‘Mirzya’ review: Back to the Suture

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As I walked out of director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s latest directorial offering, Mirzya, and into the nearest bar, I was still collecting my thoughts. Top of my mind was the burning question, which beer to quaff? As I settled down at my regular table and ordered a round of the chilled brew to soothe my innards, someone surreptitiously slid a sheet of paper on my table and walked away out of the watering hole. I had two choices – follow this mysterious person or sip the wondrous golden fluid that was now making its way to me. My well-honed reflexes kicked into top gear, and I chose to do the latter. With that out of the way, I opened the folded paper and stopped mid-way of gulping the slurpious lager. In it was a report written by director Mehra on his formula to make Mirzya, accompanied by rather officious-looking handwritten notes, that, as it turned out, were penned by the director’s teacher. So this week, I reproduce for you – no, strike that off; sounds rather corny, that. So this week, I’m simply copy-pasting the report that that slyboots – bless their soul – passed me in the bar.

Report on how to make Mirzya

By Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra

Step 1: Read up the folklore of Mirzya Sahiban, get inspired to make a movie.

Notes: Rakeysh beta, I’m not sure you read the entire story, or were handed a tattered book that had only the last two chapters.

Step 2: Call up Gulzar saab and request him to write the screenplay.

Notes: Beta Rakeysh, it’s unbelievable that the broodingly sensitive Gulzar picked up the pen for this project, and then wrote a screenplay that’s so very shallow and listless. There’s no effort on your parts to mildly grasp the complex story that is Mirzya Sahiban – there’s so many layers to that story, going back two generations; of how the two families’ clashing was not a farraginous happenstance, but had its roots in a relation that was leached by a woman’s milk; of how that led to a bond that was unspoken and yet somehow seemed incestuous for the love that burned Mirzya and Sahiban.

Harshvardhan Kapoor: take a bow

Step 3: Wrap the folklore around modern times and merge them seamlessly. Get P.S. Bharathi to snip her editorial magic on the movie.

Notes: Beta, Bharathi bahu has indeed spun her magic on Mirzya. Her effort is one of the highlights of this movie. The opening sequence of the folklore so beautifully darts into modern times Rajasthan that it made me salivate in anticipation of more powerful sequences to wallop me into delight.

Again, the polo match sequence that rhapsodes back into the stand-off sequence of the past – that was such a good cut, it stunned me into respect. Such amazing grace in editing, Bharathi, truly.

Step 4: Get cinematographer Paweł Dyllus to compose and create unforgettable, composited scenes.

Notes: Rakeysh puttar, that is the second highlight of Mirzya. Pawel Dyllus creates such breath-taking magic onscreen, you achieved your goal of making the scenes unforgettable. Almost every sequence is so lush and steeped in loving, poetic motion. I have not seen, in my memory, such fluidic crane jib movements in Hindi cinema, ever. I come back to the opening sequence, where the jib floats above Harshvardhan horse-riding into the action in slow motion. That is a lesson in how to make the audience hold their breath in amazement.

Saiyami Kher, Harshvardhan Kapoor: a ride into a despair

Step 5: Sign up young, fresh talent to add lissomness to the movie.

Notes: Here, my Rakeysh bachcha, you succeed partly. Harshvardhan Kapoor is a boy to watch in the future. His act is extremely likeable and heartbreakingly sincere. When he looks at Saiyami learning to ride a horse, his half-smile is a winner, a winsome combination of the lovable energy of Anil Kapoor and the endearing vulnerability of Varun Dhawan. Back to that contest of the folklore, his action is so graceful, his poise and pose with the bow and arrow atop the horse a snapshot of frozen poetic grace. Anjali Patil shines in her doomed role as Zeenat. As Karan in modern times – the betrothed to Saiyami’s Suchitra –  Anuj Choudhry is the find of the year. His boulevardier prince act is absolutely a sparkler; and when his character goes into the grey side of relationships and actions, he’s so convincingly good, that, rather than with the lead duo, you actually side and sympathise with him.

And that is partly because of Saiyami Kher and partly because of the script. Dekho beta, Saiyami needed to do more than look dazzling and dazzled. The best expression she delivers resembles that of a bemused traveller gazing at monuments that she’s seeing in passing, waiting to soak into a hot bathtub at the end of it all. That does nothing for an already floundering story.


Step 6: Sign up some strong, elder character actors.

Notes: Rakeysh beta, this is a moot point too. The talented K.K. Raina has nothing much to do, except look glum behind the fungus. Om Puri displays his iron-smithing prowess, but can’t hammer much into a half-wrought role. And Art Malik as the distraught, heartbroken father of the girl truly broke my heart – when he dropped a tumbler load of Chivas Regal to the floor in a drunken stupor. And did you have to make him mouth incomprehensible Shakespearean verses? What doth the point?

Step 7: Get Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy to compose the songs for an epic musical.

Notes: Puttar Rakeysh, you did just right here. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy come up with another sparkling score. Steeped in folk with modern embellishments, the songs are very good. I particularly liked Ek Nadi Thi – SEL bring in some snapping, undulating rhythm, a crisp, clean guitar, the sonorous vocals of K. Mohan harmonizing with the Nooran Sisters, and some lovely melody – and Doli Re Doli sung by Mame Khan and the silver-voiced Shankar Mahadevan. The number is one of this year’s best, showcasing Mahadevan’s softly reassuring and classical vocals and a lilting melody that’s written and composed in gharana tradition but backed up by a delightfully jazzy trumpet, soft cymbals and drums. Truly a winner, this one.

And the background score by Tubby Parik is pretty effective. There’s a theme piece that reminded me of Rahul Dev Burman’s goosebumpingly haunting title music theme (for Dharmendra-Hema Malini) for The Burning Train; and another Pancham connection with the lovers’ theme that’s based in a heartwrenching background piece he composed for Aandhi.

The horse, Saiyami Kher, Harshvardhan Kapoor: tree’s company

Step 8: Meld the stories of Mirza-Sahiban and Munish/Adil-Suchitra with the eloping climax.

Notes: And thence the intractable sinking into despairing for life in a cinema hall. It seems as though this whole project was reverse-engineered, basing the pivot of all to come in the end. Rakeysh beta, Mirzya ignores the core of the folk story and instead is a glossy package of lush, semi-erotic canvas of colour and dusky, slim, modern folk dancers. When Art Malik says, “We must be missing something”, he was mouthing Mirzya’s truism – what’s missing in the story is a raison d’être for the passion and dangerous choices that the lead pair make. The connection to the folklore is tenuous at best, a reason to slide to the tragic denouement. What you rely on is a technique that worked so well in Rang De Basanti; here, while you flit back to the future, you rely less on soul, and more on the editor’s suture. That simply does not tie up.


Director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra       Running Time 2h 9 min

Writer Gulzar

Stars Harshvardhan Kapoor, Saiyami Kher, Art Malik, Anjali Patil

Genres  Drama, Musical, Romance

Watch the trailer of Mirzya here:

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