Raj (Ranbir Kapoor) is a charismatic young singer-musician who comes to a small--but very glittery--Indian town. He meets up with a beautiful prostitute (Rani Mukherjee) who falls for the lanky Elvis-influenced singer but who keeps him at arm's length to protect his innocent charm. But she helps him find a place to stay with a lonely old woman (Zohra Sehgal quite spry despite being 95 years old) who begins to love him as son. Raj's inherent happiness infuses everyone around him as we see in a variety of song-and-dance numbers but everything changes when he meets the remarkably gorgeous Sakina (Sonam Kapoor) one night as she stands on a bridge in the rain. She waits for her missing lover a man who has promised to return to her on the one-year anniversary of their parting. That moment will happen in a few days' time; meanwhile Raj woos her each night and falls madly in love with her. As the fateful night approaches the big question looms: Will Sakina change her heart and eschew her mysterious lover for Raj or will our hero's heart be broken? Saawariya is the debut film for both the leading actors Ranbir Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor but it is not the first touch of the film industry for either. He is the scion of India's most famous acting family and he's a natural charmer with his cute visage and lanky yet muscular build. In fact there's even a cheesecake sequence in the film the centers on him as he lip-synchs a wistful romantic tune while wearing a sheer sarong draped around his private parts. He's definitely good eye candy but he pales next to the luminous beauty of Sonam Kapoor she of a distant branch of the same illustrious family. As the shy and chaste Sakina the actress merely has to appear and look into the camera and moviegoers feel like swooning. Her dark eyes light-brown skin and perfect features make it impossible to look at anyone else on the screen; she is completely mesmerizing. The problem with the film is not with these two obviously talented actors. Instead it comes from the form of the film an obviously staged musical fantasy that owes much of its look to Baz Luhrman's Moulin Rouge. While often visually arresting the fake sets and canned music are frequently jarring and add to the general feeling that we are watching a music video rather than a fully fleshed out romance. Consequently it's hard to take anything that happens in the film to heart as it all seems like a faux flick. Sanjay Leela Bhansali is an award-winning Indian director who conceived Saawariya as what he calls “an exotic love story.” Based on a Fyodor Dostoyevsky short story his film takes that Russian tale of unrequited love and transforms it into a musical romance filled with songs that sound vaguely Western vaguely Indian and are completely corny--in any language. He has fashioned a cartoonish film one that never quite draws us into the belief that Raj truly loves Sakina. It's a sort of “romance light” flick looking pretty but without any emotional substance which means that once the novelty of seeing the stylized sets hearing Indian songs and reading the subtitles wears off Saawariya becomes a bit of a slog toward the not-too-surprising dénouement. Touted as the first Bollywood film to come to American under the auspices of a major American studio (Sony/Columbia Pictures) unfortunately Saawariya is probably not the movie that is going to cause a sudden surge in fascination with all things Indian. But considering how many films the Indian film community churns out every year it is likely to not be that last one to arrive on our shores. Let's hope the next one will be a more palatable offering.
Top Story: Danny Glover Targeted for Anti-War Views
Actor Danny Glover is the latest Hollywood celeb to feel the wrath of national pride. A public interest group has threatened a boycott against MCI to force telecommunications giant to dump Glover as its pitchman because of the actor's views on American foreign policy. Glover, a staunch anti-war activist, recently signed a two-paragraph statement from 160 artists and intellectuals that appeared in the Cuban government newspaper Granma on May 1. According to The Associated Press, the address said there is "a strong campaign of destabilization" against Cuba that could be used as "a pretext for an invasion" much like that launched against Iraq. Judicial Watch called for the MCI boycott a week later, accusing Glover of supporting Castro's crackdowns on dissidents. Free speech experts say that although this latest round of attacks does not rise to the level of McCarthyism or celebrity blacklisting, it could lead to that if left unchecked, the AP reports.
