India has many myths and folk tales of love stories, and yet Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet still gets a reworking every few years. It’s quite exciting to see a director take on a couple that doesn’t get seen in Bollywood as much, Mirza and Sahiban, in the form of Mirzya, a large scale musical, featuring newcomers in the lead roles, Harshvardhan Kapoor and Saiyami Kher, and music by Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy.
The tragic tale of the two lovers is told in parallel stories, a visually-poetic and dialogue free telling of the Mirza and Sahiban sets centuries ago, and a contemporary love story of estranged lovers, Monish and Suchitra. The two storylines are woven together through the music, and inter cut with folk singers and dancers who could exist in either time period.
Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Mirzya is big, and colourful, and unapologetic in its use of music and dance sequences. But rather than a distraction, the dance sequences are a welcome break from the drama, and linking the parallel stories, rather than leaving the audience to make the sometimes contrived links. The dialogue free, period setting parts of the film are beautiful to watch, shot in Ladakh, using locations that I don’t think have had much exposure in Bollywood before. Not having any dialogue puts emphasis on the emotions in involved, and highlights the music, but also avoids tackling any issue over what language or dialect they would have used at the time. The only thing in this part I would question is Sahiban’s costume, but maybe a lot of research was done into it. Or maybe not. The contemporary section of the film is also shot in wonderful locations, using various historical sites, including forts and palaces across India.
Both Harshvardhan and Saiyami seem comfortable in their lead roles, but have a way to go before their performances leave a strong impression. Art Malik (from Cold Feet) and Om Puri are effective in their roles as senior characters. Anjali Patil is also a nice addition to the present day plot line’s cast.
Mirzya premiered at a Gala screening at the BFI London Film Festival, where the audience present seemed to appreciate it. However, I can see it struggling to appeal to the average Bollywood cinema-goer. It should definitely be given a chance though, as it really is an achievement of a film.
Mirzya is out now.