“Veer-Zaara…it’s my tribute to the oneness of people on both sides of the border.” - Yash Chopra
I step out of my car; still not aware of the experience that awaits me. With my hands in my pocket, I inch closer to the cinema halls. Still unknown to the feeling of enthusiasm and anticipation, I reminisce of the day’s events; muddling my tired mind with thoughts of ambiguity that have the least bit of importance. Upon hearing the crowded entrance, I look up towards the Indian mass, and something so simple sucks me into the vacuum of bewilderment…the black hole of pure awe. “Yash Chopra’s Veer-Zaara” is what the illustrious poster read. With this vision, all those ambiguous thoughts revolutionized into an explosion of excitement and anxiety; and suddenly, my memory is enthralled with how it all began…
It was early January, and I was merely taking my daily online stroll through the happenings of Bollywood. Suddenly, my eyes catch the headline “Yash Chopra to direct once again.” I sit back in my chair and remember the magic of Deewaar, Kabhi Kabhie, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge, and his last film, Dil To Pagal Hai.
It finally hit me, after over seven years, the most revered director of our time was about to return, and with a bang! What I, along with the rest of the world, was most curious about was the title of the film. Speculation was ablaze, as it always is in Bollywood; and one rumor went as far as to say that Yash ji had titled his film Veer-Dada. Anticipation grew stronger after hearing the immortal star-cast of Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta, and Rani Mukherjee shine on paper, and echo in sound.
I thought to myself…what doesn’t this film have? It has the hype, it has the potential, and most importantly, it has the expertise and guidance of one of the greatest directors of our time. The most inevitable thought that comes to anybody’s mind is the feeling of disbelief: Is it too good to be true?
With the vagueness of the film growing firm, it was suffice to say that this will undoubtedly be the biggest and most awaited motion picture of the year 2004. Through all the title disputes, interviews, and eventual theatrical/tv previews, one can only wait for that date…Diwali: November 11, 2004…
Freeing myself of the past, I find myself amongst a huge audience, at ten o’clock mind you! As show-time creeps closer and closer, people start to become restless, you hear the crunch of popcorn reverberate through the theatre. 10:15 is what my watch read and it was time. The lights dimmed and a thunderous applause ensues. I felt my heart getting heavy with the feeling that my anxiety was about to be quenched…The voice of Yash Chopra himself is what graces our souls. His poetic rendition is the perfect beginning to a story of a lifetime…the most beautiful and touching story of Veer and Zaara.
As for the synopsis of the film, ambiguity is the name of the game. Honestly, the skill with which Yash ji narrates his story cannot be given justice through my analysis and writings. However, the man who deserves credit for creating such a tale is Yash Chopra’s honorable son, Aditya Chopra. As Yash ji had stated in an interview, “…my son Aditya came up with another idea [Veer-Zaara]. He told me he couldn´t make this subject, that I had to do it. He narrated a few scenes, and I was hooked.” So you have it, the inception of something magical had taken place between a father and his son…
I will stray from the topic of describing the story of the film, as the best part of the experience is sitting in your seat not knowing of anything to come in the film. The art of Hindi film watching lies in the wonderment of what’s to come, especially when the story is created and narrated by a father-son combination that could challenge any filmmaker in the world. Here’s an extremely loose synopsis, that will have you engaged in the story in no time, and hooked on the facet of what their eternal romance is all about…
One…who lives in the eyes of death; a life that has given them solace superimposed with a life that has offered them nothing but solitude. An illegitimate life at best, they breathe it with a haunted silence. Known only as No. 786, they wrap their existence in the form of a gift to offer to the Lord, in return, knowing that their one true possession will have the chance to live in peace and harmony.
One…who lives in the eyes of sacrifice; a life that has taken them far away from home to live the life of another. They live so the other’s soul can live on. They breath for the soul purpose to fulfill the other’s unfulfilled. They exist to feel the other’s existence…to feel the other’s invisible love.
Two forms are they…one identity they are. Two bodies are they…one soul they are. Of two nations they come…of one language they speak: The enchanted dialect of love and devotion towards one another. Borders and miles of distance separate Veer and Zaara, but they are entangled in the bondage of sacrificial adoration. Veer and Zaara are not two beings, they are one entity…they are Veer-Zaara.
