Favourite Movie Frames: Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Saawariya

A frame that is at once looking back with nostalgia and looking forward with wide eyes to a new era of cinema
Favourite Movie Frames: Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Saawariya

I had first heard Saawariya (2007) before I had seen it- my friend narrating the entire movie, scene-by-scene, on the bus to school. When he came to this scene, describing images with words – of Ranbir Raj (Ranbir Kapoor) holding Sakina (Sonam Kapoor) mid-air in front of the RK Bar as it snowed- the mere idea of it was chilling. I was ready to fight tooth and nail defending this movie, if the visual awe was even an iota of the aural awe, and it was. And everytime I get to this scene, this very moment in fact, I end up being struck for different reasons. 

The first time, it was because of how the shot was staged- where Ranbir sweeps Sakina off her feet, at exactly the same moment the orchestral music of Jaan-E-Jaan swells. Sakina's red shawl cutting through the blue-ice. This was the first time in the film that she returns Raj's feelings, and it required this grandness to mask all of that insecurity and doubt. (The first time Sakina arches her back entirely in the movie, it is when being held by Salman Khan's character- her first love. The reluctant arch of her back in this shot might mean more, perhaps, than the just logistics of being held.)

The next time I watched it, it was about RK Bar that served as the background- an homage to both Ranbir's father and grandfather, Rishi Kapoor and Raj Kapoor, and the intoxication of cinema. The last time I watched the film, after watching many of Raj Kapoor's films, it was the echoes of Barsaat's poster that I fixated on- the violin is a guitar in this film, and the rains are snow. 

The beauty of this moment in Saawariya, as I see it today, is that it both looks back with nostalgia, and looks forward with wide eyes. (The film failed, but like most good failures, it also found its ardent fans.) Indeed while today there is a tendency to play down one's legacy for fear of the nepotism charge, I wonder if we should fixate more on what differentiates legacy from nepotism- competence. 

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