Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s stunning Mirzya receives its European premiere at the 60th BFI London Film Festival.
Star-crossed Loversby Alexa Dalby
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
With seemingly no-expense-spared special effects, Mirzya is a new-age updated version of the classic Indian love story Mirza Sahiban, taking place in two parallel worlds, one contemporary, one mythical.
Written, directed and produced by celebrated filmmaker Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra (Aks, Rang De Basant, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag), it’s a debut for two young actors from the Bollywood establishment – Harshvardhan Kapoor (the son of actor Anil Kapoor) and Saiyami Kher (granddaughter of the late actress Usha Kiran and niece of actress Tanvi Azmi) and also stars veterans of film and television Art Malik and Om Puri.
It opens with a stunning epic sequence of warriors in a legendary time, galloping across the Ladakh plain as they chase the escaping Mirza and Sahiban, arrows and fireballs flying in slow motion. It segues into the fantasy of young schoolboy Monish in present-day Rajasthan, as he is about to set off to school with his friend Suchitra. Until tragedy intervenes, they are inseparable friends.
The boy and girl meet again years later as adults. Beautiful Suchitra (Soochi, played by Kher) is returning to India to marry wealthy, aristocratic Prince Karan (newcomer Anuj Choudry) the son of the local Maharahah, the husband of her police commissioner father’s (Art Malik, Indian Summers) dreams for her. Monish meanwhile has a new identity, calling himself Anil (Kapoor) and, now unrecognisably bearded, is in charge of the prince’s stable of horses. Fate brings the two together again when the prince unsuspectingly orders Anil to teach Soochi to ride, a skill she will need when she becomes a princess.
Soochi and Adil’s modern story is intercut with that of the two legendary lovers Mirza and Sahiban, played by the same actors, as both stories follow tragic trajectories that mirror each other. Screenplay and songs to illuminate the action are by Academy and Grammy award-winning poet, lyricist and director Gulzar. Dialogue is partly in Hindi and partly in English. Striking music to accompany the songs and the exuberant crowd dance interludes in the modern story is composed by Shankar Ehsaan Loy. Pawel Dyllusshot is the cinematographer, and it features action sequences directed by Danny Baldwin (The Last Samurai) and special effects by Prana Studios (Life of Pi, Transformers, Thor). Om Puri (East is East) has a cameo as a blacksmith.
The film is hugely ambitious, magnificent, lavish, spectacular, colourful, epic, romantic, tragic, entertaining, stirring, fantastical – there are not enough words to describe it. Its sweeping landscapes alternate between a sumptuous royal palace and its surrounding archaic town, the vast, rolling deserts of Rajasthan and the endless plains and mountains of Ladakh as the two echoing love stories resonate across time and space. It’s a Bollywood extravaganza. To say it’s over the top would be an understatement and it’s an experience not to be missed.
Mirzya screens in its European premiere on 6 and 7 October 2016 as the Love Gala in the BFI London Film Festival and is released worldwide on 7 October 2016.