Romantic Punjab legend is glommed onto modern-day love in Mirzya, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s period-hopping riff on the tale of Mirza Sahiba. The much-hyped acting debut of Harshvardhan Kapoor, son of Bollywood star Anil Kapoor, may bode well for its handsome lead’s future prospects; but the pic’s self-important grandeur can’t turn a rote star-cross’d affair into something grander, and Stateside fans of Hindi cinema aren’t likely to be impressed.
In the contemporary part of the story, Monish (Kapoor) and Suchitra (Saiyami Kher) are close childhood friends who were separated in grade school when, after seeing her humiliated by a teacher, Monish killed the man and was sent off to a juvenile home. Years later, Suchitra is the pampered fiancee of Prince Karan (Anuj Choudhry), who runs luxury hotels and is the kind of man for whom even the rain waits — downpours don’t start until he has closed the door of his expensive coupe.
A lushly produced but unseductive romance whose period-piece parallels fall flat.
Unbeknownst to the happy couple, they’re being watched by lovelorn Monish, who now goes by Adil and works in the prince’s stables. When the prince asks him to teach Suchitra how to ride, it’s just a matter of time before she realizes this soulful, ruggedly shaggy stranger is her once and future soulmate.
Viewers unfamiliar with the outcome of the folk tale referenced in the title should start to put things together around the fifth time Suchitra’s doting father (Art Malik) quotes Shakespeare to her. He never mentions Romeo and Juliet by name, but he hardly needs to.
Even those who know Mirza Sahiba may have a hard time reconciling the way this decorous present-tense melodrama is juxtaposed with pompous period flashbacks to that story. First, what appears to be a horseback-archery competition is interrupted by fireballs flying through the air; from an observation platform, a tattooed woman seems unperturbed. Seeming to aim for something between 300 and Zhang Yimou’s Hero, these sometimes clumsily staged epic battles and the scenes to come have no dialogue to explain how a sweaty archer and the woman admiring him from afar resemble our contemporary protagonists.
As for the tragedy looming in the here and now, the action sometimes baffles. The fate of Adil/Monish’s close friend Zeenat (Anjali Patil), for instance, seemingly can’t be interpreted in any way that doesn’t make one or both of our heroes unthinkably selfish and cruel. While such a thing might fly in generations-old folk tales, it rings as false here as the movie’s trumped-up, unbelievably high-stakes conclusion.
Production companies: Cinestaan Film Company, ROMP
Cast: Harshvardhan Kapoor, Saiyami Kher, Art Malik, Anuj Choudhy, Om Puri, K.K. Raina
Director: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra
Producers: P.S. Bharathi, Rohit Khattar, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Rajiv Tandon
Director of photography: Pawel Dyllus
Production designers: Acropolis, Snigdha Basu, Sumit Basu
Costume designers: Niharika Khan, Ellawadi Leepakshi, Samidha Wangnoo
Editor: P.S. Bharathi
Composers: Parik, Tubby
Casting director: Dilip Shankar