2004 / produced by Yash Chopra Films, Ltd. / directed by Yash Chopra / starring Shahrukh Khan, Preity Zinta & Rani Mukherjee / music by Madan Mohan & Sanjeev Kohli / lyrics by Javed Akhtar

    You hear Yash Chopra's deep voice recite poetry as amber fields and blue skies fill the screen. Just as you realize that this movie will be like all of Yash Chopra's movies — loads of fun! — the dream sequence is cut short by...a gunshot. Veer-Zaara takes the format of popular Bollywood movies but adds depth and unforseeable complications. Just when you're feeling like you've seen it all before, the story throws you a curve.

  As the film begins, Veer Pratap Singh (Shahrukh Khan), an Indian man, languishes in a Pakistani jail. During his twenty-two years in prison, he has never spoken to anyone. Along comes lawyer Saamiya Siddiqui (Rani Mukherjee), assigned to represent Veer in what everyone considers to be an unwinnable case. Desperate to prove herself in a profession ruled by men, Saamiya coaxes Veer to tell her the story of his past.

  Veer's story unfolds in flashbacks, with a natural and simple logic that leaves you emotionally overwhelmed. As Veer explains how a young Pakistani girl named Zaara Hayaat Khan (Preity Zinta) changed his life forever after their chance meeting in a dusty ravine, Saamiya becomes determined to set him free. The viewer, meanwhile, is swept up in Veer and Zaara's ill-fated romance. The lead characters are so strong and sympathetic that you fall in love with them without even realizing it.

   Shahrukh's portrayal of Veer evidences his immense experience as an actor. From a young passionate lover to an old man whose spirit has been crushed, he essays the role effortlessly. Khan is especially talented in romantic roles, making this role a perfect fit.

   Preity Zinta also instills life into Zaara, a sheltered Pakistani girl who firmly adheres to the morals and traditions of her upbringing, but has a mind of her own and strength of character to match. Zaara is a far cry from the bubbly modern girl whom Zinta usually plays, but Preity strolls through the movie with no trouble at all.

   Rani might have been lost amidst the throngs of talented supporting actors. Instead, she shines. With the help of excellent dialogue, she turns in her strongest performance in years, virtually stealing the show in the second half. The industry will no longer snicker that Rani Mukherjee is just a pretty face.

   The supporting characters in the film also excel. Their incredible characterizations draw the viewer into the story, making what could seem like a fantasy feel heartbreakingly real. Divya Dutta, who plays Zaara's close friend, deserves special mention.

   In dealing with the topic of Indian-Pakistan relations, Veer-Zaara shuns the jingoistic message of so many Bollywood films. By focusing on people rather than politics, it sidesteps stereotypes and broadcasts a clear message of peace. In this film, villains and heroes are distributed equally across the borders. But the true historical achievement of this film is its music. Unfinished pieces by the late, great music director, Madan Mohan, have been reworked by his son to create a magical soundtrack. Yash Chopra always wants the best, and the songs in Veer-Zaara are simultaneously melodious and insightful, elucidating the feelings that propel the narrative and engaging the viewer's heart as well as head.

   Ultimately, Veer-Zaara evades description; the viewer must simply experience it for herself. To watch it is to fall in love with the characters. You will emerge from the theatre feeling like you have just immersed yourself in a different, more magical world. A few grouches have scrupled about the film's brilliance, but after the recent drought of good movies, Veer-Zaara is inarguably a must-seeThis movie has something to offer to any fan of Indian cinema.

- reviewed by LilAni



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Shahrukh as Veer and Preity as Zaara



Rani as Saamiya Siddiqui



Veer and Zaara

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