No, I don't know how to pronounce this, either. Let's not focus on that. Instead, let's pay attention to the fact that Saawariya is an industry first. This is a Sony Pictures release, and I don't mean that they are just the distributor. This was their project from the get go, making it the first Indian movie to ever be fully produced by a Hollywood studio. If you are unclear as to the distinction, that's understandable. Titles such as Bend It Like Beckham and Bride and Prejudice were made by foreign producers then distributed here in North America by studios who had the access to exhibitors.
If you want to argue that 2002's The Guru qualifies, that was an American production with largely American cast and filmmakers. It was written by Tracey Jackson, directed by Daisy von Scherler Mayer and starred Heather Graham, Marisa Tomei, and Christine Baranksi. Saawariya was written by Prakash Kapadia, directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, and stars Ranbir Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor (no relation), and Rani Mukherjee. You can see the difference, right?
All of this trivia about the project's uniqueness is less important than what it is about. If you have seen a Bollywood movie, you have a pretty strong idea. Saawariya is a romantic musical, which means it will have exotic set pieces, lavish dancing sequences and an utterly incomprehensible plot. Okay, the jury is still out on that last point but if it's like most Bollywood musicals, the odds are pretty good. The storyline appears to involve a man and woman, one of whom is on vacation while the other is waiting to meet a lover. When they encounter one another, all thought of the outside world is lost and what follows is a passionate love affair straight out of the Moulin Rouge! playbook.
Saawariya is a daring project for Sony, but this is one that could prove to be a masterstroke if it manages not to be a disaster. Yes, that's a pretty wide diversity of terms of upside, but that is where it stands. Saawariya is a multi-faceted marketing campaign intended to test North American audiences to see if they are ready for an entirely different style of film. While I have difficulty imaging this movie being a true box office success, the film's financial performance is but one aspect of its potentially lucrative nature. Should the soundtrack catch on, this popular style of world music could reinvigorate the music industry while also boosting awareness of the movie itself. I am not expecting that to happen, but I have no doubt that this was part of the reason Sony boldly decided to undertake the production. Saawariya as a movie would be on shaky ground. Saawariya as a brand could catch on in the same way that High School Musical has, albeit obviously not to that degree of popularity. Will that happen? I guess it depends on whether the music is any good and whether the movie is as obfuscating as every Bollywood movie I have ever seen has proven to be.
One last thought: Saawariya could work its way into being a player for the Academy Awards as its costume and set design could be a factor for some of the lesser awards while its music could sneak some nods as well. (David Mumpower/BOP)