Starring: Salman Khan, Priyanka Chopra, John Abraham, Vidya Balan, Govinda, Shannon Esra, Anil Kapoor, Juhi Chawla, Akshaye Khanna, Ayesha Takia, Anjana Sukhani, Sohail Khan and Isha Kopikkar
Director: Nikhil Advani
Pyaar, ishq, mohabbat, prem—the Hindi dictionary is overflowing with words synonymous with love. The concept of romance is certainly not ancient to Bollywood, with our passionate love stories often indicating a distinct stamp of Indian cinema.
In Nikhil Advani’s Salaam-e-Ishq, the title speaks volumes. So before even venturing into this flick, you know you’re in for a mushy affair, which isn’t always bad. So what sets apart SEI from the recurring romance flicks churned out each year? Salman Khan, Priyanka Chopra, Akshaye Khanna, Ayesha Takia, John Abraham, Vidya Balan, Anil Kapoor, Juhi Chawla, Anjana Sukhani, Govinda, Shannon Esra, Sohail Khan and Isha Koppikkar; that’s what. A massive star cast, fantastic music, lush production values, and a romantic signature…what could go wrong? Loads, trust me, loads.
Six couples and six stories are a lot to juggle, even for Nikhil Advani. Unfortunately he drops a few balls in this romantic saga, a saga that stretches runs for nearly four hours. Boasting of such an enormous star cast, expectations were naturally monumental for Salaam-e-Ishq. However, the movie doesn’t make you want to fall in love…it makes you want to fall asleep. One thing Hindi cinema is slowly learning is that stars don’t sell and this endless tribute to love proves exactly that.
The problem with Salaam-e-Ishq is not that it isn’t woven together adequately. Rather, it’s the stories themselves. Out of batch, two are fantastic (John-Vidya, Govinda-Shannon), two are average (Anil-Juhi-Anjana, Akshaye-Ayesha), and one is horrendous (Salman-Priyanka). Yes, I did not include the Sohail-Isha track in the previous breakdown only because I don’t think it constitutes as a story, since it’s present for a mere four scenes. The following are the six tracks broken down in further depth, ranking from the best to worst.
1. John Abraham-Vidya Balan: A Fantastic Tribute to Youthful Love
Since day one, the John-Vidya pairing has been a hot topic for discussion. Whether it was their rumoured affair or the great chemistry they seemed to share, they were by far the most anticipated couple in terms of “fresh” quality. Believe me, they do not disappoint. Granted the story is quite ordinary and clich?d, the two actors manage to carry it to another level. Immature yet loving Ashutosh (Abraham) and calm and collective Tehzeeb (Balan) are a Hindu-Muslim couple married against their parents’ wishes. Living in Mumbai, they struggle to make it check-to-check. But that does not matter, they are in love; and that’s all that they care for. That is, until tragedy shakes their household and their love is put to the ultimate test. As Ashutosh, John delivers a knockout performance proving that he can carry off a romantic role perfectly given the correct opportunity (unlike in Baabul). Matching him at every step is Vidya Balan who gives her fourth consecutive wonderful performance. She conveys volumes with her expressive eyes. Their climactic scene is superb. One only wishes this story was given more footage as it is undoubtedly, the film’s best track. Rating: 4.5/5
2. Govinda-Shannon Esra: A Charming Tribute to Love in Hinglish
I, for one, certainly did not expect this track to rank second. I expected some ludicrous Govinda-style comedy, a pretty girl, and maybe a tear or two. However, I was greatly surprised with the way this track just walks into your heart. This one’s definitely for the masses! If you have a heart, you’ll like this one. It’s witty, cute, funny and above all, charming. Taxi driver Raja (Govinda) waits in front of Delhi Airport’s sliding doors every single day waiting for his “dream girl” to emerge. He claims that the day his dream girl arrives, wind will blow, bells will ring, light will shine and petals will fall. And one day—they do, as Stephanie (Esra) in search of her boyfriend Rohit steps out. As Raju helps her reach her destination, their relationship blossoms despite the (hilarious) language barrier. I must admit, I’m not a Govinda fan—at all. But his performance in Salaam-e-Ishq won me over whole-heartedly. His timing is flawless and he delivers his lines delightfully. Shannon Esra is great in her role as well, although she’s not up to the mark in certain scenes. But for the most part, she’s extremely loveable and her Hindi is sure to win hearts. She deserves a special mention for the climax scene. Entertaining, for sure! Rating: 4/5
3. Akshaye Khanna-Ayesha Takia: A Run-of-the-mill Tribute to Clich?’s
Commitment is a male-oriented issue, or rather phenomenon, that happens to be worldwide. A guy who’s in love is extremely happy, but at the same time can’t bear to think about waking up to the same woman every single day of his life. This is the story of Shiven’s life—fear of commitment. As he hesitantly becomes engaged to Gia Bakshi (Takia), Shiven begins to increasingly tremble with fear as the wedding approaches. He does whatever he can to get out of becoming “Gia ka piya”, until he realises what’s important in life. In an otherwise average story, Akshaye Khanna manages to pull off a humorous performance comfortably, although he could tone down the facial expressions. Some of his one-liners are absolutely hilarious. Ayesha Takia is only required to look pretty and mouth a few clich?d dialogues, which she does well. (Though, I hope she can get rid of the garish make up next time). Vishal Malhotra as Shiven’s friend pitches in a decent performance as well. Although this track is somewhat enjoyable, you begin to lose interest as the movie unfolds. It’s entertaining, but nothing more than average. Rating: 3/5
4. Anil Kapoor-Juhi Chawla-Anjana Sukhani: A Decent Tribute to Mature Love
