No Le Notti Bianche but Saawariya is Still a Minor Classic

Although Saawariya never rises to the great heights of Luchino Visconti’s black and white film Le Notti Bianche, it’s still one of the finest love stories to emerge out of the augean pits of Bollywood in recent years.

Like the Italian film Le Notti Bianche (1957), Saawariya is also an adaptation of Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky’s 1848 novella White Nights.

It’s the tender love story of a beautiful young girl waiting on a bridge for the return of her loved one and a separate young man who falls hopelessly in love with this angel after spotting her one night crying on the bridge.

Compared to the unwatchable horror shows that his peers like Farah Khan, Farhan Akhtar and Pradeep Sarkar unleash on unsuspecting Bollywood fans, director Sanjay Leela Bhansali of Black fame has turned in a minor classic in Saawariya.


While Le Notti Bianche’s director Luchino Visconti had the advantage of working with established actors like Marcello Mastroianni and Maria Schell, Sanjay Leela Bhansali had to make do with fresh clay in Ranbhir Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor.

Both Marcello Mastroianni and his co-star Maria Schell had over 15 years of experience behind them when they took up Le Notti Bianche. In the final scene of Le Notti Bianche, when Maria spots her lover on the bridge, she walks slowly at first, then hesitantly and finally with a scream she shrugs off her coat in the snow and runs to her lover even as Marcello Mastroianni is in anguish. That is a scene for the ages.

But given the disadvantage of having to work with two neophytes, perhaps Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s achievement is greater. Long after the Om Shanti Oms, Laaga Chunari Mein Daags and Chak de Indias are relegated to forgotten footnotes and dusty archives, Saawariya will evoke respectful references in hushed tones.

Visually stunning, Saawariya has been filmed almost entirely on sets unlike most Hindi films that are routinely shot on outdoor locations ranging from Brazil to Switzerland and Australia and all the places in between.

A fine adaptation for Bollywood movie lovers, Saawariya is a delightful movie in many ways.

Besides the fine story, there is great music and more than decent performances by lead actors Ranbhir Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor.

It’s no exaggeration to say that Ranbhir Kapoor is a better actor and far superior dancer than that overrated narcissist Shahrukh Khan.

Sonam Kapoor (Anil Kapoor’s daughter) does an OK job in Saawariya but is overshadowed by Ranbhir Kapoor. Did we mention that we saw shades of Tabu in Sonam?

To our immense delight, director Sanjay Leela Bhansali has cast the 92-year-old gem of an actress Zohra Sehgal (we saw her last in Cheeni Kum) as the owner of a small guest house in Saawariya.

As in with her last movie Laaga Chunari Mein Daag, Rani Mukerji is a prostitute in Saawariya too. But this time, she turns in a memorable performance.

The less said about Salman Khan’s forgettable performance in Saawariya the better.

Music is one of Saawariya’s key appeals. Frankly, we liked all the songs in Saawariya. If pressed, we’d confess to liking Chhabeela and Saawariya (bar song) a wee bit more than the other songs.

Saawariya is the clear winner in this Diwali’s clash of Bollywood titans.

In his review of Saawariya, New York Times’ film critic A.O.Scott wrote:

The experience is visually enchanting, cloyingly sweet, at once utterly chaste and insanely erotic, and finally exhausting. Aficionados will not settle for less.

10 Responses to "No Le Notti Bianche but Saawariya is Still a Minor Classic"

  1. aditya_k   November 5, 2008 at 4:17 am

    ‘Compared to the unwatchable horror shows that his peers like Farah Khan, Farhan Akhtar and Pradeep Sarkar unleash on unsuspecting Bollywood fans, director Sanjay Leela Bhansali of Black fame has turned in a minor classic in Saawariya.’

    i think farhan akhtar should not be included here….dil chahta hai was great, lakshya was decent too…. Responds:

    Will watch Dil Chahta Hai this week. Just added it to our Netflix queue.

    We are watching SRK’s Yes Boss today.

  2. aditya_k   November 5, 2008 at 10:38 am

    …i am sure dil crhahta hai will change your opinion on farhan……and your liking toward saif ali kharn will increase manifold…..his best performance after omkara…..

