Sometimes it's time to just face the facts. That movie you pretty much loved when you first saw it, as a celebration of what Bollywood is all about, back when it first came out, the movie you kept in the back of your head for a future DVD purchase, that movie you've been meaning to re-watch for ages ... that movie, it turns out, might not be as good as you thought.
What's even sadder is that you ( - me - all of us at one point I suppose) have always recognized its flaws. As any film, it certainly had some. But now, rewatching, you find yourself wishing it was at least half as exciting as the first time. This is the review of my initial thoughts, by the way. It's from 2007, obviously. But god, that date seems like ages ago.
As most of you probably know, Salaam-e-Ishq is Nikhil Advani's first movie on his own, without the ever-watchful eye of Karan Johar leaving its mark on the movie. It features, what, six different couples and their storylines as they deal with love; difficulties with it, rediscovery of it, or just fulfilling it. As you might assume, it's a little too ambitious a concept to pull off and keep it interesting - the storylines do cross over, but remain mostly separate, and as some of them are not as good as the others, the viewer does begin wishing they got back to those good storylines and just leave the rest be. The film runs long, even longer in its original theatrical version, and you can really feel it at times. The first time I saw it, I felt it would've made a better mini-series than a movie; too bad India hasn't familiarized itself with the format of a television mini-drama yet.
For me on this particular rewatch, only three storylines seemed worthwhile. The above screencap is the least entertaining of the three but fun enough all the same; Akshaye Khanna plays the playboy-like, commitment-phobic Shiven whose patient fiancee Gia (Ayesha Takia) finally ditches him so he may rediscover the meaning of love and whatnot. While this is one of the few Akshaye Khanna films I quite like (or don't actively dislike), the character being such an asshole does really get to me. He has quite literally no reason to act that way, and his progress of learning how to appreciate Gia is not very satisfying for me - especially because they cut one (slightly comedic) scene where he explains to a hallucination Gia why he's so afraid of commitment (my memories of this are fuzzy but that's how I recall it). That scene seems to have made all the difference for me.
I'm much less ambivalent about my adoration for this storyline; Kkamini (Priyanka Chopra), an item girl striving to be a fully-fledged heroine comes up with a plan to pretend to have a secret boyfriend, Rahul, until a mystery man (Salman Khan) actually enters her life - in front of all cameras - and claims to be said Rahul. I love everything about this storyline. It's self-referential (Salman addresses the audience, pointing at the camera), it's funny (this is possibly the best I've seen of Priyanka's comedienne skills), it's sweet (the slow falling in love, the reveal of Rahul's actual identity..) and most importantly, both actors absolutely excel in their roles. I'm still not huge on Priyanka but this is without a doubt my favourite performance of hers, just spot-on as the diva-like wannabe-starlet. And Salman is in his element, subtly funny and romantic and just a great presence against Priyanka's manic Kkamini.
The third storyline, and who could've been stars of their own movie in my opinion, was that of Raju (Govinda), a taxi driver who dreams of love, and ends up trying to help Stephanie (Shannon Esra, a white South-African actress) find her Indian jackass of a boyfriend, even though Raju is falling in love with her as they journey around India. I'm not sure if this is the performance that brought Govinda back as I haven't seen much of him as of late, but it certainly is a solid one, and the romance developing despite communication difficulties is just so touching and heartfelt and punctuated by some of the best scenes in the film.. it's hard not to love this one. I was too busy enjoying it to screencap it, really.
So, what's the final judgment? I guess there isn't one, really. Maybe I'll rewatch in 2011 and realize what a wonderful joyride this movie is, despite its numerous flaws - the soundtrack is catchy and the picturizations are certainly memorable. Maybe this time it was just the wrong movie at the wrong time. The point is, I guess, that I wish some of these storylines had gotten their own films - their own chances to shine and be as lengthy and as elaborate as they needed to be. Then the filler stories wouldn't have had to be there. But it is what it is, I suppose. A tribute to love; through sickness and through health.
(And before you ask, I didn't mention John-Vidya because I am a heretic and not a huge fan of it. Vidya does some great acting but overall, I'm just not into it.)