I watched ‘Salaam-E-Ishq’ on TV today, finally. For some reason, when the promos for this movie were out back in Dec/Jan, I was excited enough to wait for it, which is quite rare since I don’t wait for movies, especially Hindi ones at that.
Though I did not get around to watching it back when it was released in the theatres, I did read the reviews on how awfully long it was while in terms of story-content, it had the same hackenyed stories of love, with everyone happily marrying each other. But, as I sat down to watch the movie this afternoon, I was quite pleased with the way the whole thing came about. Yes, I think it did help that I could choose to change channels when any of the boring stuff came about, but surprisingly I didn’t find I had to in all of those four hours!
Salaam is a simple movie that is designed to be cute and to make the audience happy. There are no cinematic marvels in terms of Shyamalan-esque twists or a Departed-ish tight screenplay, but the movie has oodles of feel-good emotions backed by, I think, a credible acting performance and some really smart scenes. The end product, on the whole, is a wonderful movie. This is one of those movies in which the overall effect is more than the sum of the individual aspects.
Salaam has six stories of love, some intertwined with each other, but largely progressing on their own timelines – a starry-eyed item girl who wants to make it big in Bollywood and her budding love for her ‘benefactor’, a Hindu boy and his amnesiac Muslim wife, a commitment-phobe and his lover, who is out to get married to someone else, a midlife-crisis afflicted, over-achieving husband, his desperate attempt to break monotony and his homely wife, a Taxi driver with a major crush on a firang American who is in India to find her Indian boyfriend and the Pièce de résistance, a hot and horny rural couple who are in the eternal search to find a place to do ‘it’.
Things I liked in the movie:
Acting – In an ensemble cast of at least 12 mainstream actors, there are bound to be uneven performances and in Salaam too, it varies but I thought Anil Kapoor, Akshaye Khanna, John Abraham and Govinda’s performances stood out in this four-hour epic. The casting was also perfect with Govinda sailing through his performance of a passionate taxi-driver, crazily infatuated with his ‘Medam’ and Akshaye Khanna, brilliantly essaying out the role of a Casanova who is suddenly taken aback by the thought of having just one woman for the rest of his life!
Stories – The bit with the Haryanvi couple – Sohail Khan and Isha Koppikar – was brilliantly funny. They appear as guests in this movie and hardly talk, but the situations they land themselves in, in an attempt to be with each other are hilarious. They are an extremely likeable couple. And, that is the same of all the other couples too in the movie. Their stories are real-life, believable stories and even if, they may not happen in our lives, they are relatable. A middle-aged over-achiever who suddenly finds his life empty at forty and in a fit of panic, falls for the hot dancer girl who shows a liking for him. Or, the starry-eyed dreams of a small-town budding actress, Priyanka, whose ambition is a Karan Johar movie. All very believable.
Set-Pieces – The movie is strewn with ingenious sequences that are fresh and brilliantly executed. For e.g. the opening and ending bits – Vidya Balan wakes up, gets around to close her lover’s half-open mouth, that says ‘ I love you’ as if a reflex. Or, the grand, movie-style passages of speech between Salman Khan and Priyanka Chopra, with a running gag of an imaginary phone ringing that has Karan Johar on the other line for item-girl, Priyanka. The picturization too is nicely done, with changing backgrounds – colorful reds and deserts for taxi-driver Govinda and his firang crush, graying, dull nights as the middle-aged Anil Kapoor broods on his guilty love for a young girl, the bright blue mujra-style room for casanova Akshaye Khanna.
I found some sequences in Salaam to be finely crafted. In one, Anil Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra are walking around at 2 am on a cold Paris night and they chance upon each other in a bar. Both sense the other’s pain and decide to talk it out in an effort to ease the pain. At one point, Priyanka asks Anil the name of the girl he’s fallen in love, and deserted his wife, for. He replies, ‘Anjali’. She asks him, ‘Anjali, what?’. It strikes him then, as he realizes he does not even know her last name. The sheer magnitude of it all – the ephemeral lust for this girl he confuses as love and what he has left behind for her, his children and wife. As Priyanka helps him realize what he’s lost, he points out to her what she’s about to lose and remind her that their situations are not that very different. As they rush out to resurrect their lives, they remember that they have to thank the other and rush towards each other. But, they are strangers, yet they mattered to each other’s lives immnesely in that last ten minutes. So, they rush to hug/shake hands (??) in the frenzy, but end up saying very grateful ‘Thank youS’ and move on.
The director also puts in funny references to cliches in Bollywood – Akshaye Khanna wants to shout out to stop the marriage of his love, struggles for the right words, before being prompted by Govinda, and mouths the evergreen, ‘Yeh Shaadi Nahi Ho Sakti’ or that vintage song about infidelity, ‘Babuji Zara Dheere Chalna’, in a London bar when Anil Kapoor is mesmerized by the young dancer.
Salaam-E-Ishq is rich in flavours of love and it’s associated flavours – heartbreaks, confusion, pain, lust, comfort and many others. And the flavours brew slowly, combining and breaking apart, till it all turns into a beautiful movie. Everyone in this movie is in love with something or someone – girlfriend, boyfriend, wife, children, past memories, fun-times, foriegners and the act of love itself!
I loved the movie for its heart-warming quality. It never gets preachy or attempts to understand love itself but just narrates stories of love, letting you seep in each emotion, before happily closing it all out to leave you with a contented smile. Most of us would have guessed the stories by the trailers themselves but the way the stories pace out is what makes it a very pleasant and enjoyable experience.