Mirzya Review: Everything Is Too Illuminated

Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Mirzya begins promisingly but ends up becoming a heavy-handed canvas of excesses.

Director: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra

Cast: Harshvardhan Kapoor, Saiyami Kher, Anuj Choudhry, Anjali Patil, Art Malik, K.K. Raina

Rating: 2 stars

There comes a point in Mirzya when everything about it wants to be achingly poetic. Nothing is spared. Pawel Dyllus’s camera buzzes around in lengthy unbroken shots, choreographs oxygen particles, paints shy shadows and lights the hell out of each grain of sun-kissed Rajasthani soil. Gulzar’s words dramatically wash over fluid montages, merging nervy parallel narratives with the flourish of operatic symphonies. Daler Mehndi’s whimsical crescendos rain down on us at the most unexpected moments, designed to jolt us awake from nostalgic slumbers.

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One can visualize hardworking technicians on this competent set expressing themselves through 1000fps hand-gestures, mehfil sighs, gentle oohs and grimacing aahs – as if the very thought of (retelling) ancient folklore makes grown adults weep with joy. Which isn’t entirely untrue.

Only, this point arrives less than ten minutes into the film.

It takes another ten for it to gracefully swan dive into the Saawariya (sans blue) zone – coincidentally, also the last time an Anil Kapoor offspring was launched. Though Harshvardhan Kapoor, tanned and whiskery, has a more central role (titular, in fact) than his sister did in 2007, he commands half the impact. And it isn’t really his fault.

Though Harshvardhan Kapoor, tanned and whiskery, has a more central role (titular, in fact) than his sister did in 2007, he commands half the impact. And it isn’t really his fault.

Because by now, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, director and artist-in-chief, feels intensely hard – too hard – for his craft. He is perhaps the best we have at making a film look like a film, or coercing art to feel like art. I’ve always maintained there’s an inventive Broadway puppeteer lurking within him. The opening minutes – an intriguing voice over, white dunes, galloping horses, burning arrows, a high-contrast warrior sequence to end all warrior sequences – are hypnotic.

But not for the first time, Mehra lets his vision be defined by the concept of filmmaking rather than the act itself. As a result, Mirzya, which begins promisingly by introducing the striking couple in pre-teen school bliss, ends up becoming a heavy-handed canvas of excesses. The kids were all right. Their adult versions don’t look a part of the same story. I’m not sure the Rang De Basanti parallel-cross cutting device works here, either. The metaphorical relevance of contemporary life reflecting the essence of history/mythology disappears when there’s no stark cosmetic difference between the two worlds.

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On one hand, we have the (modern?) story of ex-convict and stable peasant Adil (Kapoor) reuniting with his childhood love, Suchitra (Saiyami Kher), who he must now address as ‘Rajkumari’ because she is to marry the snooty prince (Anuj Choudhry) of <insert modern Rajasthan town in throes of monarchy>. There’s also her police chief father (Art Malik), his Royal King dad (K.K. Raina) and his dewy-eyed village belle (Anjali Patil).
From the looks of it (SUVs, cellphones, rainy French kisses), this is the 21st century. Yet, the two debutants are the only faces that speak like they’re from Juhu. Adil isn’t educated, and his first substantial line involves him having to converse with a foreigner in broken English. Kapoor seems to have interpreted this as perfectly convent-educated words deliberately ‘broken’ into parts. He doesn’t speak much after this.

Suchitra has ravishing eyes, insists that “I’m not Rajkumari, haan,” and falls back right in love with the brooding chap after learning of his true identity. Prince and wealth, be damned. Meanwhile, the Shakespearean dolls around the two loveless lovebirds are caught in a technically adept cocktail of dreamy lens flares, magic light, wild beasts and some fine musical compositions (finer, if they were independent of the visuals).

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An original script would have demanded something less abrupt and jaded than jealous boyfriends, Thakur-style wronged patriarchs, guns, bikes and idiotic suicides. I’m now thoroughly convinced that our film directors should move on from done-to-death folktales, and perhaps create some of their own so that auteurs 100 years on can overindulge and reinterpret our times instead. For instance, there will be (God forbid) desi adaptations of the film Sairat, not of the familiar Romeo-Juliet template that it subverts.


I’m now thoroughly convinced that our film directors should move on from done-to-death folktales, and perhaps create some of their own so that auteurs 100 years on can overindulge and reinterpret our times instead.


On the other hand, there’s the surreal final imagery of the original Mirza-Sahiban legend, just as we’ve imagined it. This portion is wordless, and scored with a Tarsem Singh (The Fall) baton. Their picturesque eloping is divided into phases; interspersed with actual events, until the uniformity of their tragic fates coincide. Perhaps the intention here is to gradually meld the pace and look of both narratives, but it forever feels like make-believe is waiting patiently for present-day to catch up.

On their own, they’d make two fairly average films, but stitched together they at least make for an extravagant failure.

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The script can’t have been very thick; it favours rhythm over depth. The music acts more as an enforcer than a binder. It’s the aura – its treatment, transitions and intuition – that the director over elaborates on.

The script can’t have been very thick; it favours rhythm over depth. The music acts more as an enforcer than a binder. It’s the aura – its treatment, transitions and intuition – that the director over elaborates on.

That’s the risk when you’re hotwired like Mehra or Bhansali; their lofty storytelling ambitions will never simply result in middling cinema. If it comes off – and I don’t cite Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Delhi 6 and Aks here –barriers will be shattered and limits will be stretched.

But if it doesn’t, as is the case here, it’s not incoherence but over-coherence that burns them down. They then resemble something of an excitable Glenn Maxwell batting dismissal: assuredness to the point of delusion. In either case, anything but boring.

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