Love and Romance are what Yash Chopra strives for. It is no doubt that he is the reigning King of Directorial Romance. Amongst the captivating list of immortal lovers, such as Romeo and Juliet, Farhad and Shirin, Laila and Majnu, Sohni and Mahiwal, you can add another name to the list of eternal lovers, Veer-Zaara.
After creating Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge and Mohabbatein, it was evident that Aditya Chopra was an extremely competent director and narrator. His script and dialogues are masterful! Not once does he allow for an infiltration of subplots that would leave one in a state of confusion. Everything that occurs in the film occurs for a reason, and this is where the treasure is unearthed. Never in the film is there a ridiculous comic sequence or an over-done emotional fury. Rather, Hema Malini and especially Amitabh Bachchan’s characters showcase Aditya Chopra’s exquisite articulation of comic relief. Although the drama was never over-done, the film had emotions bubbling throughout, adding to the intensity of this very pure love story. On speaking of the film, Yash Chopra conveys, “Though it´s a film about cross-border love, there isn´t a word of politics in it. Forget politics, there isn´t a slap, not even a raised voice in "Veer-Zaara". It´s a very intense, humane and emotional story.” The irony here is that even though scripting is done on paper, it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to convey the quality and importance of a brilliantly articulate and skillful script on paper, as is the case this very moment. In essence, Aditya Chopra takes his father’s lead when it comes to quality. His script adds soul to the film, and this alone is what makes this viewing experience unforgettable.
Scripting is what makes the directors job fun, but at the same time, quite tedious. The man atop it all is the father of all directors, Mr. Yash Chopra. Upon walking into those theatre halls, I nearly forgot what Yash ji was all about, since it has been over seven years since his last directorial venture (Dil To Pagal Hai - 1997). Yet, when I took a break from the fascination during interval, it all rushed back to me. He was all about soul, romance, emotion, and drama. Indeed, many critics did raise the question of whether he still has what it takes. Personally, I’ve never seen such a resounding answer in all my experience with Bollywood…Yes! For all those who say that it’s good to see fresh blood in the directors chair need to realize that these novice directors have a lot to learn from the veterans, Yash Chopra being a prime example.
His experience is evident through his direction, which grabs hold of your every being. His directorial brilliance is further echoed through the performances of his characters on screen. Yash Chopra’s masterful composition of screen presence and emotional charisma keeps you on edge at all times, literally causing you to be unable to get up for even a bathroom break. As a paralyzed viewer, you watch in awe as the larger than life characters enthrall your senses, keeping you hooked onto the surreal sets and the awesome cinematography.
Technical performance is something that’s gaining more importance year by year. The special effects along with the slickness of a film are becoming ever more instrumental in hyping the appeal of a flick. Here however, the Chopra’s continue their date with perfection as they rope in Cinematographer Anil Mehta to take charge of the cameras. Although the overall effect of Anil Mehta’s work is amazing, his cameras capture the song sequences beautifully. For instance, the opening piece, Kyon Hawa, looks incredible on screen and even reminds one of the looks of Tujhe Dekha from Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge. Also, Anil Mehta’s capture of the song Aisa Desh Hai Mera is another awe-inspiring view that remarkably highlights the land of Punjab. Unable to go into further detail, in risk of disclosing some important events, the cinematography is another feather in the already decorated cap of Anil Mehta. We don’t realize it, but we are seeing the film through the eyes of not only the director, but also the cinematographer…
Another technical aspect that is a must in all Yash Chopra films is the beauty of the sets. Sharmishta Roy’s sets are unreal in their simplicity. Picking up where she left off in Dil To Pagal Hai, her art direction and sets add to the splendor of this already gorgeous film. What’s a Yash Chopra film without any color and festivities? The song where Sharmishta Roy really is able to show off her talent is during the Lodi. Here, she creates a dreamlike out-door set that is authentic to the core! Her touch is what adds that jaw-dropping flavor to Yash Chopra’s films, and she does it once again here.
