grew up speaking primarily Marathi? Or maybe she just feels awkward about delivering dialogue for some reason. There were a few physical moments that she did very well, great expressions and sudden movements and things like that. It was just the dialogue that was weak.
Ultimately though, neither of them made me sit up and go “A Star is Born!!!” I’m not saying they won’t necessarily become a star in future, but this movie isn’t it. They just don’t have the presence, the little extra acting touches, the aggressive taking of the camera until you just can’t look away. Most people don’t in their very first movie, but I always have hope that it will happen. Not this time.
Besides the weak acting, the characters aren’t that strong either. They are pretty basic “passionate and uncaring for society and in love!” types. Crossed with “Princess and stableboy”. Just like Shaandaar! But better. In Shaandaar I got super frustrated with how they wanted the “Princess and Stable boy” thing, but they set it in England and made the “stableboy” into a wedding planner who just happened to sleep in the stable. Which had me saying as I was walking out of the theater after Shaandaar, “Why did they have to make it a fantasy fake story, why not set it in India and use an actual Princess and Stableboy who are still in India instead of renting an English castle and making something up?” And, ta-da! This movie is an actual Princess and stableboy in India!
If the “Princess and Stableboy” thing didn’t tip you off, this movie is also soooooooper dramatic and romantic. There’s everything from a lion to a tragic widow, just piled on top of each other. Never a moment of lightness or humor, all drama drama drama! But all also slightly surreal. Like you are listening to a fable, like those Greek chorus dancers, not real people you care about. I got shivers down my spin with the beauty of the moments and the power of the images. But I never teared up or really cared what would happen to them in the end.
But so pretty! Totally worth seeing on the big screen, if you just want to see a lot of really amazing music videos strung together. Which apparently not many people do, I got to have a private screening! First time I’ve had that since I went to a 10:30am Saturday showing of Welcome. In a theater that has since gone out of business. Maybe because they wasted money on 10:30 Saturday matinees of Welcome?
(Catchy title song, not that great a movie)