Montag, 27. August 2007

Saajan (1991) - Review in English

About the story: The orphan Aman, who has a crippled leg, becomes friends with Akash. The latter’s parents make Aman part of their family, bring him up lovingly and regard him as a second son. However, the psychological wounds Aman (Sanjay Dutt) received in early childhood and his disability have left their mark on him. He expresses his pain and longings in poems which he publishes under the pen-name Sagar (as he does not want his beloved foster parents to get the mistaken impression that they are in any way responsible for his mental pain and anguish). Pooja (Madhuri Dixit) is a fan of Sagar’s poems and commences a close pen-friendship with him. When Aman gets to know Pooja in person and falls in love with her, he does not dare to tell her that he is her greatly admired Sagar, as he is afraid of rejection. Instead, he realizes a short time later that Akash (Salman Khan), whom he loves like a real brother, also has fallen in love with Pooja. Out of gratitude for Akash’s friendship and all the good fortune he received through it, Aman decides to sacrifice his true love for Akash’s sake. He advises Akash to pretend to be Sagar in order to win Pooja’s love...

Saajan is a typical Hindi Cinema love triangle: It is obvious right from the start not only that one person has to step back, but also who this person is. This leaves little scope for suspense, as the only remaining question is how everything is going to fall into place in the end. Furthermore, the plot is entirely focused on the three lovers, there are no external adversaries endangering them in any way. Without three strong leads a play like Saajan would probably have sunk without trace. This, however, does not happen when the love triangle consists of Madhuri, Sanjay and Salman, who are able to carry the roughly three hour long movie (while they are not to be held responsible for the aberrations of early nineties fashion). Madhuri is charming as ever, but largely restricted to the passive part of the object of desire of the two male leads, apart from one scene towards the end of the movie in which she expresses her opinion of the two gentlemen’s actions with refreshing frankness. As frequently in his earlier movies, Salman is full of high spirits and with his attractive sparkling personality and womanising ways he provides a good foil for the quiet, sensible and introverted Sanjay. Sanjay Dutt doubtlessly is the high point of this movie which became a great personal triumph for him and gained him the first Best Actor Filmfare Nomination of his career.

For somebody who doesn’t know Sanjay and his biography up to 1991 it may not be noticeable – but the more I watch Saajan the more I am struck by how deep an insight into his soul Sanju gives us in his (at times heartbreaking) portrait of a sensitive poet. How much suffering, despair and loneliness can be seen in his eyes when he is overcome by mental anguish! Aman has suffered a lot due to his disability. He does not regard himself as a full human being and therefore is easily affected by intentional or unintentional hurtful remarks. At the same time, he is boundlessly grateful for any kindness (which he never takes for granted) and does not want to upset his family which means the world to him. Similar to the funny and hyper Thanedaar the previous year, Sanjay must have surprised his audience with this part as it does not fit the picture of the agile, dancing and fighting hero, whom he frequently portrayed at this time. Nevertheless, the part of Aman is more in tune with his personality than any of the gangster and macho parts with which he is identified today. Why?

Although Sanju’s worst crisis (resulting from the Mumbai riots) had not yet taken place, in 1991 he already had gone through and survived depth which must have marked his soul in a similar manner to that of Aman: The harsh treatment in boarding school at the hand of teachers who did not want to be accused of preferential treatment of the son of two stars, the early death of his mother from cancer, his first wive’s suffering from cancer, the first steps in the movie industry, the desire to fulfill his father’s expectations, the hypercritical examination of Sunil Dutt’s and Nargis’s son by his surroundings and by the critics as well as the permanent fear of making mistakes, and in connection with this obviously his time of drug addiction, which almost cost him his life. At that point, Sanju must have been as lonely, insecure and vulnerable as Aman. The events of his youth had marked him as they had marked the movie character whom he portrays with such incredibly sensitivity - or who wants to doubt that Sanju’s much quoted childlike soul remains even today fundamentally vulnerable, insecure and lonely.

In my opinion, for the understanding of Sanjay Dutt as a human being, Saajan is as important as Naam which marks his successful overcoming of his drug addiction. If one wants to see a representation of Sanjay’s soul, Saajan is the movie to watch. It is a must-see for Sanjay-fans anyway. For me, it is going to remain always one of my favourite movies starring Sanju.

Produced by Sudhakar Bokade; Directed by Lawrence D’Souza
173 Min.; DVD: Eros, English Subtitles (not for the songs)
© Diwali; Translated by gebruss

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