Directed by: Anil Sharma
Starring: Salman Khan, Mithun Chakraborty, Jackie Shroff and introducing Zarine Khan
I’ve always wondered what it would be like to sit with the cast and crew of a film whilst watching fruits of their labour onscreen – imagine being able to heap praise on them for a well made movie or at the least, commending the effort that has gone into making the film. At the same time, how awkward would it be if the film was a turkey and what you really wanted to do is go and speak to the star and crew and ask what on earth they were thinking when they were signing up to such a dreadful film (I admit it is not always possible to know how a film is shaping up as its being made but surely there is some reason why some actors never seem to choose bad films?).
I was almost put in this position again when Salman Khan was rumoured to be making a personal appearance at the screening I had intended to go to (BTW – the first time I was in such a position was when I was at the London premiere of Chandani Chowk To China with Akshay Kumar sitting many rows in front – luckily, he escaped before the audience could say anything). For some reason, Salman didn’t turn up though rumour has it he was in the building, spoke to the media and left before the film started. It may seem amateurish to put the blame on the lead actor of a film but in this case, Salman himself has said he will take the credit or the discredit that follows the film’s release…
Veer is the story of the Pindari warrior clan, set in the 1900’s, who are forced to leave their land after being betrayed by the evil King Gyaendra (Shroff) who has joined forces with the British who are ruling India at the time. The leader of the Pindaris, Prithvi Singh (Chakraborty) vows revenge on Gyaendra and raises his son Veer (Salman) with the sole purpose of getting back the land that has been taken away from them. As part of Veer’ s education, he is sent to London where he meets Princess Yashoda (Zarine) who he falls in love with. But things take a turn when Veer learns that Yashoda is Gyaendra’s daughter and is forced to choose between love and duty…
Veer is a poorly made film that fails to realise its true premise at any point in the film. The story is quite dated and does not appeal to a modern audience, as there is nothing that one can really relate to or recognise throughout the film. The most interesting thread of the storyline – the father-son relationship between Veer and Prithvi Singh is handled in a clumsy manner and seems more like an excuse for Salman and Mithun to have a wrestle whilst everyone else watches. I also had a major gripe with the characterisation in that there was none in the film. We don’t ever really get to know Veer or to care for him – he remains aloof and angry and seems to be a hybrid of Russell Crowe’s Maximus in Gladiator and Sunny Deol’s sardar in Gadar (which remains director Anil Sharma’s biggest hit to date). In fact, a lot of the film feels familiar and even the most unobservant of viewers will notice the scenes taken directly from Troy, Lord Of The Rings and closer to home, Jodhaa Akbar and The Rising.
Technically, the film is a mess. There are many sound drop outs in the film that spoil any momentum, the film looks dated with no interesting camera work and key sequences filmed in a rather boring by numbers manner. Perhaps the most unforgivable technical failure is the violence that has been cut out of the film. These important moments, which are vital to the plot, are cut in a very shoddy manner that seems to have little regard for the viewer and seems more concerned with complying with duration/censor board rules. This not only makes it hard to follow what is going on in the film but for such a big budget film to cut sequences so poorly is embarrasing. I felt they could have used many a technical trick and prudent editing so that the omission of these important points avoids the extensive collateral damage the film suffers from.
It’s hard to believe, but there are two things the film gets right (well, at least in my opinion). First is the song Surli Akhiyon Wali – played no less than twice in full duration in the film and ad nauseam when Zarine Khan is on screen, but this is a genuinely good song that is well picturised, using an interesting interpretation of London in the early 1900’s, as well utilising Buckingham Palace and Somerset House which look amazing on screen. The other songs are not as powerful and the awkward placement does little to help the film but overall, the music does help things rather than hinder them. The second feature I quite liked was the costume design. I loved the way Anna Singh has fun with the costumes, giving Salman and Sohail Pirates Of The Carribbean style looks with bandanas, batwing kurtas, skinny jeans, riding boots and a shed load of accessories. I also loved the different types of embroidery (you can tell I was bored in the film that I was taking such detailed note of what the characters wear!) such as the aztech, ethnic and sequins on all the kurtas. Mithun’s Mad Max look made me smile but was effective as was the equestrian look with wool and tweeds mixed with jodhpurs and dress shirts. I also liked the regal colours worn by Zarine Khan – mustards, rose pinks and the blood red did look out of synch with current trends but suited the character and made her feel more believable.
Performance wise, there are no major surprises. Salman gives a great deal of passion and energy into the role but sadly, neither the script nor the director know how to contain or utilise this to great effect and so, Salman powers through the role with wild abandon. It has to be said, it is Salman’s energy and star power that sustain the film and despite going over the top, Salman is watchable at times. Zarine Khan makes a rather stilted debut looking as her role requires her to look into the camera and try not to smile/cry which is a shame as we cannot really judge if she has any acting ability or is simply a competent model (as she is from a modelling background). A great deal of focus has been put on the fact that Zarine looks curvy in the film but I honestly did not think this was a bad thing – had she been a size zero, this would have made her less believable and would have looked out of place. The British cast do their best to find substance in their stock roles but sadly, are unintentionally funny (which I felt bad about as several members of the cast were at the screening I was at). I did think Mithun and Jackie did well in their roles, with Mithun giving a mature and assured performance that is done quite effortlessly and deserves better than the script and direction of Veer give him. Similarly, Jackie adds to the role and plays it with grey shades so that the character may be one dimensional but his performance is not.
I did find it hard to review Veer because I had hoped this would be a good film and would at the very least entertain us if not surprise us. I was also reminded of something I recently saw on Twitter where a noted editor of a top film magazine said for those who work in the film industry, there is no point in pointing out flaws in a film after its been made and should only give their opinion if asked during production, otherwise they should keep criticisms to themselves . This sounds like an accurate summary of what went on behind the scenes of Veer – it seems no insiders were asked for their opinion during the making of the film and now the film has released, the valid opinions of audiences and reviewers are being ignored as it is not the response wanted. One hopes the makers have learnt their lesson and next time, will produce a more solid and polished product rather than the film we got this time around. This one is best caught on DVD or even better, on its television as there are many other better films on release right now. If only they had asked me what I thought of it…