  3. aditya_k   November 5, 2008 at 10:40 am

    do watch lakshya… you remember the scenes of kargil war at the beginning of the new release ‘heroes’? they belong to lakshya…..hritik was very good in the film… Responds:

    Will do.

  4. aditya_k   November 6, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    how did you find yes boss? i think SRK gave a good performace….do write a review for dil chahta hai… Responds:

    Still lying in the DVD player. Will let you know tomorrow.

    Dil Chahta Hai – Will do.

  5. aditya_k   November 7, 2008 at 11:32 am

    so….yes boss?? Responds:

    As we said in an earlier response, we watched the SRK/Juhi Chawla film Yes, Boss.

    What a pathetic piece of shit.

    The villain of the piece is Aziz Mirza (story & direction) for penning the most awful & crude story.

    SRK, Ashok Saraf (the guy who played Johnny) & Juhi were OK..Aditya lacked the smoothness of the serial seducer. He came across as far too crass.

    Yes, there were some humorous moments like when Aditya & wife catch SRK & Juhi in bed (Switzerland), the shift from car to scooter in the beginning…songs were mediocre.

  6. ★TRΞY☆   November 7, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    Madhavan is doing a remake of “Yes Boss” as you may have heard.. “Guru En Aalu” Responds:

    You write above: Madhavan is doing a remake of “Yes Boss” as you may have heard.. “Guru En Aalu”

    Oh, my God. What’s the world coming to.

    Are the duffers in Kollywood completely bereft of ideas that they should remake one crappy movie after another…First it was Aegan (Main Hoon Naa) and now it’s Guru En Aalu.

    (Thanks – All day, we were wondering why we got Yes Boss of all movies from Netflix. We must have read somewhere it was a remake of Guru En Aalu & that’s why we got Yes Boss.)

  7. beni   December 7, 2008 at 10:57 pm

    Salman was incompetent as always. But i think he did bring something via the intense, manly look. He complemented Sonam.

    I love this movie.
    I wish i could watch it again in a theater. Responds:

    This movie also suffered at the box office because it was released alongside SRK’s breath of stale air – Om Shanti Om.

  8. kreacher   January 3, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    Regarding one of your comments, I think Yes Boss is lifted from the 1993 movie For Love or Money, featuring Michael J. Fox and Gabrielle Anwar. Of course, a lot of Indian elements were added to this movie and I felt the movie had more going for it than not.

    Another movie that blatantly lifts from For Love or Money is Life in a Metro. In fact if you follow the Sharman Joshi-Kay Kay-Kangna Ranaut, apart from the basic premise, it does a frame-by-frame copy of scenes like the juxtaposition of the glass panel on the backdrop of the hotel.

    Some movies I would like to recommend are from Mahesh Bhatt’s stables – Woh Lamhe (based on the life of Parveen Babi), Gangster (loosely based on the life of Abu Salem and Monica Bedi) and Kalyug (don’t know what this is based on, but I don’t believe Mahesh Bhatt makes original movies). These movies do have some shortcomings in terms of production values and finishing, but they have pretty tight narration, dark themes and serious actors. Responds:

    1. We watched Yes Boss (SRK/Juhi Chawla) recently. Pure garbage. We’ll watch For Love or Money in the near future.

    2. Let’s see if we can get Wo Lamhe & Kalyug at Netflix.

    Parveen Babi was a tragedy. Apparently, the woman went bonkers.

  9. kreacher   January 3, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    Spare yourself the trouble and don’t go out of your way to watch For Love or MoneyYes Boss at least has a breezy feel, some laughs and nice songs, while the original has nothing to write home about. God knows why people attempted to copy it, when it was neither a box office success nor a critical one.

  10. shadowfax_arbit   April 14, 2012 at 2:40 am

    This story is flicked from Iyarkai, a 2003 Tamil movie.

    It was an awesome movie! Responds:

    Good Lord, What Rubbish. Next you’ll be telling us Godfather was flicked from Ajith’s Billa. 😉

    The Italian film, the Hindi film and the Tamil film are all adaptations of Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky’s 1848 novella White Nights.

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