Veer Zaara: Where are such films now?

Anushka Sharma, Parineeti Chopra and Bhumi Pednekar are brilliant actors, but these woman can only dream of becoming true YRF Heroines as were Preity Zinta and Rani Mukerji. Even though Zinta has just had three films (Salaam Namastey, Jhoom Barabar Jhoom and Veer Zaara) under the banner, with just the 2004 release (Veer Zaara) she became one of YRF’s (Yash Raj Films) most celebrated heroines, and the film went on to be and continues to be one of the most loved love stories of Hindi Cinema.

I don’t want this to be an analytical review of the film, because let’s be real: most of us have watched the film a while ago and there’s no point writing or reading a review of such a film. Consider this as an appreciation article, if I may call it that, because my love for Veer Zaara is on another level altogether, and while Yash Chopra needs to be given a lot of credit for it, it actually was the acting that made me take a back seat and watch this film over and over again, over a period of time.

Unbelievable. That’s the word many would use for Veer (Shahrukh Khan) and Zaara’s (Preity Zinta) love. Because that is exactly what it is. Of you haven’t watched the film, let me tell you that Veer and Zaara fall in love with each other in just one day. It’s only that Zaara realises that she is in love with this man a little later, when she sees her fiancé (Raza played by Manoj Bajpayee) at the station.  But don’t unbelievable stories make for the best ones, at least sometimes?

And truth be told, this love is believable. After Veer Pratap Singh helps Zaara Hayat Khan fulfil the final wish of her Punjabi grandmother, he takes her home and there she finds solace. A particular solace that is missing in her own home. There’s a lot of love in both the homes—for Veer in his and for Zaara in hers—but relationships in her home are as complex as those in Veer’s home are simple. Where on one hand, I’m very sure Chaudhry Sumer Singh (Veer’s uncle cum father figure played by Amitabh Bachchan) will happily sacrifice his life for his love (played by Hema Malini), Kirron Kher’s Mariam Hayat Khan tells her daughter (Zaara) that a woman is willing to lose her everything in love, and that a man doesn’t love like that. He doesn’t have the strength to, she asserts, pointing that Zaara’s father (Boman Irani) won’t sacrifice his life for her. The very relationships between the two sets of parents says a lot about the kind of solace Zaara finds in Veer’s house. She perhaps sees a life her grandmother was once a part of.

While it’s a wholesome, beautiful story, it’s the performances that makes Veer Zaara an epic tale of love and also pride. Shah Rukh Khan and Preity Zinta as lead actors dive into Veer and Zaara and rather than portraying these characters on screen, they become them. Such is the power both these actors have, or at least had. While we do see a lot of SRK on screen even today, I wish we could also see Preity Zinta in a well written role. It’s not possible that woman has forgotten her craft, but there sure is a dearth of well written roles for actresses, especially those who’re beyond their prime. If a woman can play Zaara with such conviction, she sure has it in her to play many more girls. And in the past, Zinta has proved the same. I just wish to see her on screen again!

Rani Mukerji comes in a supporting role, as Saaiyma Siddiqui. She has taken upon herself to free this man (Veer). In a time when Zinta and Mukerji were often pitted against each other, Mukerji chose to be a supporting actress, and that alone is a testament of her security as an actress. As Saaiyma, Mukerji walked so that Priyanka Chopra Jonas could run as Kashibai (in Bajirao Mastani). Because the truth is that while female actors realise that a role is a role, leading or supporting, the media mostly portrays supporting roles in a bad light. If a particular top actress does a supporting role, her career is threatened, or so they say. But was Mukerji’s (or Chopra Jonas’) career threatened? Perhaps not.

Other supporting actors are on point too—Kirron Kher, Divya Dutta, Amitabh Bachchan, Hema Malini, Manoj Bajpayee, Boman Irani. Each one of them provide a much needed emotional arc to their characters and the film in all.

All in all, Veer Zaara is that kind of a film which you wish we have more of. It has its flaws, certainly, but I sincerely hope that we have more films paying an ode to love as does this one. I agree that cinema is changing and so are its techniques but there was a quality about the YRF Heroine that has now gone missing…

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