While this is my February/Valentine Movie, it is an innocent love story played out against the backdrop of India’s brutal struggle for independence.
The combination of Director Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Screenwriter Sanjay Leela Bhansali promises a story of depth and beauty.
India won its independence from Britain in 1947. This story reflects many of the struggles and abuses Indians faced during the turbulent years before independence.
The British with their Indian allies brutalized the Indian population. As the fight for independence grew, many were lynched, tortured, and killed. Ordinary citizens were forced to become protestors and freedom fighters.
I have watched this movie several times but I always have to close my eyes during the first few minutes because I can not watch Anil Kapoor be harmed.
Anil Kapoor plays Narendra Singh, the young son from a rich Indian family. Narendra or Naren as he is called is naive. While unrest grows, he remains neutral. He accompanies his father on a visit to Major Hisht, the Indian Army officer in charge of the troops in town to discuss the arrival of the British General Douglas. Mr. Singh wants the crowd of protestors dispersed.
As the soldiers begin to push back the crowd, a child breaks away to rescue a fallen Indian flag and soldiers began to beat him. Naren jumps from his car to protect the child. He covers the boy with his body. As the boy escapes, Naren glances up to catch a glimpse of a young girl in the window of a bus. He is smitten. She disappears, leaving behind one earring.
Here’s the best part: Naren awakens the next day throwing back the covers and rolls in his bed in red pajamas singing. He dances around his bedroom pondering that his love is like a poem, like a flower, like a dream. Yes, Anil Kapoor is dreamy as he dances with his pillow singing with joy. This is my favorite “I am in love” song and dance routine!
Manisha Koirala plays Rejeshwari Pathak, the young girl. She also joyfully greets the day as she goes about her tasks. The cinematography captures tremendous natural scenes of beauty.
With the gold earring in hand, Naren goes in search of the mysterious girl. He seeks the help of his chauffeur and finds the girl and her father are visiting with his chauffeur's aunt and uncle.
Naren seeks to charm the girl, so he goes to met her at the town library. Again, Anil Kapoor dances like a dream as he skips across the top of bookcases and rolls across the card index files as Rajeshwari tries to avoid him.
Being a book lover, I was in heaven. I had read that Anil Kapoor took dancing lessons in his early acting years. Those lessons paid off. Kapoor cuts a beautiful figure as he kicks up his heels and skips across the cabinets and down the library aisles teasing Rajeshwari or Rajjo as he calls her. Naren is willing to make a fool of himself to make Rajjo smile.
While Naren is wooing Rajjo, her father, Raghuvir Pathak, played by the universal actor, Anupam Kher, is meeting with fellow freedom fighters to develop a plan to kill General Douglas when he arrives in town.
Rajjo does not know about her father’s activities. He sends her to the local playhouse to help with the production of a play for the General to divert her from his activities.
Naren eagerly joins the group once he learns Rajjo is part of the production. But, Chanda, Major Hisht’s daughter is also interested in Naren.
The play is Romeo and Juliet. Naren as Romeo addresses his dialogue to Rajjo. Later that night, in her room, Rajjo realizes she has fallen in love with Naren. Then, Naren comes to visit her and like Romeo climbs to her balcony to express his undying love.
More love song and dances play out in sunny, soft, dreamy and panoramic landscape shots.
Manisha Koirla has a wonderful ability to look beautiful, mysterious, and joyful. Her “I am in love” song and dance routine is shot against a gorgeous mountain backdrop. Her song is interrupted as soldiers march down the road.
Major Hisht has been trying to rout out the freedom fighters as he learns of a plot to kill General Douglas.
In another love song, Naren asks Rajjo to marry him. They sing and dance in the rain. I love the song and dance routines done in the rain. Rain is like an actor in Indian movies. At times, I think the rain songs are like a prayer to the rain. While Naren pursues, Rajjo must remain demure. These are two photogenic actors, the camera loves them.
As the sun breaks through, the beautiful green forest scene is broken by an army patrol rides by. They are closing in the freedom fighters.
While Danny Denzongpa as Major Hisht, and Chandni as his daughter are secondary actors in this movie, every secondary actor plays a major part in this story.
Sadly, Naren’s father has soldiers follow Naren on his way to ask Rajjo’s father for permission to marry her. As the soldiers attempt to capture Mr. Pathak, Rajjo escapes with the gun. As she runs away, her father blows up the house and himself to avoid capture.
Enter the mysterious stranger. Jackie Shroff, who plays Mr. Pathak’s secret weapon in their fight against the British and in the plot to kill the General.
While the story has focused largely on the innocent love between Naren and Rajjo, you now see them quickly mature into sober, determined adults who choose to fight for their country.
Because of his love for Rajjo, Naren sides with the freedom fighters. Yet, they see him as the enemy.
The freedom fighters plans are thwarted time and again as the General’s arrival approaches. Naren unwitting hinders their original plan, then injects himself into the plot to protect Rajjo.
Naren is captured as the General arrives. The merciless General wants to make an example of him and orders Naren to be hung in front of the crowd of protesters from the top of the government building.
As the climax unfolds, the secondary characters from the street cleaner to the bus driver and more play a part in defeating the General’s plans.
Director: Vidhu Vinod Chopra
Producer: Vidhu Vinod Chopra and H.L. Saluja
Screenplay: Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Shivkumar Subramaniam
Cast: Anil Kapoor, Manisha Koriala, Anupam Kher, Danny Denzongpa, Jackie Shroff and more.
Cinematography: Binod Pradhan
Release Date: 1994