Sarfarosh (1999)

The Aazaadi Sawaari makes its way to 1999 and Sarfarosh, starring Naseeruddin Shah, Aamir Khan, Sonali Bendre, Mukesh Rishi, and with music by Jatin-Lalit. The month after its overwhelmingly successful release, India and Pakistan probably came closest to war since the 1970s, a result of the 'Kargil conflict'. Both countries had acquired nuclear status the year before, which resulted in an extremely stressful period for the people of the region. But it was also naturally a period of heightened patriotism. And given the plot of Sarfarosh and the very real issues it addressed, the film was inspirational to many.

1. Zindagi Maut Na Ban Jaaye -- the title song -- accompanied the opening credits. This segment was used to lay the foundations for the story in interesting fashion. Sonu Nigam's vocals were excellent, and right away we were given a glimpse of the excellent cinematography and art direction that would be a highlight throughout the film.

2. Ajay Singh Rathore (Aamir Khan) was a big fan of the poet and ghazal singer Gulfaam Hasan (Naseeruddin Shah). He attended a Gulfaam concert and ran into his college mate Seema (Sonali Bendre).

Gulfaam came across as very sincere. He seemed to truly believe in unity of India and Pakistan, which was noteworthy. Some portions of his introduction reminded me of me :)

And we could surely use more of this (although close to a hundred percent of people on both sides will tell us that would be downright hypocritical -- I think not! :P). Excellent dialogue here!

The song Hosh Waalon Ko Khabar Kya appeared here, and is one of my favorite placements of a ghazal in any film. Very well sung by Jagjit Singh, and immensely well picturized with a flashback involving Ajay and Seema during their college days. The lyrics (Nida Fazli) and choreography (Farah Khan) were excellent. Listen to it here:

After re-watching this, I am inspired to visit libraries other than those geared to technology and patents (sigh).

3. Following a tragic event involving family, terrorists, and no cooperation (hostility, really) from the forces that are supposed to protect the aam junta (common man), Ajay made it his mission to join public service and fight crime.

4. Meanwhile, Gulfaam was making more sense with each bit of dialogue. This confirmed what some of us have been saying for a while (although I'll admit I was late in getting aboard the down-with-the-banal-lyrics bandwagon). It's true! Ajay and Gulfaam had a good friendship going, one that would be tested, especially in the second half.

5. Haye Allah, is that a Juhi Chawla poster? Aamir's obsessed with her. Their fans are not too far behind ;)

This was at a scene in Fountain (Bombay), which was where Seema discovered Ajay was an Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP). It was really well done, and significantly raised the suspense that marked the rest of the film.

6. Mukesh Rishi surprised us with an excellent performance as Inspector Salim. An interesting sub-plot developed here, which I'll save for your viewing experience. This bit of dialogue should provide a clue:

7. Gulfaam and Major Baig (Shrivallabh Vyas -- Ishwar chacha in Lagaan (2001)) had a little sub-plot of their own that was effective despite its brevity. Nothing overdone about it, I thought. Loved how the discussion here was placed at an Indo-Pak artist meet.

8. Yet another sighting of the most talked-about roadway on this blog. Your guess... :o)

9. As ACP Rathore aimed to combat terrorism and crime, the secrets he would discover, the weapons traders he would encounter, and the unwavering commitment and loyalty to his mission which would guide his interactions with them, were all juxtaposed sensibly. But would they be enough for good to prevail? And would the ACP and his friends survive to sustain the crime-fighting program they had assembled? Would they be allowed to stay as a unit? To discover, watch Sarfarosh. It was one of the more gripping action movies of its genre. And its climax was rare given its strong emphasis on dialogue, and that it was initiated by a song (bits of which reminded me of the classic folk song 'Lattey Di Chaadar')!

10. A few notes on the art direction, since it was a definite strength of the film. This dhaaba (a toned-down version of a plaza off an expressway, if you may) looked very real. Mentions of Lijjat papad are always welcome! :o)

Aside: Here's an organization founded and run by women, and that uses a rabbit as a mascot, that humanity can be proud of. I'd encourage you to visit and read about the organization's beginnings. Their commercials were (probably still are -- anyone?) among the most iconic and well-liked in the country.

Here's an observation (not a criticism): This street looked very real. In some ways, it was similar to those in Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman (1992), Hera Pheri (2000), and Gandhi My Father (2007). Maybe they were the same core sets?

The desert-scapes and splendor of Rajasthan were beautifully captured.

Interiors equally well showcased.

The hideout for Mirchi Seth (what a creative name for a villain!) was splendid.

So was this mosque (Sabri Masjid, as the writings on the wall indicate), which served as the setting for one of the most important dialogue exchanges in the film, between a terrorist and a public servant. Again, Inspector Salim was superb in delivering his lines.

