Saawariya – A timeless story of unrequited love

Very few movies have poetic feel to them. The 2007 movie ‘Saawariya’ was one of it.

Based on Fyodor Dostoevsky’s short story – White Nights, Saawariya is a tale of a recluse stranger in search of love and a girl in wait of love. When their paths cross, love is about to blossom. Unrequited love stories have their own beauty and the beauty lies in its sorrow, separation, tears and melancholy. Be it the ‘The English Patient’ or ‘Lootera’, the theme of tragic love is common in them. The premise of this story is set in a fairy tale like city where there is no hurry, chaos or hatred. In this fairy tale like city arrives Ranbir Raj an aspiring but jobless musician who is in search of a rental accommodation. He befriends a prostitute named Gulabji. Unlike others, Ranbir treats Gulabji like a friend. On Gulabji’s reference, Ranbir manages to get an accommodation at a house of an old lady named Lilian.

While roaming on a dark night, Ranbir stumbles upon a beautiful girl on a bridge waiting for someone. A damsel in distress, the girl on the bridge is chased by a mad woman. The girl on the bridge seeks refuge and help from Ranbir. Ranbir rescues her from the mad woman. Ranbir and the girl strike a bond on the lonely night. Here he discovers that her name is Sakina and she stays with her blind grandmother. Ranbir is smitten by her natural beauty and innocence. Love blossoms in heart of Ranbir.

Though Ranbir and Sakina keep meeting like love birds, there is only a bonding of friendship between them. Ranbir tries to confess his love to Sakina but discovers later that she is in love with someone else and is waiting for his return so that they can get married. Hearing this, Ranbir decides to part away from Sakina.
Sakina has no clue about her lover’s return. Ranbir promises to search for her lover.Despite several attempts, Ranbir is unable to trace the whereabouts of Sakina’s lover. In this midst, Ranbir has a faint hope that Sakina may reciprocate to his love.
When Sakina realizes that there is no point of return of her love, she decides to reciprocate to Ranbir’s emotions. By a strange unfortunate irony, Sakina’s lover returns and now Sakina’s emotions are torn between Ranbir and her long lost love.
Realizing her dilemma, Ranbir big heartedly bids farewell to Sakina. Sakina connects with her love. In these four nights of friendship, Ranbir’s world changes when he meets Sakina. Now he is all alone. His days and nights are lonely again.
The hopeless, aspiring loner is back to his melancholy

Fyodor Dostoevsky’s short story ‘White nights’ is timeless in it. Director Sanjay Bhansali picked this short story as subject for the musical love story he was about to direct. Embellished with magnificent sets, stunning art direction, melodious soundtrack and a soulful performance, Saawariya was a critical let down. This visually engaging tragic love story is times ahead in terms of storytelling. Ranbir Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor made their debut with this timeless love story. Sonam’s portrayal as Sakina is unforgettable and there is a nostalgic feel to her innocent face. Ranbir’s role as the melancholic musician will win your heart. The heart breaking moment in the movie is the climax where Ranbir lets Sakina go with her long lost lover. It is difficult for a man to see his love in someone’s arms. Saawariya is a memorable movie that is not formulaic filled with typical and clichéd Bollywood drama. What appealed to me in this movie was the larger than life performance of veteran actress Zohra Sehgal as the old lady Lilian. This was one of the last soulful performances of Zohra Sehgal.

This article is not a review, but reminiscence of a heartbreaking love story faded away from the minds of people. Motion pictures like Saawariya are made only once. The word ‘Saawariya’ is derived from the word ‘Saanwra’ which means dark complexioned. Lord Krishna is sometimes addressed as Saawariya. Even Radha had to wait long for return of her lord Krishna. Sometimes one lifetime is not enough to experience the joy of love. Saawariya is about waiting in love for several lifetimes.

For those who have penchant for tragic romances, Saawariya is a visual engaging experience that will stay in their minds for eternity.

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2 Replies to “Saawariya – A timeless story of unrequited love”

  1. Lovely article. But of course I have my own views about the film, though I find your love for the film to be utterly admirable.

    One can argue that in being loyal to the theme of unrequited love, Saawariya scores full marks. However, I feel that loyalty to the source and adapting it brilliantly are two different things. Saawariya gets the first bit right but it is in no way a brilliant adaptation that brings the tale to life with conviction.

    My problem is less with the artificiality of Sonam Kapoor and the sets and more with just how inadequate a storyteller Bhansali is. Sure, broad strokes might look great as art but telling a story, a story of a simple premise built on nuances and details, needs a deft hand to make it interesting than just good looking.

    White Nights was a love story set in the real world populated with real people, people with real feelings and very credible failings. Bhansali, in trying to be arty, ends up creating a tinsel town, albeit one whose charm extends only to its streets and buildings. In all Bhansali films, we see overblown acting and visuals but we at least get characters who are believable even in their most outrageous moments. Films like Lootera and Mirzya gave their characters enough realism to make them interesting. Even the most theatrical drama can be adapted into real and stirring cinema as proved by Vishal Bhardwaj. Bhansali gives us only cardboard cutouts and caricatures, the wizened yet warm old woman, the slinky saree clad prostitute and so on. Only cliches and not people.

    That brings me to the central love story itself. Granted, Ranbir can pull off being the cocky and suicidal lover with great ease but his pursuit feels significantly boring because Bhansali never feels to fill up Sakina with any spark. Sonam Kapoor is all manufactured charm and smiles and the crude tonal shifts that she goes through, from dancing and giggling to screeching and acting coy, lets down the romance to a great level. Even Rockstar had an insipid leading lady but at least Imtiaz Ali used music, visuals and a firm sense of earthy flavour to make Jordan’s story utterly dramatic. Saawariya had lovely music but only to listen to because Bhansali does not serve anything on the screen. Except for maybe Ranbir in a towel.

    Anyway, lovely post and hope you dont mind my unwarranted critique. Loved your admiration for a film and that alone makes this article worth reading.

    1. A honest review Zoeb. Really loved your feedback, Your thoughts are justified. The female lead Sonam Kapoor was gold that glittered only through her smile. There was no author backed performance though. Ranbir as the tragic one sided lover was convincing. Especially the climax was heartbreaking when she leaves Ranbir for her love Salman. It hit me to the heart. Your review surpassed my article. Brilliant write up. Loved it. Cheers !!

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