Planet Bollywood
PB Critics´ Roundtable Discussion: Saawariya vs Om Shanti Om
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Aakash Gandhi

I would like to welcome the critics and writers of Planet Bollywood to our inaugural Roundtable Discussion. Today we’ll be discussing one of the hottest topics in tinsel town currently – The mega-clash between Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Saawariya and Farah Khan’s Om Shanti Om, which are set to release on Diwali ’07 (Nov. 9). Shruti, why don’t you start us off…


Shruti Bhasin

The expectations for the two Diwali ‘07 releases are gargantuan, and with good reason. On one hand we have Farah Khan's movie starring Shah Rukh Khan and on the other we have Sanjay Leela Bhansali's 5th film starring some young blood.

If we look at the trend of just star power...Shah Rukh Khan has loyal and dedicated fans across the globe. He has the midas touch, so to speak, and has some of the biggest box office hits and attraction in India, UK, and overseas.

However, if we look at Sanjay Leela Bhansali, he is a star in his own right, by sweeping most awards for all of his films in past years.

Either way, both these stars are reliable but SLB is the most consistent with his films. He brings style, unique music, an artistic vision, and his direction brings realism to his characters. The curiosity of seeing Sonam Kapoor and Ranbir Kapoor on the big screen might draw audiences to watch Saawariya. Although, OSO, will hold an edge because Farah Khan's movie is more appealing on a commercial level.

Although, the box office is unpredictable and anything is possible. The viewing public tends to go towards the commercial potboiler over the serious movie. Why is it that so many great films end up being flops? Perhaps the question holds no answer.

It’s been tough to watch disastrous films in 2007 that you begin to lose faith in the originality of filmmakers. After all, even Om Shanti Om is an inspiration from Karz, while Saawariya is inspired from a foreign short story. However, when it comes to delivery, I vote to watch a SLB movie over any other film (no matter how big the star is). We’ll find out on November 9th which film succeeds!


Atta Khan

Good point Shruti. But I wonder if it ever had to be like this, why did the release dates have to be simultaneous? Surely this isn’t to the benefit of either party, nor to the benefit of the movie-going audience (although on the other hand they won’t be able to complain about a lack of choice!). If the OSO camp won’t budge then SLB should do the right thing and delay his movie…there is no disgrace in that.

Commercially, OSO is so much more marketable as a product; the MHN link, SRK’s production role, a reported budget of 35 crore, a popular and stylish soundtrack, not to mention its single biggest selling point; SRK himself. This is a David and Goliath contest if there ever was one!

But if any movie can slay OSO, it’s Saawariya – SLB is the most ingenious filmmaker in bollywood today and if audiences want to see spectacular cinema, then Saawariya is hands down the first choice between the two…honestly people don’t realize how beautifully vivid and poignant this movie has the potential to be. A unique cinema experience is guaranteed with SLB, just look at his past record for proof!

In short, I expect Saawariya to be a significantly better movie in all respect and to be critically lauded. But OSO will be the one to become a blockbuster and juggernaut everything else in its path! However Shruti, I do also feel that Saawariya will come in a close second in terms of BO success – achieving Hit to Super-Hit status.


Samir Dave

Saawariya stars Sanjay Leela Bhansali, the best director in Bollywood.. While the OSO camp has been releasing information all over, SLB has created a mystique around his movie. One magazine shoot/cover story for Filmfare is all we get.

“White Nights” by Fyodor Dostoevsky is the inspiration for the story. SLB makes movies primarily for himself and therein is the difference between him and Farah Khan. For the music, he has composer Monty with lyrics by Sameer. It’s forgiven if the names “Monty” or “Sameer” don’t excite anyone; after all, the real music director is Bhansali. Will Saawariya bring in both old and young? The older crowd will like the quality of a Bhansali film. For the younger crowd, there’s Salman Khan, Rani Mukherji, Rishi Kapoor’s son Ranbir Kapoor and Anil Kapoor’s daughter Sonam Kapoor! The cast is classy but not flashy as is the hype. Perhaps Bhansali thinks the movie shall speak for itself? Does all of this make you want to shout, “SAAWARIYA”!?

Hype, marketing, and appeal to the masses. These are areas in which director Farah Khan and SRK are most successful. Instead of coming up with something new, they decided to base the screenplay on the beloved movie, Karz. Nostalgia/curiosity will bring in the older crowd, but what about the younger? Ah, now we have the “Hrithikization” of Shah Rukh, the biggest actor in Bollywood. He has grown his hair and has abs of steel. This will bring in drooling aunties and hormone crazed teen girls!

They’ve got the talented music directors Vishal and Shekhar (with lyricist Javed Akhtar). Finally for the guys there is model/actress Deepika Padukone. All of this brought to you wrapped in a nice pop culture package. So what do you think? I bet you find yourself shouting the nostalgic forever cool phrase, “OM SHANTI OM”!


