MAUSAM Director: Pankaj Kapoor Players: Shahid Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor, Supriya Pathak, Anupam Kher. Music: Pritam. Theatrical release: CinergyPictures, Religare

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The first Mausam (1975) had the creative Gulzar at helm and starred stalwarts Sanjeev Kumar and Sharmila Tagore. The actress, who till had been known more for an affected style of delivering her dialogues, bloomed under Gulzar’s sensitive touch and went on to win the National Film award for Best Actress award that year.

After 36 years, celebrated actor Pankaj Kapoor, well-known for his masterful portrayals as the eponymous Maqbool(Vishal Bhardwaj’s interpretation ofMacbeth) and the cocky detective Karamchand on television, has picked up the reins of direction of the new Mausam, a period film which transports us from the lush fields of Punjab to the ballrooms of Scotland with poetic ease.

Spanning the years between the turbulence in Kashmir in 1992 and the present,Mausam is an interesting juxtaposition of love blooming in the backdrop of communal and racial hatred in India and the world.

Aayat (Sonam Kapoor) comes with her aunt (Pathak) to the peaceful village of Mallukoot in Punjab when communal riots began tearing her homeland of Kashmir apart. She is wooed relentlessly by the mischievous Harry (Shahid Kapoor) who falls for her at first sight. The love story barely picks up steam when fate intervenes and they separate, only to meet years later in Scotland. They pick up the threads of their love story till, once again, fate steps in.

The beauty of the movie is that it is an unadulterated love story after a long time on the Hindi screen. And what makes it a compelling watch is that the crests and troughs of this love story synchronize with the worst cases of communal disharmony in recent memory. They meet for the first time due to terrorism in Kashmir and from then on the Babri Masjid incident, Mumbai bomb blasts, Kargil, 9/11, and finally the Gujarat riots, all become turning points in their story, with a message of love triumphing over hatred. The recurring motifs of trains and large cement-pipes work well and take us to the Raj Kapoor and Rajesh Khanna era.

A word about the performances—this is quite possibly the best Shahid has ever done. His progression from an irrepressible village boy with a passion for racing against trains and a knack for sneaking free lunches and rides to a serious fighter pilot and a forlorn lover is very credibly done. Sonam is good as the giggly girl but just about adequate as the grown-up undergoing various upheavals of life. One wishes that veteran actor Kher had a more substantial role.

Pankaj Kapoor and his cinematographer Binod Pradhan have captured a Punjab very unlike the swaying mustard fields a la Yash Chopra. This Punjab is peopled with delightful but true-to-life characters, whether it is the vitriolic tai or the forgetful but belligerent chief.

Kudos to the director for this very lifelike environment and its people. One deft touch which tells of the existing camaraderie is that no territories—not even boundary walls—are shown in this village where all live as one family.

Another strong point of the films is its music. It has been a while since we had had a whole album this good. Pritam manages to cock a snook at his detractors by making Mausam one of his best. From the opening strums of the acoustic guitar in “Rabba Mein Toh Mar Gaya Oye” Shahid Malliya is gorgeous. The rustic dholak beat works beautifully with the very modern sounds of the guitar. Malliya’s range can be gauged by the reprise track, later on in the movie, which speaks of love and loss equally evocatively.

Made with a lot of love and affection, the only drawbacks of Mausam are its length, the unfortunate lack of chemistry between the lead couple, and some irrelevant sequences towards the end.

All in all, a worthy first attempt by the debutant director. Here is looking forward to more from you, Mr. Kapoor!

EQ: A

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