Moview Review: The only thing epic about Mausam is its length

Sep 24, 2011

Mausam poster

Film: Mausam

Director: Pankaj Kapur

Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor,
Supriya Pathak

Rating: **

There's a stillness about Mausam that is rare in today's fast-paced two-hours-and-you-are-out kind of films. It may be Pankaj Kapur's first feature as director, but the veteran actor is no stranger to storytelling,
having directed plays and some impressive television shows in the past. In Mausam, he displays a distinct, unhurried style, allowing the story to take its course, and letting it develop over a period of time.

The intention was to make a no- holds-barred romance, clearly, and Kapur does just that, unabashed in
his approach (the PR machinery would like you to believe it's 'epic', but that's just pushing it). Kapur makes certain scenes sparkle with an understated, sensitive approach. But Mausam, beautiful as it is in parts, just doesn't work in totality.

The story is stretched beyond belief-- not to mention it's hard to digest after a point -- and unnecessary scenes only add to the misery. It's nothing that couldn’t be fixed at the editing table (Sreekar Prasad), but Mausam's follies lie in Kapur's script itself. Two lovers separated by circumstances repeatedly would be acceptable if the situations were at least believable. But the story demands you to suspend belief repeatedly, and gets convoluted beyond repair eventually.

The first hour of Mausam, though, is a breeze. Set in a village in Punjab, this is where Harry and Aayat meet. Harry aka Harinder Singh is the village bum, naughty but likeable. Aayat's a Kashmiri Muslim, who had to flee because her father was close to Pandits in the valley. This is familiar terrain, yet there's something refreshing about it. Scenes laden with humour (the village sarpanch is a riot) come thick and fast, many of them adding in no way to the story but creating a likeable atmosphere you want to settle in. About 40 minutes down, you are slightly bothered that the plot hasn't progressed much, but you expect good things to happen. Except, they don't.

Mausam becomes a task to sit through when the 'story' begins to unfold. The romance between the boy and girl has been established (including a marvellous sequence where they pass notes to each other as Harry's sister sleeps in the same room). Now, the conflict sets in: the girl leaves unannounced; the boy has to get on with his life. Time elapses. Till they meet again. And the cycle is repeated. Again. And again.

The film’s set in the '90s, so the difficulty to keep in touch might seem valid, but the lovers don’t learn from their mistakes. If I was separated from the love of my life for seven long years, the one thing I’ll do is make sure all means of communication remain open. Also, how difficult can it be to track down an Indian Air Force pilot? Who’s operating from a base, mind you.

What makes Mausam really excruciating is the forced juxtaposition of real events as a backdrop. The Babri masjid demolition, Bombay blasts, Kargil war, 9/11, Godhra. It's like ticking off a check list, without it really helping the narrative in anyway.

'Oh, she's in America, 9/11 to come.' 'She’s in Ahmedabad now, Godhra will follow.' Besides, Kapur doesn't really attempt to delve deeper. If the idea was to merely provide a backdrop, the references could have been subtler. Here, everything is in- your-face. And it all leads to a climax which is inane, to put it mildly. Among the film’s redeeming factors are Binod Pradhan's fabulous cinematography and a lilting score
by Pritam. Shahid Kapoor exudes charm and confidence.

As the young Harry, Shahid excels, while he tends
to faulter as the older, more mature air force pilot. But Shahid's surely come of age with Mausam, and delivers his most accomplished performance yet. Sonam has little to do, or say, and that's not such a bad thing. You don't care much about Aayat, despite her innocence, because Sonam brings nothing to the character. Supriya Pathak and other character actors (Manoj Pahwa, Aditi Sharma, Anupam Kher) do well.

The old-world charm of Mausam is likeable, but doesn't salvage it. In the end, the only thing epic about the
film is its unwarranted length.