Lidia Ostepeev

Well guys, I don't see it in terms of a competition - especially as I haven't seen either film. Farah Khan's Main Hoon Na was a light, hugely entertaining film which I watched a number of times. I wish her well with Om Shanti Om. Bhansali's Devdas had some gorgeous scenes in it - full of style and grandeur. I want to be surprised by the young leads in Saawariya and always enjoy seeing Shah Rukh Khan. I'm looking forward to Diwali even though I'm not Indian. ________________________________________


Abhishek Singh

OK, as you all have pointed out…this Diwali - one of the very few festivals that manage to break the barriers of regionalism - witnesses the clash of two real biggies of Bollywood.

On one hand, we have the ‘friendly’ (though it’s starting to crumble a bit now thanks to Shirish) combo of Farah Khan and SRK back after their (don’t know why) huge hit Main Hoon Na. To give the team its due, they always have been pretty clear as to what they are aiming for. SRK is a shrewd operator and has said openly as long as the money keeps coming, he doesn’t have to bother much about what anybody thinks or says. And man, is the money coming!

I personally don’t get any Goosebumps seeing SRK’s six pack or whatever, but then God chose to make me a man and a normal one at that. Music though is interesting but not overtly special.

On the other hand, we have poetry in the form of cinema. SLB has always been a creative director, though has taken a more commercial route since his oh-so-beautiful Khamoshi. HDDCS, Devdas and Black, though nicely made and hugely appreciated movies, were his interpretations of past cinema: Woh Saat Din (better than HDDCS, especially Anil Kapoor’s sidekick), Devdas (again Dilip Saab was way better than SRK) and The Miracle Worker.

First impressions about the latest bunch of newcomers convey Ranbir to be a cocky, lean and confident guy; and Sonam, though not that photogenic, is quite tall. PERIOD.

My first choice for viewing would definitely be Saawariya, simply because I am that kind of a person…looking out for love and quite a loner… Plus having read the short story on which the movie is based, I know its end and absolutely adored it. And the movie does give me indications of being similar to one of my all time favorites – BEFORE SUNRISE. The bigger box office hit though would be OSO, again simply because SRK rules the BO!

And coming back to Atta’s first point - it’s not wise to release two of the biggest hopes of cinema on the same date. But then again…who wants to miss out on Diwali…BRING ON THE FIREWORKS.


Amodini Sharma

Conforming to the common consensus in this discussion so far – I too feel Bhansali is the unchallenged master of angst. As if that is not qualification enough for Bollywood, he is also well versed in creating emotion-drenched cinema, and gifted in porting poetry to celluloid. All his productions are like pieces of art, exquisite, well-crafted, and beautifully detailed. You could sit and look at them for hours. And you may still not be entertained.

Bhansali takes himself and his films seriously. And while one may appreciate art, it may not be what one looks for on a Friday night. So, with his upcoming Saawariya, I’m a little skeptical. It seems to be a romance, but if, like most of his other films (except Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam), Bhansali over-thinks this one, we might have an over-wrought, stretched-out melodrama on our hands.

The promos of the film look interesting; the charm I think being the old-world atmosphere depicted, the beautiful sets, and the appeal of two fresh, young faces. Sonam shows promise, while Ranbir, who resembles Mom, looks a little too frail for the lover-boy image. Add the guitar, and he reminds me of the Kumar Gaurav phase. And we know how that went.

On the other end of the spectrum you have the Khans with OSO. Not believing in the mystique of the unknown, the two Khans have been promoting this film with promos and songs, and that too in their own inimitable style. This promises to be an out-and-out entertainer; a masala film with panache.

Khan and Bhansali are both deft directors, but have very different attitudes to film-making. While her work is playful and fun-loving, his is an extraction of drama, where you thought there was none. Comparatively speaking it pits superstar SRK against 2 newcomers. It remains to be seen whether the rookies can hold their own.


Gianysh Toolsee

There is too much hype! Marketing is giving a tough time to the essence of cinema. Unoriginality first prevails in the titles as they have been butchered by lyricists. Surprisingly, the hint is hidden – audiences will be served with the same ‘rehashed’ stories!

Creating grandiose sets and adding rare colors on screen by special effects do not create classics. Regardless of the performances Sanjay Leela Bhansali is capable of extracting from his cast, at least it is expected that the audience can digest his thoughts put on screen, minus all the extravagant hype. Get the basics right first and then extrapolate can be the best moves for Saawariya. Time has changed. Brand music does not exist anymore. The OST will need to face the realities.

