The landscape of Sanjay Leela Bhansali's (Devdas, Black) latest epic romance is a storybook town named Shimla. From the rooftops, it glows like a Thomas Kincaid; on the cobblestone ground, the bright flat bars and shops feel like Georges Melies revamped the Paris Casino, with extra tinsel.
And the emotions are equally extravagant: Raj (Ranbir Kapoor) and Sakina (Sonam Kapoor) are obsessive love fools (Saawariya means beloved in Hindi). The gorgeous couple is as caught up in amour as Romeo and Juliet, but the tragedy is they're not in love with each other. Well, Raj fell for Sakina's haunted beauty the second he saw her weeping under her black umbrella, but Sakina was crying for the mysterious Muslim cleric (Bollywood superstar Salman Khan) who had rented a room in her grandmother's home, swept the innocent girl off her feet and then disappeared, promising he'd return a year later on the holiday of Eid.
As local hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold Gulab (Rani Mukherjee) sighs, this is a story of false romance sold as true love. What's ironic for Raj's flailing suitor—a nightclub rock star so pure he orders milk—is that until now he's been able to charm every woman from his elderly Anglophile landlady (Zohra Sehgal) to all the worn and battered prostitutes in the Red Light District in a cheerily perverse ditty where they struggle to reject his promises of hope and destiny. (The charm of Ranbir's goofy Elvis-legged dancing is impossible to resist.) And Gulab, a maternal seductress, puts up the biggest front of them all—though she's been in love with Raj since the first time he strummed his guitar at the RK bar, she wards off his advances with a bittersweet smile.
Of all the film's rococo pleasures—the lavish dance numbers, the dramatic rainstorms, and even the gold dust that puffs out when Sakina beats her rugs—Mukherjee's richly textured diva is the most mesmerizing, this cynical beauty who tries to warn the giddy sweethearts about heartbreak and on the glum anniversary of her initiation into the "business" throws herself a birthday party for distraction.
Cast: Salman Khan, Rani Mukherjee, Ranbir Kapoor, and Sonam Kapoor
Director/Producer: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Screenwriter: Prakash Kapadia
Genre: Musical romance; Hindi-language, subtitled
Rating: PG for thematic elements, brief nudity, some language and incidental smoking
Running time: 146 min.
Release date: November 9, 2007 ltd.