Pankaj Kapur’s Mausam is an unfortunate mess of a movie about a pair of young lovers who spend more time apart than together, because they don’t know how or where to reach one another when they’re repeatedly separated. The film opens in 1992 and spans roughly 10 years. In the age of email, answering machines, and mobile phones, these dim-witted lovers never leave forwarding addresses or contact numbers. To think Bhagyashree had better luck getting a love letter across to Salman Khan using a pigeon!
The romance in Mausam unfurls in a small town in Punjab where a cocky drifter, Harry (Shahid Kapoor), and Kashmiri girl, Aayat (Sonam Kapoor), find themselves falling for each other over quietly exchanged notes, and hushed whispers on a rain-soaked terrace. These early establishing scenes are the film’s best portions; a believable portrait of youth, in which lazy afternoons are spent chewing sugarcane with friends after sneaking off with an uncle’s impala, or stealing furtive glances at one’s crush during a noisy wedding.
Director Pankaj Kapur infuses his story and his characters with a delicate, old-fashioned charm that is pleasing and quaint at first, but gets progressively exhausting when logic goes out of the window. The romance is first interrupted by the events surrounding the destruction of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, and then repeatedly by such tragedies as the Kargil War, 9/11 in America, and finally the riots in Gujarat in the wake of the Godhra massacre. Far from giving Mausam a sweeping feel, these interruptions in their romance — and the harebrained suggestion that the helpless lovers have no means to communicate when separated — make a case for how passive these characters are.
At some point, Harry has grown into a proud, mustachioed Indian Air Force pilot, and Aayat into a graceful ballet student in Edinburgh. Harry postures like a Ray Ban model each time he’s standing against his jets, and Aayat only seems to speak in whispers. The problem with Mausam is that it’s shrouded in a cloak of self-importance; everyone from the actors to the writer-director appears to be taking himself too seriously, as if determined to deliver nothing short of an epic.
Plodding along for close to three hours, Mausam loses steam early on. By the time the film hobbles to its end at a riot-stricken Ahmedabad fair, all you can do is gasp. Gasp in complete shock at the inconceivably embarrassing climax that involves a Ferris wheel, a crying child, and a horse. This one scene alone hints at just how desperately this script was begging for a rewrite!
To be entirely fair, Mausam isn’t without its moments. The film’s first 30 minutes are fresh and enjoyable; and while he doesn’t quite cut it as a convincing IAF pilot, Shahid Kapoor is terrific as the small-town brat. Sonam Kapoor has a grace about her that’s charming, although she’s saddled with the kind of corny lines that would make even a thespian lose his nerve. But what both actors lack together, unfortunately, is sizzle — they have the chemistry of a pair of strangers.
I’m going with two out of five for director Pankaj Kapur’s Mausam. As you leave the hall exhausted from the sheer length of this misguided enterprise, you cannot help but note that despite its many flaws, this is a noble failure. The film doesn’t work, but not for lack of trying.