If Bill Clinton were a bollywood movie maker, this is the kind of movie he would deliver. Unlike most Hindi movies based on Indo-Pak themes, this one does not show Pakistanis as jerks and terrorists and Indians as great patriotic fighters. Instead this one is “luvy-duvy” all over. Pakistanis and Indians will both come away from this movie “pretty” pleased.
Pak girl (Preethi Zinta as Zaara) travels to India and oooo…everyone is soooo goody-goody, cho-chweet. Amitabh (who appears in a superb cameo) along with ever-slim Hema Malini and Midas-man Shahrukh sing and dance in the fields of Punjab. All the lovely greenery, the papi-shuppy among the people, its love and camaraderie all over, wah-wah — in short, its an out and out nostalgia trip that is bound to make every surd reach for his turban to wipe off his overflowing tears.
In India, Zaara falls for Veer, a Squadron Leader in the Indian Air Force. His parents despite being from the village are very progressive (duh?), and completely disregard the fact that she is a Muslim and encourage their son to propose to her (remotely realistic? who cares). Just when he is about pour his heart out, he realizes that she is already engaged. The fiance lands up at the train station! Her imminent wedding is the coming together of two political power houses (with supposedly plenty of clout, despite the fact that Pak has spent most of its independent years under some ruthless dictator or the other and that politicians can’t do diddly) that will pitch fork her fiancee into the political limelight. In any case, Veer bravely pronounces his love for Zaara, who in turn is completely devastated an overwhelmed with love for the man.
Zaara returns to Pak, all hell breaks loose, calls upon Veer, who in turn heads to Pak. He wins the hearts of everyone he meets, but looses the girl, and ends up in prison, thanks to Zaara’s fiance (played by Manoj Bajpai). Before you think he is a hardcore gun totting villain with nasty laugh, hang on, he actually portrays a new brand of villainy, one with a rationale(!). His theory is that he will have to suffer all his life knowing that another man loved his wife. So if Mr. Veer wants Zaara to be happy, he needs to forget her for good and go to prison never to see her again. Veer accepts, lands in prison, while his folks in India think he died in a bus accident. After 25+ years a young lawyer (played by Rani) working on her first case decides to fight his case. The entire story is in flash back mode with prisoner Veer (with the magic number 786) sharing his life story with the lawyer. The lawyer working on her first case, strictly believes in single sourcing! She has only Mr. Veer as her source of info. She never bothers to do any research of her own. The rest of the story revolves around how she unites the couple.
Despite all the above, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. Yash Chopra is simply a master at the art of movie making. He has the knack of taking his time to tell you his story in great detail without every making you bored. His attention to detail and precision are evident in every single scene — acting is excellent right through and across the board; the choice of Amitabh-Hema pair could not have been more perfect; the songs are great and never forced; the make-up, especially the old age Veer-Zaara, is very impressive; last but not the least, not giving Manoj Bajpai a duet was a sign of divine intervention to ensure success of the movie; Most importantly, the Director ensures that King Khan does not overact (like he has a tendency to do very often). All the shaking, nose twitching and stammering are kept to a very minimum. In fact, he does a terrific job as the old prisoner.
This movie was bound to rake in the big moolah. After several years I ventured to see a movie in the theatre. The place was so packed and I was rewarded with a seat in the second row watching my bollywood stars like they were in heaven. In true desi style the Naaz cinema turns of its air conditioner intermittently for additional special effects. Nevertheless, an entertaining movie, definitely worth checking out.