Lately, there has been a paradigm shift in Bollywood. More and more directors are moving from escapist cinema to reality. The truth is, what does the mass really want? The past has proven lucrative for the escapist crowd, but the recent success of certain reality flicks has also caught the fancy of many. How can you truly please everyone? Yash Chopra, the man who has all the answers, tackles this mind-boggling discrepancy. Veer-Zaara: Escapist meets Reality cinema. There you have it, Yash Chopra has done it again! His love story is able to appeal to the hard-core romance believers, yet, the twists and turns that this story takes will appeal to those pining for something enchantingly different… something magically real.
“For me there´s no creativity without challenge. With Veer-Zaara, I´ve taken on another challenge. The music isn´t what I´d call a routine music score. I feel it isn´t just music, we’re actually trying to create history here…” - Yash Chopra
The first thing that would come to anyone’s mind when they think of a Chopra film is its music. All his films have been high on musical value, and it’s safe to say that Veer-Zaara’s music is the best that has ever come out of the Yash Raj production house. As clearly stated by Mr. Chopra, the music of this film is something special. Late Madan Mohan, a musical genius, was ill fated and passed on at a relatively young age. After a tiresome search for suitable music directors, Sanjeev Kohli, son of the Late Madan Mohan, approached Yash Chopra and requested he look at some of his father’s unused tunes, and the rest is history. Sanjeev Kohli ended up recreating his father’s timeless melodies. The truth is, Mr. Kohli isn’t getting enough credit for the music of the film. His compositions are filled with soul and encompass the theme of the film whole-heartedly.
If I were forced to pick my favorites, I would have to pick Do Pal and Tere Liye. Nonetheless, every song has its place in the film and the music is easily amongst the best that 2004 has heard. In addition to the full-fledged songs, Kohli’s background score does wonders for the film. With perfect instrumentation during appropriate times in the film, he is able to build on Roy’s sets, adding to the richness of the viewing experience. As did the script, the music also adds soul to the film; conveying certain emotions that just couldn’t be captured by Aditya Chopra’s pen. Javed Akhtar’s lyrics are ingenious and fit the narrative brilliantly! As is the music, Akhtar’s work is award-worthy. What the Chopra’s do best is their incorporation of the songs into the narrative. With one exception, not once does it feel as if the songs are being forced upon the viewers or used as mere “space-fillers.” Veer-Zaara’s nicely paced story is enhanced by the inclusion of soulful melodies that not only tickle your senses, but fill your heart.
Epic films are immortalized by mainly one characteristic, its star-cast. The star cast of Veer-Zaara is nothing short of phenomenal and Yash Chopra proves why having a talented group of veteran actors is the key to quality work. From Shah Rukh Khan to Amitabh Bachchan, from Preity Zinta to Hema Malini, and from Rani Mukherjee to Kiron Kher, Veer-Zaara showcases one of the finest group of actors one will ever see on screen together. Their past doesn’t mean a thing if they can’t bring their experience and expertise into their work, and it’s extremely rare to see nearly every actor enact their role with sophistication, ease, and authenticity. The voice of the director resonates through his characters’ performance; and for Yash ji, his voice is heard loud and clear through his cast…
Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini make for a couple of splendid guest appearances. The introduction of their characters is perfectly timed by Aditya Chopra and the excellence with which he creates their personalities is pure gold. Playing the role of Veer’s Uncle and Aunt, Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini look natural in their parent-like roles. Their chemistry carries over from Baghban superbly, as both of them fit into their lovable characters instantly. Special mention must go to the living legend Mr. Amitabh Bachchan. His comic performance is uncanny! Three times my age, he emits as much energy as a twenty year old would, if not more.
Another pleasant addition to the Guest Appearance list is Manoj Bajpai. This man has had the goods for a long time and he just keeps improving with every role he essays. From Satya to Aks, from Road to Pinjar, and from LoC-Kargil to Jaago, Manoj Bajpai has proven that he is among the elite when it comes to acting talent. He finally received national acclaim for his author-backed role in Pinjar, a well deserving acknowledgment. Here, he enacts the role of Raza and slips into his character with utter ease. It’s sufficient to say that he enacts the villainous role in the film. His encounters with Veer create for that edge-of-the-seat experience, and have you hooked immediately. It not only essays Bajpai’s inept ability to articulate his feelings through facial/body expressions and linguistics, but it also showcases Yash Chopra’s tactful direction.
