Watching Saalam E Ishq is like trying to eat a jumbo-sized Mushroom-Cheese-Corn Burger, with a lot of masala for flavour.
First, be warned that you need a huge appetite to do finish it.
Besides, you need to be able to digest huge amounts of mush, cheese and corn – the staple diet of Hindi cinema lovers.
So if you’re looking at it as a meal for two, it is the perfect date. It is long enough for you to get cozy, get to know the characters and catch up with their lives, share a laugh with them, relate to the issues of love and commitment and see them find themselves and in a way, yourself in them.
If you are going in a gang, like I did, it could spell disaster. Your friends are likely to ruin it for you with their impatience and restlessness. More so, if they are single.
First, things to consider while booking a ticket to Hindi movie, especially, if its running time is known to be 200 plus minutes at least:
Why bother if you don’t have the patience to sit through four hours? Did Nikhil Advani personally insist with you that you catch it asap? Don’t all promos suggest that it atleast, structurally, resembles “Love Actually”? Then, why go for it if you don’t have the tolerance for a desi take on it?
Maybe it is time to get over your Hollywood fixation, at least while watching our cinema.
It’s not like Hollywood is all original anyway. ‘The Departed’ was among the best last year by one of their best directors but see ‘Infernal Affairs’ and you’ll see even the master rips off scenes, lines and even shots.
BTW, I still love ‘The Departed’ for the language, attitude and energy with Scorcese adding value to an already explosive script. That’s exactly what Nikhil Advani does here too.
He adds plenty of value and roots many Hollywood script-devices in the Indian mainstream genre. And in a way that you can barely find any resemblances with the original source of inspiration. Unlike, The Departed.
Since I knew just what to expect here, I wasn’t let down at all.
I loved every bit of the film.
Even the bits when it just dragged and dragged and dragged towards the end, with the mandatory pathos song in the end in no mood to end, inter-cutting between the climax for each story in what is the among the longest Last Acts seen on screen. (Everytime the song re-started, the crowd went Ohhhhh No! I, on the other hand, didn’t want it to end!)
Yes, Saalam E Ishq borrows plots from Hollywood romantic comedies quite liberally, but infuses it with what is at the heart of Hindi cinema: A sense of sentimentality that nobody in the world does better than us. And it does this across the vibrant spectrum of desi characters: starting from an old-fashioned God-fearing/trusting taxi driver (Govinda) waiting for his ‘Dreamgirl’ to the new-age post DCH Indian commitment-phobic single male (Akshaye plays Akash this time) who develops cold feet before his wedding (with Ayesha Takia), from a flashy item queen (Priyanka), faking a romance with a mysterious Rahul (Salman), desperate for a change in image to a sober forty-year old (Anil Kapoor married to Juhi) nursing a crush on someone half his ag and from a happily married couple (John and Vidya) whose world is shattered by an accident to another ‘Just Married’ couple (Sohail and Isha) whose honeymoon is jinxed and kabab is filled with haddis.
In between all the light-hearted moments, feel-good and irreverence, Nikhil shows his brilliance and mastery over the craft, the true test for any Hindi cinema filmmaker, with his control over melodrama, punctuating it with sensitivity, lacing it with humour, underlining it with detail, spiking the sad moments with the sweet, taking a cue from his ex-boss Karan Johar, and also cheekily paying a fine tribute to Hindi cinemas new master of mush.
The film also works as the most comprehensive tribute to love stories seen on screen over the years presented with contrastingly different styles. I mean watch Govinda regain his lost touch, especially when he says “Yeh Shaadi Nahin Ho Sakti” and you’ll know what I mean. Nikhil confidently struts through various moods and stories with some of the best scene transitions seen in recent times, though the film does stroll around leisurely, the narrative taking its own time to unfold.
Half an hour less would’ve done miracles for this film and saved it from the savage criticism it is likely to generate, but for those who like mush, this overdose is just perfect for the Valentine’s season.
(Just jotted down first thoughts in a hurry, will post an updated review once I watch it again at peace, minus all the public nuisance.)