11. The politics was well researched, almost flawless.

12. Liked how the love story between Ajay and Seema was developed. It could have proved distracting, but its integration into the plot was well done, having Seema go from unaware to engaged. They were a shareef (decent) couple...

...which made the song Jo Haal Dil Ka (Alka Yagnik and Kumar Sanu) all the more interesting. The song was 'hot' (actually, it was Sonali, who looked stunning in whatever color she wore -- white, yellow, red, and blue).

The other songs were nice too, and used well. An item number not used in its entirety -- Yeh Jawaani -- was used to guide the plot effectively. If this were re-made today, I'd bet we'd still see desi cowgirls (howdy Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders?) if Aamir were involved, to keep it believable ;)

Is Deewaane Ladke Ko was apt. The highlight here was the dialogue and poetry (by Sonali and Aamir) that guided it. Picturized very well, and packed with the many fantastic facial expressions by both the actors!

Aamir will be among the first to tell us this is one of his favorite patriotic films alongside the likes of Lagaan (2001) and Rang De Basanti (2006). He'd played a cop before this, but I think his performance here was better than the rest. It's an extremely well-packaged film with some memorable performances, especially by Naseeruddin Shah and Mukesh Rishi, in addition to Aamir and Sonali. I am going with four stars and then some for an excellent film that remains relevant after nearly a decade.

Movie rating: 4.5/5 (Excellent!)

My classification: R (for violence)

Music rating: 4/5 (Excellent integration!)


Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

I think Mukhesh was tremendous in this movie, and there is no single instance where he was so well utilized. And Sonali too- for all her beauty, I think this was her one stand-out movie. Also honestly wish Amir would do more action-oriented roles, which wish will probably be fulfilled w/ Ghajini- :)

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Shweta: There was so much to like about Sarfarosh. Agreed about Mukesh and Sonali, and that his was Sonali's most memorable movie. She acted real well (wonder where she is these days), and if "don't mind" was supposed to be irritating, she made it sound very cool ;)

Aamir does really well in action-oriented roles, and Ghajini should, as you say, fulfill your wish!


Anonymous said...

I need to rewatch this, I've forgotten most of it.

I miss Sonali, she is truly gorgeous. She's busy being a wife and mom :-( (married Goldie Behl the producer and Abhishek's BFF)...

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Memsaab: Hope you enjoy it! And thanks for the Sonali update :)

Anonymous said...

I was seriously addicted to Hoshwaalon ko khabar kya - its such a beautiful number and its picturisation gets me all nostalgic for my college days in Delhi! :-) The rest of the songs were good too. For some reason I only caught bits and pieces of the movie when it played on TV. Need to see it in its entirety for the songs and Sonali, if nothing else!

theBollywoodFan said...

It must be fantastic to relate to your college days like that, Bollyviewer! It's such a beautiful song!

I'd give Sarfarosh a shot -- it's really quite good, and everyone did really well. What has likely helped it sustain appeal through all these years is its dialogue too. I think you'll enjoy it!

Crazy on Bollywood said...

Nasiruddin Shah was the best in that movie.Nobody can understand before last scene that he was the main culprit.Gr8 performance.He also gave the same act in the movie Mohora.

Nicki said...

I love this movie. I need to go back and get all the early Aamir movies that I used to own. I used to have more of the three Khan's earlier movies and going to collect more soon too.

Thanks for the memories. Although I never thought Sonali was a great actress, I do miss her and thought she was cute.

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Crazy on Bollywood: It'd be hard to argue against Naseeruddin being the best in Sarfarosh. His was clearly one of the most significant roles, and as he usually does, he just pulled it off so comfortably. I haven't seen Mohra, thanks! -- will do now. I know it has Raveena Tandon in it too (who to me, is as good as Sonali's twin :)!

Hi Nicki: Good luck with your collection! Sonali might not have been among the top tier of acting talent, but in addition to her gorgeous looks, she was/is very likeable (at least in Sarfarosh :P). I'm hoping Raveena and Sonali decide to make one grand comeback some day in a couple of years or so...

Thank you both for stopping by. Cheers!

ajnabi said...

Ha, I was just about to write, "What *did* happen to Sonali?" when I read Memsaab's update. Anyway, Sarfarosh looks like a beautiful film, visually speaking, and I agree with Shweta that Aamir's intensity lends itself well to action roles.

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Ajnabi: Think of the beautiful visuals in Sarfarosh as an added bonus :)

The plot, acting, music, and especially dialogue, all work very well together. I think you'll like it. And as a spoiler to motivate you to see it: If the end to Mangal Pandey is what you fear, think twice ;)