The rest of the supporting cast do justice to their very limited contributions. Boman Irani, is able to create the tense feelings during his presence in the film and speaks his very few dialogues with appropriate emotion. Divya Dutta does a fantastic job in serving as the maid who’s trying to join the two lovers. Her character is at appropriate times comical, lovable, and emotional. Zohra Sehgal plays her repetitive role with ease, as does Akhilendra Mishra. Kiron Kher picks up where she left off in Hum Tum. Her motherly warmth is brought out lovingly by Aditya Chopra’s script. The scene between Kiron Kher and Veer is one of the best. She looks the part and pours soul into her rendition of Zaara’s mother. Anupam Kher also looks the part of the evil prosecutor. His outbursts in the court highlight his linguistic skills along with some superb body language. His scenes with Rani Mukherjee’s character are gems. A supporting cast is definitely important, as it does serve as the backbone upon which the lead characters can structure their performance…
For Rani Mukherjee, the appraisal of “Best Supporting Actress” doesn’t seem too far. This is truly a brilliant performance by Ms. Mukherjee. After Hum Tum, she has proven that she has what it takes to be Bollywood’s next Diva. Her entrance into the film is such that it brightens the darkened theatres. She slips into Sayeeda’s character easier than ease itself! At the same time looking beautiful doing it. Her meetings with Veer are unforgettable, and their vocal interactions are tear-causers. It’s amazing to see the chemistry between Rani Mukherjee and Shah Rukh Khan. Some scenes are instant reminders of the pain they shared in Chalte Chalte. Her presence steals every scene away, especially her performance in the courthouse alongside Anupam Kher. Although her role may be labeled as a supporting one, one can’t help but forecast a demise in the film if she hadn’t been the lady to play Sayeeda’s character.
Preity Zinta has tasted success quite frequently in the past year. From Koi Mil Gaya, to Kal Ho Naa Ho to Lakshya, she has had the opportunity to work with three very competent directors. For the first time, she is working with someone who has the experience that Yash Chopra has. Preity Zinta plays her title role nicely. She fits Zaara’s look completely and looks ravishing at times. The truth is, her role didn’t ask much of her, although she did justice to her duty completely. Her presence in the film adds the fragility and simplicity that the film endures. Her chemistry with Shah Rukh carries over from Kal Ho Na Ho, as both of them share a special on screen bondage, which seems to have strengthened, due to the strong romantic nature of this film.
“Shah Rukh Khan has given his career´s best performance in Veer-Zaara” - Yash Chopra
How can something be so repetitive in quality as Shah Rukh Khan is. Once again, he shines the brightest amongst all the stars. I personally can’t see anyone else enacting the role of Veer. Shah Rukh Khan plays his role stupendously, brushing off any criticism he might have received in the past for doing the same role over and over again. The truth is, this is completely different from any part that Shah Rukh Khan has ever attempted to interpret. His double-nature throughout the film really brings out not only his sensitive side, but also his shadowy side. His interactions with Rani’s character bring out the side of him that not many audiences have seen, if any. However simple Veer’s character may look on the outside, he’s that much complex on the inside; the workings of his mind function differently from the way you and I think, and Shah Rukh Khan turns the impossible into the possible by taking his real character and surreptitiously transforming himself into his reel character, Veer Pratap Singh. This is undoubtedly amongst Shah Rukh’s best performances of his career and only makes the anticipation of Ashutosh Gowarikar’s Swades grow stronger.
Love stories come and go, films become hits and flops; but eternal love stories and immortal films are what stay alive in the hearts of movie lovers. Veer-Zaara is the majestic tale of two people, whose love for one another crosses into the realm of inspirational devotion. Veer and Zaara…two names detached by the wraths of religion…two entities divided by military and national borders…two forms estranged by miles of expansive distance…one soul joined by sacrificial love…one existence…Veer-Zaara.