This was our watchalong movie last week, but I know not everyone got to join. And anyway, it’s fun writing reviews! So here is my review.
First, I have to say this is a GREAT example of a 90s movie. Lots of plot, 3 strong star leads, and solid songs both musically and visually. All the stuff we’ve lost in recent years. In terms of quantity, not quality. In modern times, the plots make more sense, the stars might be better actors, and the songs are often more musically complex. But it’s just so much LESS. Fewer songs, less spectacle, less star power, and WAY less story. Blech!
Anyway, this movie was a great reminder for me of what 90s movies were like. I’ve seen most of the 90s movies of this level, with this kind of hit songs and star cast. So having one I HAVEN’T seen sort of shocked me out of my complacency. It’s just so GOOD! In a particularly 90s way that we don’t have now.
Not for nothing, the reason I haven’t seen this movie is that it is very hard to find. Back when I started watching Hindi films in the early 2000s, it was the Great Age of DVDs. Soooooooooo many films on DVD, and sooooooooooooo many movie rental stores. So I gobbled up a ton. And then I haven’t watched that many and that varied films since, because they just AREN’T AVAILABLE!!!! Streaming services don’t pick up the weird old things, or if they do, they don’t bother subtitling them. DVDs don’t exist any more. So the only way to see films like Aarzoo, solid popular films from the 90s, is on einthusan. And even there it is a edited flawed version. SO FRUSTRATING.
It’s a lack of respect for the film, and for the work the artists put in on this film. Yes, Saif and Akshay and Madhuri aren’t “acting” the way we see people do now, but they are performing. We follow the emotions of their characters, and we are entertained. They aren’t being “realistic”, but who cares? The point isn’t realism, the point is to help tell the story. I noticed it particularly with Madhuri. She has struggled in recent times as she came back to acting. In Aarzoo, she got top billing! Above both male co-stars! And she was the Star of the film for sure, did comedy and action and romance and drama and everything. But now, watching her in a movie, it feels like she is a struggling to speak a foreign language or something. She just can’t communicate with the audience in the same way she could back in the 90s style.
Saif and Akshay have transitioned to the modern acting, but as someone who watched their careers as it happened, it was a struggle. Akshay was one of the weakest least successful actors for a few years there, before he figured out how to change from “goofy comedy action films” to “slightly more serious action films”. Saif was always a bit of a second string in the 90s style acting, but after Omkara came out and he was re-invented as a “serious” actor, he learned how to transition between big and small performances.
I’m talking a lot around the film instead of straight through because I don’t want to spoil it! That’s another 90s thing, I can’t say anything about the movie without revealing plot. Like, there’s nothing to talk about in terms of the characters specific backgrounds or the setting or any of it. They are 90s heroes and heroines, who live in a 90s Hindi film world, it’s exactly the same movie to movie. The only difference is the stuff that happens to them.
SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS
Classic love triangle here! Madhuri and Saif were raised in the same house after Saif was orphaned. They grow up, Saif is in love with Madhuri, the family wants them to get married, but Madhuri is in love with Pilot Akshay. Saif supports them, they get engaged. The Akshay dies, leaving Madhuri pregnant. Saif marries her and they have a platonic marriage raising their son together. Until Madhuri discovers Saif’s old diary and learns he loved her all along which makes her love him. At the same time, Akshay has returned, after miraculously surviving and being in a coma. He hates Saif, thinking Saif stole his girl, and tries to kill him. At the same time, they learn that Madhuri’s Dad Amrish Puri had Akshay killed so Madhuri would marry Saif instead. Lots of fight scenes, and then it resolves with Saif dying to save Akshay and Madhuri and Akshay embracing, HAPPY ENDING.
So this is a super familiar plot. Love triangle, unspoken friend-love, and then the writers have to pick if the heroine goes with True Love or Sensible Love. That’s the part that is familiar, but also a big odd if you think about it. It’s the writer’s choice, we know this. They kill off one or the other of the two and then the heroine is forced to settle for whoever is left. It’s just SO little agency. That part, I don’t miss from the 90s.
Although, on the other hand, the whole 90s plot thing is that really no one has agency? God just reaches down and creates confusion and all the characters have to scramble around reacting to events.
The movie this keeps making me think about is Kal Ho Na Ho. Saif is playing almost the exact same character in both, the sort of boring friend less exciting but really REALLY nice and reliable one. But in Kal Ho Na Ho, everyone has agency. Preity got to pick between the two men, Saif got to choose to marry her instead of being forced in by a pregnancy, and Shahrukh got to do the right thing and choose whether or not to pursue her. Same plot, but different. But same Saif.
Anyway, forget all that big thinky stuff. My biggest take away is that Saif is awesome in this movie and SO MUCH BETTER than Akshay. Akshay is doing this over the top crazy performance as the Wild Lover. And Saif is doing the Boring Stable Friend, but with this great undertone of sensitivity and sweetness and interest. You can do a character type and also do MORE than just a type.