Malaal Meezaan, Sharmin SehgalMangesh Hadawale 2/5
He is the uncouth diamond-in-the-rough, she is the pretty princess placed on the wrong side of the tracks by circumstances. Love – in the time-honoured Bollywood tradition — will happen in Malaal but not before the two fight a little, sing a little and suffer a little.
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Sanjay Leela Bhansali gives us two newcomers in Malaal – his niece Sharmin Segal and Javed Jaffery’s son Meezaan – in Bollywood’s go-to format for launching new faces, a virginal romance. Set in late ’90s Mumbai with its seedy dance bars, crashing stock market and bonhomie in chawls, Malaal comes with innocence we rarely see today.
Malaal begins with the meet-cute in a narrow chawl passage. Meezaan’s Shiva is celebrating his win in a gully cricket match and finding favour with a local political leader for roughing up the umpire; Sharmin’s Astha – clearly more privileged – is moving to the chawl with her family. There is instant electricity but the class divide is too vast for the two to breach.
Malaal movie review: The film often feels like a retread of every 90s romance you have already watched.
They keep on meeting, under hoardings promoting Titanic and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam – two films about star-crossed lovers – and at BEST bus stands. There is a rich fiancée on the sidelines but we all know how it will end. Song, dance and family’s opposition later, a twist that we see coming from a mile off ends the film.
Malaal harks back to the innocent coming-of-age romances where desire is set against duty, and love has the power to change your destiny. The film embraces the genre and era without avoiding any of its cliches. While offering little that is new, it sure is a change from the cynicism that we see from romances today. Perhaps, the reason why the filmmakers had to take their setting, film et al to the pre-Tinder era where romancing through eyes can carry off an entire film.
Malaal movie review: A few good themes, once introduced, are allowed to fritter away.
A few good themes, once introduced, are allowed to fritter away though. Shiva’s political boss who offers him patronage, the hero’s nativist thought process and the push against north Indians are established early in the film, only to be forgotten soon after.
And then there is the length – it spends an inordinate time establishing Shiva and Astha love each other. The second half especially is so stretched that you can go buy popcorn without missing out anything other than how many steps they walk everyday or how many holes Shiva’s vest has.
Malaal movie review: Meezaan makes his debut with the film.
Director Mangesh Hadawale (Tingya), adapts Tamil director K Selvaraghavan’s original story to fit a Marathi narrative but add little that’s new. The film is loosely based on director’s hit 7G Rainbow Colony – made by the director in Tamil and Telugu over a decade and half back, which was adapted in other languages over the years.
Astha’s role is tailor-made for Sharmin – as the coy heroine, she says little, and smiles almost all through the film. Meezaan shows spark in certain scenes but needs some more work, the hammy climax being a case in point.
Malaal is meant for you if you want to visit the 90s again; you will experience déjà vu from more than just the setting.
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