A series of unfortunate, preposterous events
Director: Pankaj Kapur
Starring: Shahid Kapur, Sonam Kapoor, Anupam Kher, Manoj Pahwa
The first forty minutes of Mausam are lovely. There's the cocky-but-loveable Punjabi boy and the shy new girl in the mohalla. And given that film also provides the perfect Punjabi village – sarson ke khet, neighbourly banter, endearingly confused village patriarchs, cold winter nights and golden mornings – the aankhon aankhon mein romance is simply waiting to happen. It does. Sonam Kapur plays the Kashmiri girl Aayat with a winsome silliness that seems entirely in character, while Harinder Singh 'Harry' (Shahid Kapur) is joyfully lovestruck in the 'Ek ladki ko dekha' mode. It's the kind of setting – and the kind of romance – that is hard to deny.
But before we know it, our happy little rom-com has decided that it's going to grow up and become an epic transcontinental love story. So we get Disaster No. 1: the Babri Masjid is brought down in Ayodhya, and Aayat and her relatives disappear overnight. Meanwhile, Harry's application to join the Air Force is accepted. Our hero and heroine next meet in Scotland, seven years later. This section is set in the late 1990s, but for some reason, involves plonking our protagonists down amidst bewigged performers in a Mozart concert, ballroom dancing, and horse-drawn carriages. (This odd attitude to time will fit right in later, when we find that the early 2000s have failed to provide our now fairly well-off protagonists with the possibility of email, cellphones or embassy inquiries.) But for now, we're still going along, if reluctantly.
It's only after the next dramatic parting (this one caused by Kargil) that the film truly falls apart. We've already noted the retro fixation which leads to endless scenes involving handwritten letters and long soulful waits by landline phones, which would have been fine if only we could have believed in some of the soulfulness. But suffice it to say that Shahid Kapur's chest-puffed-up Air Force officer strut and Sonam Kapoor's marble-faced gaze into the distance do not make for deathless romance. The plot gets only more and more preposterous, culminating in a cringeworthy climax that turns the horrific events of Gujarat 2002 into a spectacle involving fire, a child on a Ferris wheel, and my absolute favourite part – a white stallion. I'd take the Yash Raj version any day.
Predictable, but keeps things light & lively
Director: Robert Lieberman
Starring: Vinay Virmani, Camille Belle, Russell Peters, Anupam Kher
After having been the hero of one identity-based sports film-family drama earlier this year - Patiala House – Akshay Kumar turns producer for another one. The setting moves from Southall, Britain to Brampton, Canada; the sport is ice hockey rather than cricket; and instead of a bubbly brown divorcee (Anushka Sharma), the love interest is a white law student with something of a resemblance to Katrina Kaif (Camilla Belle).
It's a pleasant enough film, based on a script by its lead actor Vinay Virmani, the son of a Toronto-based businessman and to his great good fortune, a family friend of Akshay Kumar's. Neither the plot nor the characters are particularly original. Bend it Like Beckham, way back in 2002, already had the non-resident South Asian father who's stuck in the past and doesn't understand his children's desires – Anupam Kher reprises his own role here – and since then we've had East is East, West is West and Patiala House. As for the rest, this is classic underdog sports movie territory – a ragtag bunch of Sardar boys who usually play in front of the gurdwara decide to form a team to challenge the local all-white Hammerheads in an ice hockey championship, and manage to attract the attention of a failed hockey-player-turned-janitor (Rob Lowe), who becomes their coach.
Considering the burden of cliches it's carrying, the film does a reasonable job of keeping things light. There's the occasional funny scene which actually works, whether it's Rajvir's father (Anupam Kher) complaining about the plague that gora culture has visited upon him (peanut butter, apple pie, ties...) or expressing his misgivings about his son dancing with a white girl. Young people like to dance, says his rather sensible (and rather properly English-speaking) wife. "We danced once, and we had children!" says Kher. The continuous banter between Rajvir and his brother-in-law-to-be, the recognizably tiresome Sonu, is amusing to start with, but gets repetitive (this despite the fact that Sonu is played by beloved stand-up comic Russell Peters). Sadly, even when dealing with its gravest concerns – memories of racism, present-day racism, love – the film never acquires the requisite heft. But perhaps all it wants to do is skate lightly on the surface.