Synopsis: Mausam charts a love story over the course of several decades, as adolescent Punjabi boy Harry, falls for Kashmiri Aayat, in a small village of Punjab. Their attrction develops into young love and deepens over the course of forced separation.
Top Gun influences don't warrant a fly-by for this love story.
Wild implausibility undermines just about every aspect of Hindi superstar Pankaj Kapur's directorial debut, Mausam. Finally hitting global screens after well-documented production dramas and a parade of shifting release dates, this vivid slice of Bollywood melodrama may work as a star-making vehicle for Kapur's son and leading man, Shahid Kapoor. But it seems that forging a Hindi film dynasty is not sufficient to motivate Kapur into fashioning a believable tale of destiny and unattainable love, despite a cumbersome 163 minutes with which to structure this flimsy material.
Kapoor plays Harinder 'Harry' Singh, a cheeky ne'er-do-well, known as the best-looking young man in his small village. With his lovable band of fellow rogues, all on the brink of manhood, Harry brings warmth and happiness to all he meets, especially the beautiful but painfully shy Aayat (the beautiful but painfully wooden Sonam Kapoor). Between bouts of revelry – including an exhausting and slightly xenophobic dance number that derides a groom, home from London for his wedding, for exuding a foreign arrogance – Harry awaits the approval of his application to the Indian Air Force's pilot training school.
Just as Aayat falls for Harry, she is whisked away from the village, leaving Harry sullen and more determined to join up; in a film full of 'only-in-the-movies' moments, his letter arrives just as he's watching her train pull away. Jumping ahead half-a-decade, Aayat is now on the streets of Scotland, spruiking cheap concert tickets to Mozart recitals (!), when the strapping Harry, in full military garb, crosses her path. She dithers and he plays it cool (their defining character traits, as it emerges) but the cogs of fate are in motion and soon they are together (but not until after a particularly odd sequence in which the two seem to communicate telepathically whilst fine-dining).
Chance meetings abound in Kapur's self-penned script and only serve to gnaw away at the already shaky reality of his premise. Though the lovers are often continents apart, one gets the impression that if they just walked around for a few hours, they would bump into each other anyway.
Harry is sent on a mission to destroy an enemy camp on Tiger Hill in the midst of the Kashmiri conflict, one of many references to tragic real life events that play into the convoluted plotting of Mausam. The World Trade Centre attacks, the bombings of Mumbai and the deadly riots in Ahmedabad all feature, though real-time chronology is entirely discarded in the service of the story (title-cards that place the on-screen action in 1999 yet are staged post 9-11 had this critic quite bewildered). A war-damaged Harry (courtesy of a badly blue-screened jet crash) and a maudlin Aayat are reunited for a ridiculously-OTT climax (no spoiler at all, believe me) atop an exploding ferris wheel in a final scene that also works in a white stallion and an orphan; the screening that SBS attended in Sydney's west – made up predominantly of Indian expats – erupted in laughter.
It would be wrong to totally dismiss the film as a failed folly, given the first-rate technical support offered by the likes of cinematographer Binod Pradhan, production designer Samir Chanda and costumer Annamika Khanna. Mausam is often a beautiful widescreen work, initially capturing the Indian countryside with a dusty, muted palette before travelling to the dark-textured halls of academia in Scotland and the mountain regions of Switzerland. Sun-drenched shots of Kapoor in full fighter-pilot mode are shamelessly plagiarised from Tony Scott's Top Gun (1986), but provide a welcome diversion from the chest-heaving 'Mills-&-Boon' moments that dominate the film.
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