A review of Mausam is as much an assessment of actor Pankaj Kapur’s ability to take on the complex role of director as it is of the film itself. The calibre of the direction is inevitably going to be compared with Kapur’s acting prowess. The two do not match—the latter being streets ahead.
The early scenes in a small town in Punjab are boisterous, energetic, amusing and extremely well performed by the leads as well as the ensemble cast. Shahid Kapoor as Harry, the professor’s charming and popular son, is endearing. As he waits for a letter confirming his acceptance into the air force, he falls in love with the beautiful and innocent Aayat (Sonam Kapoor). The scene where Harry and Aayat exchange handwritten notes is wonderfully executed and performed. Just as their love story blooms, and their passion is extinguished (only by unseasonal rains), the calendar turns to 6 December 1992 and destiny intervenes in their love story.
Cut to seven years later. The setting is Scotland, where fate reunites Aayat, a dance and music student, and air force pilot Harry. It’s 1999, but rather than moving forward, the film seems to have stepped back in time. Ringlets in Aayat’s hair, gowns, ballroom dancing, horse-drawn carriages and Harry’s Chaplin-esque moustache defy the march of time towards yet another political event that is going to throw the lovers asunder.
In the 2 hours, 45 minutes running time, the film travels from 1992 to 2002, and from Punjab to Scotland, Kargil, Switzerland, the US and Ahmedabad. If you know your current affairs, you can plot the events the script enlists to affect these star-crossed lovers. But that all these events should affect this couple time and again is implausible and, after a while, tiresome. Also, the use of snail mail and rotary phones in the age of Internet and cellphones is flummoxing. Perhaps if the script had been sharper, and the editing and background score able to augment the drama, the audience might have rooted a little more for Harry and Aayat. Fortunately, most of the supporting cast is solid and Binod Pradhan’s cinematography lifts the movie by notches.
The absence of drama is accentuated by the shallow performances by the lead actors, belying the early scenes in Punjab. Both the leads fare well as teenagers swept away by the headiness of romance, but that’s where their appeal ends. Shahid is seen flying just once, while the rest of the time he stands near fighter jets posing and staring into the distance. This air force pilot is given an inexplicable air of nobility—chest puffed, poker-faced and unruffled—but not enough fight and determination. As an actor, Shahid shows some growth, but falters when it comes to playing the conflicted and lonely soul seeking his lost love. Sonam looks the part, as an innocent and simple girl, but she too struggles through complex emotional scenes, unable to evoke sympathy from the viewer.
Tiresome: Both Shahid Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor struggle through the complex emotional scenes.
But nothing kills Mausam quite like the climax. As much as I might like to share it in graphic detail, let’s just say there is a crying baby, a burning fairground, a white steed and a lifeless limb!
Mausam released in theatres on Friday