Formulating movies based on the great ‘masala’ cinema with happy endings comes with an expiration date. Farah Khan packs entertainers with elements of movie making, which the audiences enjoy and feel good about. Now she goes into the territory of recreating an old era, which is missed today. The era holds its nostalgia, its moments and its glory and audiences have been starved from such products due to the emergence of new eras. Her story will work! The OST catered to all. Who does not want to watch Shah Rukh Khan as the ‘mass-appeal’ actor? Add to that a fresh new face like Deepika Padukone? The Ranbir Kapoor-Sonam Kapoor combo translates into a niche market. OSO brings most of the industry in one song. Forget about comparing the star cast! Coming from the Red Chillies Entertainment, OSO is definitely hotter and spicier!

Today, audiences look for entertainment! On face value, OSO scores a point. Both movies can be shockingly poor products sensibly packaged with attractive stars, hyped music and eye catchy promos. Still, the public will make one of them a classic!


Irfan Makki

Ah! That clashes of all clashes! A maverick filmmaker taking on the self-proclaimed King of Bollywood in an epic Diwali Box Office battle. I have never endorsed the idea of releasing two huge films on the same day (as a couple of you have already mentioned) for I always see it as a mere clash of ego's more than anything. And when the aforementioned ego's belong to Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Shah Rukh Khan, you know that this isn't the clash of just any couple of ego's, rather the biggest pair of ego's in Bollywood. Bhansali announced his release date well in advance, almost a year ago in fact. But how can good old SRK be left behind? Judging from his desire to constantly proving that he rules the Box Office, he probably didn't want to be left behind. And quite frankly, why should he? Shahrukh Khan is one of India's biggest brand names and has always been the only star of his films. No Salman, you don't count. So what if you stole SRK's thunder in Karan Arjun and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai?..When SRK says that he is the only star that matters and when the award juries (or the lack of) confirm this almost every year, than it must be true, right? I am sure Bhansali begs to differ and why not! Being India's most prolific film-maker and a brand in himself, Bhansali sure knows that he can take on the mighty Khan whenever he feels like it.

But is it wise? I think not! Because as Samir mentioned above, the NRI aunties have always looked at SRK with starry-eyes wishing their bald, flabby hubbies sitting besides them happily munching on those samosa's, looked like him. What's more, the young ladies aren't far behind either, they completely dig his dimples, who cares how good the movie really is? That's not all! The young male fans arrogantly claim, "Salman Who?" whenever a SRK flick comes out. And now that he has also got that six pack going for him, add "Hrithik Who?" to the list as well. As for the uncles, all they need is their samosa's, they'll watch either movie as long as they have their munchies with them. So, when all these odds are stacked up against Bhansali and his visually-poetic Saawariya, I have to come to terms with the unfortunate fact that OSO holds the clear edge here.

Now let's talk about what really counts. The real Critics, yours truly being one of them. Wait a minute! I forgot, our opinion doesn't really matter. If it counted, then Farah Khan's last outing, Main Hoon Naa wouldn't have been the big money spinner it eventually turned out to be. But who cares! I'll express my opinion anyways. Do I think Saawariya will be the better film? Hell Yeah! Do I think Bhansali's creativity will outsmart Farah's rehash of Karz? No doubt about it! Would I watch Saawariya over OSO? You betcha! Would Saawariya make more money than OSO at the BO? Well, unfortunately, even the creative genius of Bhansali is no match for the aunties and the hoards of screaming girls flocking towards the theatres to have a look at those Dimples, add that six pack to the equation and this is a battle that even a team of 100 Bhansali's can't win. And I blame the aunties for that!


Aakash Gandhi

You all bring up some very valid and interesting points. It seems that there will once again be a distinct border between critic and mass appeal, as this is what tends to be the case year in and year out. I personally don’t believe that Sanjay Leela Bhansali makes films so that they are accepted by the cine-going audiences. I thoroughly believe he makes his films for himself. It is wonderful to watch a man with such dignity and self-awareness remain unhindered by the growing pressures that many filmmakers in the industry are constantly under and eventually succumb to.

Likewise, it’s simply not fair, in my eyes, to compare the likes of Farah Khan with a Sanjay Leela Bhansali. It’s like comparing apples and oranges, in that Farah has in no way established herself enough to be compared to one of India’s greatest filmmakers. Secondly, she tends to focus on a completely different segment of the population and on completely different themes.

I can’t say which will be the better film because, as Lidia said, we haven’t seen them yet! But I know which one I will flock to first – Saawariya. However, I fear that the film with commercial appeal (OSO) will be the one to come out the winner when it comes to Box Office figures. Let’s just hope Diwali ’07 proves history wrong.

Again, I would like to thank our writers for taking some time out to take part in this Panel Discussion. Likewise, I would like to thank our readers for tuning in to this segment of PB Critics’ Roundtable Discussion.


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