country does have some great directors to boast of, all pioneers in
the parallel cinema category, more famously known as 'art' movies. But
that does not stop any one from trying their luck at the mainstream
Bollywood flicks. Prakash Jha tried, Govind Nihalani tried, Ketan
Mehta tried, Khalid Mohammad tried and so why should Shyam Benegal
Benegal ropes in some of the top commercial cast members, gets Khalid
Mohammed to write the story and screenplay and even manage A.R. Rahman
to do the score for the movie. Well, probably on the right track! And
thus is born ZUBEIDAA!
story starts off with a young man Riyaz (Rajat Kapoor - a Shyam
Benegal favourite) trying to find more about his dead mother who died
mysteriously in a plane crash - Zubeidaa, a mother he never knew! And
as he goes deeper into his search, the viewers are taken back to an
era of black and white cinema, kingdoms and stately princes, the
Zubeidaa is a girl who likes to live life like a free bird. But her
orthodox and strict father Suleiman (Amrish Puri) is not the kind of
man who would let her do all that. So even her dreams of making it as
an actress is destroyed by her father, who instead forces her into an
a broken down Zubeidaa with a baby boy, tries to lead a new life and
in such a juncture meets the Maharaja of Fatehpur, Victor (Manoj
Bajpai). And before you know, love blossoms between the two. And when
the Maharaja is persistent in marrying Zubeidaa, she leaves her son
with her mother and is off to Fatehpur.
back at the palace, she meets the Maharaja's first wife Mandira (Rekha).
Mandira actually turns out to be kind and helpful to Zubeidaa. But
soon Zubeidaa begins to feel burdened by all the traditions and
customs that she has to follow being the wife of a maharaja. And
slowly insecurity and jealousy too gets the better of Zubeidaa when
she realises that her love is just second to Mandira's. And thus she
begins to compete with Mandira for the affection and attention of the
Benegal might have a grand and exotic locales and sets to get the
story through. And he also has some good score from Rahman to help
him. But both Benegal and Rahman really fails to put in the right
effect and impact. A perfect example of giving that for a period drama
can be learnt from Mani Ratnam's bio-pic IRUVAR. That brilliance is
unfortunately never here.
Kapoor, the so-called center of the movie, gives the usual performance
and fails to even match up to what she gave in FIZA. Manoj Bajpai
looks unconvincing as a prince, and his character also is not
developed at all. A total waste of his talent. Amrish Puri,
Rajat Kapur, Shakti Kapoor, Lilette Dubey all gives good support.
However all the characters displayed great flaws. But Rekha is one
actress who gives depth to her character that emerges only for a few
reels in the movie.
Puri as the father figure is conveniently kept away from the matters
when Zubeidaa gets married off to the Maharaja. No fury, no anger, no
father at all! And even earlier, it is never told why exactly the
father who owns a film studio, object his daughter's entry into
even if you overlook all the character and script flaws, the one of Zubeidaa's is
unforgivable. She never really transforms from a stubborn schoolgirl
to a woman of any kind. She remains the same- stubborn and confused.
There is exactly no major substance to this central character.
that is where the whole movie really fails. Shyam Benegal moves on the
same tracks as some of his earlier works like Sardari Begum, Bhoomika,
Mummo but the magic of none of them can be seen in this.
Mohammed should have worked harder on the story and the screenplay.
The movie does have the potential of being a great story, but it only
remains as a flash of promise here and there. Ultimately it never does!
not the movie that is going to make the masses accept the Benegal
work. And ultimately even the classes that did appreciate Shyam
Benegal's movies are definitely going to be disappointed.
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