Director: Yash Chopra
Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta, Rani Mukherjee, Manoj Bajpai, Boman Irani, Kirron Kher, Anupam Kher, Divya Dutta, Amitabh Bachchan, Hema Malini
Going to the movies is no no longer what it used to be. Crowds don't throng the theatres anymore. No need to make friends with the booking clerk's son for a prized first-day, first-show seat. Or, negotiate with the men who sold tickets, often hidden inside their soiled underwear in dingy bylanes, at double the price. Or, chat up the policemen busy lathi-charging those queuing up for a front stall ticket.
But every once in a while comes a movie when old order is restored: the ticket clerk gets busy, the men in black emerge from nowhere and the policemen make a guest re-appearance. And the families who visit the theatre only once a year emerge in their shimmering finery. Veer-Zaara is that kind of movie.
In a year that has celebrated lust with such candour and abandon, Yash Chopra's latest work brings you back to the secure arms of love. A Pakistani girl, Zaara Hayat Khan's (Preity Zinta) chance meeting with an Indian Air Force officer Veer Pratap Singh (Shah Rukh Khan) develops into a tale of ardour that has the grand passion of a modernday Laila-Majnu.
The film works because the stars shine. Preity's Zaara is both restrained and dignified. This is her most nuanced performance to date. And Aditya Chopra's wonderful screenplay etches out even the smaller parts in loving detail. Divya Dutta's Shabbo, Zaara's playmate, is as memorable as Mughal-e-Azam's Suraiyya (the character, not the heroine.)
Director Chopra manipulates audience emotions effortlessly. The film makes you clap; it also makes you weep. There's a scene, where Zaara's mother (Kirron Kher) begs Veer to leave her daughter alone. He tells her, 'Mothers don't plead. They order. Whatever you want will be done.' Grateful, she asks him, 'Is every son in your country like you' He replies, tears in his voice, 'I don't know about that. But I do know that every mother in my country is just like you.' That's Bollywood at its best.
Not that Veer-Zaara is without flaws. A ruthless editor could have smartened the film 20 minutes leaner. The characters speak so much Punjabi that you begin to wonder if the film is bilingual. And, if these were late Madan Mohan's best tunes, you would have heard them before.
But in all, we have an honest-to-the-heart film that remarkably bypasses the bitterness of Indo-Pak relations in a cross-border love story and reaches out as much to the McDonald-multiplex couple as the babuji-bahenji pair. Veer-Zaara is for all seasons and every reason.