A classic case of a bored, middle-aged man, his loyal, middle-aged wife, and a young and sexy siren, this story impresses in parts but not in totality. Vinay (Kapoor) has a picture perfect life; he could ask for nothing more. Yet, his life doesn’t seem to have the excitement he longs for. Enter Anjali (Sukhani)—bold and beautiful, not to mention young, who brings back colour into Vinay’s grey world. While keeping his wife Seema (Chawla) in the dark, Vinay escapes into Anjali’s vibrant world where he feels energized once again. But, of course, nothing lasts forever and eventually Vinay’s secret blows up in his face as he is forced to face reality. This premise could have become quite powerful if it weren’t for the unnecessary scenes and slow pace. By far, this is the most slow-paced track in the entire movie and each time it appears it triggers a yawn. Anil Kapoor is quite good in most of his scenes. But I beg to him never to shave his moustache again…it just doesn’t work! The star of this story is Juhi Chawla as she proves her mettle, emoting like an expert. Anjana Sukhani is decent and does what she is supposed to. Oh, and that kiss that was hyped up by the media? It doesn’t even deserve a mention as it barely stretches for a second. It had tremendous potential, but turns out average. Rating: 2.5/5
5. Sohail Khan-Isha Koppikar: A Bring-the-house-down Tribute to the Physical Aspect of Love
As I numbered this track “5”, I cringed to think of calling this a “story”. I’m not denying that it was hilarious, but there just wasn’t enough of it! Ramdyaal (Khan) and Phoolwati (Koppikar) marry traditionally in Haryana after which Ramdyaal can think of only one thing—sex. He wants it, and he wants it now. As luck may have it, each of his attempts backfire as something or the other gets in the way of his desires. With barely any lines, Sohail Khan is magnificent in his role. He deserves full points for carrying this “story” on his shoulders while serving as amusing comic relief. Isha Koppikar barely has a few lines. Unfortunately this track only gets four scenes, one of which is at the end credits. However, when it does appear, it leaves you in stitches! Also, it is the only story that goes off in its own tangent without connecting to the rest. A great idea, but should have been given more screen time! Rating: 2/5
6. Salman Khan-Priyanka Chopra: A Fantastic Attempt to Comedy Gone Wrong!
What the Sohail-Isha track manages to do in four scenes, the Salman-Priyanka track can’t do with ample footage. It’s boring, stale, and tedious. From the two biggest stars of the film, one surely expected more! Item queen Kamna turned Kkamini (Chopra) longs for a call from Karan Johar with an offer in one of his films as lead heroine; a role that could rechristen her “Tragedy Queen”. Along with her publicist (Tinnu Anand), Kkamini devises a publicity stunt to make her dreams come true. She’ll pretend she’s head over heels in love with a made-up man named Rahul, which will change her image to a hopeless romantic rather than an item girl. However, Kkamini’s plan is turned upside down when a man claiming to be Rahul (Khan) disrupts her strategy to land her dream role. I strongly believe that Nikhil Advani had a good story going for him, but restrained it with poor execution. For most of the stories, you at least care about the outcome somewhat. With this one—you don’t. I hate to inform that this track gets the most footage of all even though it is full of holes. Why can’t Priyanka have both career and love? What is Salman Khan’s job and where does he get all the expensive clothes? Why is he at the shaadi sequence at the end? How does Priyanka find him in the concluding reels? Holes, holes holes; that’s what this track is full of. Priyanka Chopra as Kkamini hams throughout the entire first half, but manages to do a bit better in the second. She’s good in the sequence with Anil Kapoor. Salman Khan sleepwalks through his role and enacts it like a robot. Not that his character is etched out well, but Khan severely disappoints as Rahul. But he does it wearing nice clothes! Sorry, but I’m forced to mention…what is up with that American-Hindi accent? Speak Hindi properly, yaar! And those two journo’s were ridiculously stupid and irritating. This highly anticipated track could easily have been cut out, as it contributes nothing to the movie. This story left me snoring, face into my popcorn bag. It’s one big yawn. Rating: 1/5
For a project as ambitious as Salaam-e-Ishq to work, each of the stories need to be constructed properly so that the audience doesn’t get bored at any point. And that’s exactly where Salaam-e-Ishq falters. There are simply too many stories and not enough time. The length of the movie is another downer as by the end of it your eyes are sore and your butt is killing. If a story is engaging you don’t feel the numbness of your body and don’t even mind the length. But when you are constantly checking your watch, you know something is wrong. The film starts out okay, and then goes downhill from there. The second half drags more than the first, but your attention is captured with the final 20 minutes of the movie. The climax of the film at the shaadi sequence is phenomenal, and it’s nice to see how the stories connect. Honestly, it was the best part of the entire four-hour enterprise. Unfortunately, twenty minutes cannot salvage an entire film. Although there are many loopholes within the story, the film boasts of high production values. Shankhar-Ehsaan-Loy’s music is one of the higher points of the film as it’s peppy and a pleasure to watch on screen, courtesy of Bosco-Caesar’s choreography. Cinematography is brilliant, and the use of colours within the Anil-Juhi story should be particularly noted. The art direction is mesmerizing, as the film bears a striking look.
As the saying goes, “too many cooks spoil the broth”. Salaam-e-Ishq may have tons of stars, but they are not utilised properly and end up spoiling what could have been a remarkable movie. Instead, it ends up as an average film. Salaam-e-Ishq has many more problems than just love. Salaam-e-Ishq: A Tribute to Love? More like a Tribute to Disappointment!