Lawyer's son Aditya (Vivek Oberoi) is waiting for his doctor wife Suhani (Rani Mukerji) at a Mumbai train station. When she fails to arrive, Aditya fears Suhani may have left him. As Aditya searches for his wife flashbacks reveal the course of their relationship. After a long and determined effort Aditya wins the love of Suhani who initially brushed him off because of her desire to graduate from medical school and to please her working class parents. When their secret marriage is discovered the couple are disowned by both families and forced to live in makeshift accommodation. The pressures of married life take their toll and it appears that their love for each other is waning. As the long night unfolds, Aditya reasseses his life with Suhani and discovers that he cannot live without her. But can he find her in time to declare his love?
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A superb digital sound mix drives the all important soundtrack, and the widescreen format presents a large, crisp image; these are important elements in a film as full of production numbers, visual pleasures and beautiful people in brilliant saris. The production numbers are like the fantasy music video clips on the cable music channels in that they are multi-costume and multi-location showpieces, taking us from waterfalls to snowy mountain fields to idyllic shorelines. Duets and full scale wedding routines follow each other as the first half zips along with its charter to set the musical mood. In cinemas, Saathiya will be played with an interval in keeping with Indian cinema rituals, when patrons can discuss the songs, the story and the cast. A lush and lively production, Saathiya is more than escapism (but it is that, too), resting on a solid love story set in the cultural specificity of modern India. Marriage is still the social and cultural glue for society, and traditions remain important to families. But young love has its own traditions, and they will always clash with the old traditions. Here, the focus is on the development of mature love between two young people, and the story is told with great zest and humour. Rani Mukerji and Vivek Oberoi are splendid as the lovers, handling the romance, the humour and the drama with equal ease. Supporting cast are uniformly excellent, and the filmís ability to jump from urban mayhem to scenic wonders give the film a sense of openness and dynamism. The trains on which the lovers first meet come to symbolise the progress of their love while the sadder plot points add an earthy reality to the otherwise escapist mood. And when itís over, youíll leave humming the title tune, even if you donít know the words.
Review by Richard Kuipers:
This Hindi remake of the Tamil hit Alai Payuthe faces an uphill battle winning over westerners unused to the pace and pitch of Bollywood melodrama. At almost two and a half hours (plus intermission) it's a long haul for a story most of us would expect to see covered in a maximum of two hours by Hollywood. For non-Indian audiences Saathiya will seem very drawn out and repetitive as this story of a young couple's courtship, secret wedding and troubled marriage unfolds. The cultural divide is evident in the long running time (an essential requirement for the commercial prospects of mainstream Indian films) and the dramatic arc of this romance between a middle class lawyer's son and the determined daughter of a working class family. Much screen time is dedicated to the rituals of marriage arrangements and class consciousness - all of which is interesting but the commentary, to western eyes at least, seems laboured and rather flat in the telling. The same applies to the flashbacks of the unhappy times Aditya and Suharni suffer after being thrown out of home by their angry parents. Clunky dialogue and awkward plot twists don't succeed in generating the sympathy we're meant to feel for Suhani and there are major character inconsistencies that make the whole scenario look rather implausible. Why such a feisty and determined girl like Suhani would ever agree to a secret wedding is a mystery for starters. Why she chooses to confess her married status in front of her assembled family during the visit of a prospective suitor for her elder sister Dina (Sandhya Mridul) is also pretty hard to swallow. There are plusses here, including a handful of nifty song and dance numbers filmed in striking locations (shame these aren't subtitled) the bustle of Mumbai is effectively captured in scenes filmed on the city's busy streets and train stations. Vivek Oberoi is a fairly sappy romantic lead but Rani Mukerji is dynamite as the object of his affections. Her deeply felt performance gives the film a grace and energy it lacks elsewhere. Attractively filmed and Dolby sound-mixed within an inch of its life, Saathiya is also a good example of the high technical standards helping Bollywood to make its mark beyond domestic boundaries. The action may be slow for the most part but it finishes with a flourish. There's a major melodramatic plot twist every other minute in the final reel that makes you wish the same punch had been there all along.
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CAST: Vivek Oberoi, Rani Mukerji, Sandhya Mridul, Tanuja, Sharat Saxena, Satish Shah, Swaroop Sampat, Tinnu Anand
PRODUCER: Bobby Bedi
DIRECTOR: Shaad Ali
SCRIPT: Mani Ratnam
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Anil Mehta
EDITOR: Sreekar Prasad
MUSIC: A.R. Rahman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Chetna Prabhu, Priya Raghunathan
RUNNING TIME: 131 minutes + interval
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: MG Distribution
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 6, 2003 (Sydney/Melbourne)