Miramax Ups Antes in Bigger-Budgeted Pics
Miramax Films, which backed Martin Scorsese's $100 million epic Gangs of New York, is planning a significant increase in the production of tentpole releases and is looking for studio partners on a number of its bigger-budgeted titles. According to Variety, the company is expected to produce up to three tentpoles a year with an additional two or three a year from its sister company Dimension for its slate of 25 pics a year. Some Miramax projects currently looking for studio partners include The Green Hornet, the tale of the iconic crimefighter, and the Bartimaeus, children's fantasy trilogy that was picked up in a $3 million publishing and film rights deal.
Devdas Sweeps Bollywood Awards
Devdas, a big-budget adaptation of a popular 1917 Indian novel, won seven awards Saturday at the fourth annual India International Film Awards, including best picture and best director for Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Devdas stars Shah Rukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai, who play lovers whose plans to marry are derailed by their parents, took the best acting categories, while Kiron Kher won best supporting actress. The film also won nine technical awards, the AP reports. The only major award not to go to Devdas was best supporting actor, which went to Mohan Lal for his role in Company. The awards, which were held in South Africa, are the only Indian movie ceremony held abroad. India's film industry, also known as Bollywood, produces nearly 800 movies a year.
Arnie's Yacht Party Praised
Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is busy publicizing his latest flick, Terminator 3, at the Cannes Film Festival, took home a "Four Martini" award--The Hollywood Reporter's tongue-in-cheek award for the best party. "The night saw Arnold Schwarzenegger in top shape, making the rounds with cigar in hand and giving guests their minute with the man himself," the trade paper said of Schwarzenegger's promotion yacht party on the French Riviera. The Hong Kong Film Night at the posh Carlton Hotel followed with Three Martinis, while the Chinese fare was good "but the Japanese food was not up to scratch," the Reporter proclaimed.
Adam Rich Pleads No Contest
Adam Rich, who played the young Nicholas Bradford on the 1970s TV series Eight Is Enough, pleaded no contest Friday to misdemeanor charges of driving under the influence and being under the influence of a controlled substance and was placed on three years probation, the AP reports. Rich, 34, was also ordered to take part in a 60-day treatment program and pay about $1,200 in fines. The actor entered a drug rehabilitation program in 1992 after pleading no contest to felony burglary and drug charges for allegedly stealing a drug-filled syringe from a hospital and breaking into a pharmacy.
Damages Awarded to Zeta-Jones, Douglas in July
Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas will begin the phase two of their court battle in July against Hello! magazine, which printed unauthorized photos of their wedding, the AP reports. The couple, who wed in an elaborate ceremony at New York's Plaza Hotel in November 2000, had a $1.62 million deal for exclusive pictures with rival magazine OK!. The July hearing is expected to last up to a week, and will determine the level of damages to be awarded to the couple and rival magazine OK! publisher, Northern & Shell PLC. A court ruled in April that Hello! breached their commercial confidence by printing pictures of the wedding, but the judge's ruling did not extend to a breach of their right to privacy, which he said was not protected under British law.
The Bachelor Chooses Jen
Andrew Firestone, heir to the Firestone tire and wine fortune, chose Jen on Sunday's two-hour season finale of ABC's The Bachelor. "Jen, I love you. I think that we fit perfectly together and I look forward to a life of adventure, happiness and family," Firestone said. He got down on one knee, placed the Harry Winston diamond engagement ring on her finger, and proposed. The 26-year-old account manager from Chicago answered yes, but will they be able to buck the odds? All of previous stars of The Bachelor have remained single. The two will make their first public appearance together as a couple on The Bachelor: After the Final Rose, Wednesday night on ABC.
Role Call: Universal Adds to Van Helsing Cast
Spanish actress Elena Anaya, who starred in Talk to Her and Sex and Lucia, has been cast in Universal's gothic actioner Van Helsing for director Stephen Sommer. The pic, set in the late 19th century, revolves around Bram Stoker's fabled monster hunter Van Helsing, who is summoned to a distant eastern European land to vanquish evil in the form of Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster and the Wolf Man. The pic, scheduled for release May 7, 2004, stars Hugh Jackman and Kate Beckinsale.