Banners: T-Series, Bhansali Productions
Producers: Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Bhushan Kumar, Krishan Kumar, Mahaveer Jain
Director: Mangesh Hadawale
Cast: Meezan, Sharmin Segal, Chinmayee Surve, Anil Gawas, Sonal Jha, Sanjay Gurbaxani, Badriprasad Chavan
Writers: Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Mangesh Hadawale
Music: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Love stories are tricky things to master, even though they seem very simple. The story can be based on the classic theme of boy meets girl, they fall in love and families interfere, but the treatment of these ideas, the sentiment behind them is what makes all the difference. In Malaal, National Award-winning director Mangesh Hadawale gives his second outing in Hindi cinema a touch of nostalgia, which wins your heart with its simplicity.
Set in the late ‘90s, the story begins with 22-year-old Shiva More beating up the umpire of a cricket match. From a lower middle class family living in a chawl, Shiva thinks that instead of the academic route, his life path is with a politician who wants to throw out North Indians coming into Mumbai. When a quiet, sweet girl named Aastha comes to live in the same chawl, things start changing for Shiva. Their love story begins like so many others - both of them have a deep dislike for one another. While butting heads one day, Shiva suddenly finds he likes Aastha and starts courting her; she falls in love with him too and her feelings bring a huge change in his life. Many obstacles come their way, but the two find means to connect with each other. How this love affects them, how they deal with the challenges they face and whether they end up together is the crux of the story.
The story of Malaal may be simple, but the nuances in the emotional journey of the lead actors - from dislike to affection to love to sadness - draw a beautiful arc through the film. Writers Hadawale and movie maestro Sanjay Leela Bhansali try to bring in freshness in the almost-forgotten love story genre by showing pure romance. The film does have peripheral sub-plots, but the main focus is on Shiva and Aastha and how their relationship develops with time and becomes the most important, heart-breaking aspect of their lives.
The film is set in the ‘90s, and sends the audience down memory lane. Subtle suggestions like old currency notes, Titanic posters on bus stops and even a poster of Bhansali’s 1998 release Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, as well as red PCO phones on street corners intensify the authenticity of the era Malaal is set in.
There are flaws in the film - the foremost being that several story angles are not explored. The narrative seems incomplete, as there is no concrete conclusion of these plot lines. While the love story is unadulterated romance, some dialogue like ‘Tumhare pyaar ne meri zindagi badal di’ and ‘Main tumhare bina mar jaunga’ are clichéd.
Ragul Dharuman’s cinematography nicely captures the mood of the ‘90s and the chawls of Mumbai. There are a lot of songs in the film, perhaps too many, especially in the second half. Post interval, there is a song every few minutes, which gets a little annoying, even though the melodies are sweet. Music is a passion with SLB and he has shown his expertise in the album which consists of the popular numbers like Aila re, Udhal ho and Aai shapat.
Featuring two newcomers just entering the industry, Malaal brings back the romance that has been missing from Bollywood for a while. Even with its flaws, the film has a soothing vibe and shows off how aspirational pure love can be.
Performance-wise, Meezaan makes a strong impact in his first film. The actor gets under the skin of his character with his body language and diction. His lover-boy avatar is sure to make girls swoon. Sharmin Segal plays a resilient ‘90s girl and while she gets the silent look right, her rare outbursts in the film fail to flow naturally. Chinmayee Surve and Anil Gawas who play Shiva’s parents do a wonderful job. Sonal Jha as Astha’s mother is good and so is Sanjay Gurbaxani, who plays her father. Badriprasad Chavan as the supportive friend is decent.
Verdict: Worth a dekho!