There’s a lot to admire in Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Mirzya, but coherent narrative and compelling characters are not among its strengths.
Based on the Punjabi folk tale of Mirza-Sahiba, the film, written by Gulzar, cuts between two timelines – the now, and the who-knows-where-and-when. In both timelines, newcomers Harshvardhan Kapoor and Saiyami Kher play the star-crossed lovers.
The track rooted in an unspecified Game of Thrones-style setting sees a scruffy warrior win some sort of archery competition against armor-clad horsemen, and make off with a visibly impressed princess. Unfolding largely in slow motion and without a single line of dialogue, this scenario ends tragically. Sticking faithfully to the original folklore, it prompts the question – why did she betray him?
The other track, which places the same story within the context of modern day Rajasthan, features a pair of 12-year-old sweethearts named Monish and Suchitra who’re separated when he flees the city after committing a heinous crime. Years later their love is tested again when she discovers he’s been working as a stable-boy at the estate of her fiancé, a prince (Anuj Choudhry).
Mehra, who blurred the lines between past and present so skillfully in Rang De Basanti, has trouble pulling off the same tropes in Mirzya. The story doesn’t sit convincingly in the present day portions, and key triggers come off looking contrived.
For a film inspired by a legendary romance, it’s a shame the lovers in Mirzya can’t quite set the screen on fire. Both Harshvardhan and Saiyami have potential individually, but they fail to muster up the passion required for the kind of timeless love story that this film so desperately wants to be.
There’s more heat between the dancers in the sensuously choreographed song sequences that pop up in the film at regular intervals. These highly stylized ‘music videos’, set to meaningful lyrics by Gulzar, and glorious folksy tunes by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, give Mirzya the feel of a true-blue musical.
The other highlight of the film is Polish cinematographer Pawel Dyllus’ exquisite lensing of both the stark Ladakh landscapes against which the fantasy track unfolds, and the breathtaking expanses of Rajasthan deserts and palaces amidst which the other track unravels.
Of the cast, British actor Art Malik, playing Suchitra’s police officer father, is a real hoot particularly in one hammy scene that’ll leave you chuckling uncontrollably. The beautiful Saiyami Kher has a striking presence on screen, and Harshvardhan Kapoor uses his piercing eyes to convey intensity. In the histrionics department, however, both are evidently raw.
In the end Mirzya is a misfire, despite its staggering ambition and its remarkable technical achievements. I’m going with two out of five.
Rating: 2 / 5