One of the most memorable Hindi films from my childhood has to be Sooraj Barjatya’s Maine Pyar Kiya. Along with Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak and later a horde of films from the stables of Yash Raj banners, it breathed new life into the dying genre of romantic movies in India. It reintroduced the younger generation to an elusive charm that was the mainstay of films produced by Barjatya's father and grandfather under their Rajshri Productions (our parents and grandparents still rave about Nadiya Ke Paar).
Here was a young director who had his hand firmly placed on the pulse of the nation. He broke new ground with Hum Aapke Hain Koun, a movie that will keep his name alive in the annals of the Indian film industry for the rest of eternity. He followed it up with a few average and a few below-average movies. And now after a brief hiatus he has a new offering – Vivah.
Vivah – A journey from engagement to marriage: the tagline says it all.
Poonam (Amrita Rao) is an orphan who is brought up by her uncle (Alok Nath) and aunt (Seema Biswas) after her parents’ death. The uncle showers her with love and affection, and treats her like his own daughter. The aunt, however, cannot bring herself to love Poonam since she is fairer and more beautiful than her own daughter. Poonam on the other hand would win first prize in a hypothetical best daughter contest.
Prem (yes, the hero is called Prem again – Shahid Kapoor) is the younger son of a successful but down-to-earth industrialist (Anupam Kher). His elder brother and Bhabhi have a son, and the five of them together are one humble happy family.
Prem and Poonam get engaged and what follows is the sublime journey most betrothed couples in India go through in the period between their engagement and marriage – in this case six months devoted to falling in love and discovering one another.
The film is an ode to the sanctity of marriage – how it not only joins a man and a woman, but also two families. It talks about how the mere act of exchanging rings, brings two people together and gives them an indescribable right on each other.
The film is definitely not lacking in that elusive charm the Barjatyas are known for. Both Shahid Kapoor and Amrita Rao play their parts to perfection. Especially Shahid Kapoor, whose hesitant first-time-in-love Prem would be very endearing to the female audiences.
Alok Nath and Anupam Kher have performed some memorable characters in family sagas over the years and here again they don’t fail to deliver. The character of the jealous aunt is a walk in the park for the National Award winning actress Seema Biswas.
The characters are well-defined, though their self-effacing, sacrificing nature and excessive sweetness (something one can see in all Rajshri films) might give some viewers diabetes.
But what this movie really suffers from is an inherent inertia in the script which keeps it bogged down and only lets it gather some pace towards the end (which has an unexpected twist and also a cameo by Mohnish Behl, but ends in a predictable yet appealing manner).
Sooraj Barjatya’s movies are known for their high quality music, but the veteran Ravindra Jain has failed this time to deliver catchy lyrics and foot-tapping music. Too many songs slow down the narrative further.
You walk out of the film feeling a little confused – this isn’t a bad movie, it just isn’t good enough. Good word-of-mouth from family audiences and women might end up making this film an average hit.
The charm lingers on still, and that’s where the faith of this reviewer lies - that one day Sooraj Barjatya will deliver something in the league of Maine Pyar Kiya and Hum Aapke Hain Koun.