By Subhash K. Jha, IANS
They’re playing a game. Let’s call it a mime-game. At a filmy picnic the disgruntled husband Bobby Deol who wants to divorce his stunningly desirable wife Priyanka Chopra (only God and the scripwriter know why anyone would want to do something so foolhardy) is asked, “What’s the Hindi word for divorce?” Talaq, comes the grumpy answer. “Nope,” replies the wife with a coolness that caresses the film’s Himachal breeze. “Talaq is an Urdu word. We don’t have a Hindi word for dirvorce because the concept is alien to our culture.”
You may not agree with Kajal, a.k.a Priyanka Chopra and the pungent bumper-sticker wisdom that’s thrust on her gorgeous lips by dialogue writers K.K. Singh and Rumi Jaffrey. But you sure as hell can’t take your eyes off this luscious lass as she weaves her uncanny instincts around a role that requires her to be coy and captivating, strong and sobbing, demure and dynamic… all at once and once for all. Within a year Priyanka has grown into a formidable screen queen. In BARSAAT she reveals that rare ability which Sridevi possessed to rise above the screen material and lack of support from co-stars to prove herself a complete scenestealer… or shall we say, scene-‘steeler’ since she lifts many of the most mundane moments in this oldfashioned, at-times quaint, at-times pale melodrama.
It’s easy and trendy to be ultra-cynical about a film like BARSAAT where the values propagated and the images generated seem to have emanated from a frozen time-warp of movie montages that date back to the oldest tradition of the kitschy formula. And yet to deny the archaic magnetism of BARSAAT is to deny the most renewable traditions of Hindi cinema. Amidst a wild torrent of indifferent Nadeem-Shravan songs that pin down the plot like rapists’ hands, BARSAAT is a film that manages to squeeze in an important message for deserted wives. Don’t pine for the swine. Make hay while the sun shines. No Shabana Azmi in Arth… And yet Priyanka Chopra is no walkover either. When her wimpish husband (Bobby Deol, suitably cast) forces the wife to sign the divorce papers she immediately builds a new life for herself, and smilingly returns the cheque that hubby-dear wants to give his dumped wife as a conscience pacifier.
Deol’s passage to spousal indifference could have been charted more convincingly. When he moves to the US (city unnamed) to pursue his dreams, sell car-designs to BMW and gets engaged to the rich heiress Anna (Bipasha Basu, looking slim and svelte) is he just being a cardboard cad? Or does Deol tokenize the very real and contemporary dilemma of the average small-towner who wants to get ‘there’? Is the film’s indecisive protagonist (his destiny is controlled by the two temptresses in his life) a Bunty in search of a distant Babli? Director Suneel Darshan’s vision impales the three main characters in a familiar and played-out triangle. The focus of interest isn’t what’s being said, but what the torrent of spoken words and the saturated background score (Salim-Suleiman) would like us to hear beyond the shrill clarioin call of a shehnai that the filmmaker plays as a sort of a old-world shaadi ke bard.
There’re constant if unconscious homages to the cinema greats. The shaadi song where Kajal dresses up her rival in love as a bride and sings and dances at her own husband’s wedding (see how Priyanka takes on THE COMPETITION) conveys the echoic if archaic enchantment of Raj Kapoor’s RAM TERI GANGA MAILI. …And when Bobby Deol commands his utterly devoted wife to sign on the divorce paper he reminds you of Rakesh Roshan ruthlessly demanding separation from Smita Patil in J.Om Prakash’s AAKHIR KYON. From Raj Kapoor to J.Om Prakash… Suneel Darshan’s vision encompasses the best of mainstream Hindi cinema. But that forward fillip that separates a fulfilling homage from a slapdash recreation is largely absent.
The fringe characters (e.g Bipasha’s giggly saheli and Bobby’s turbaned sidekick) are stereotypes that belong to an outdated time-zone. But you’ve to hand to Darshan. He knows the filmy formula in and out. What use he makes of it is another matter.