It’s been 11 years, no holding back:
The story, saturated in hysterical dramatics, is a love triangle that spans continents and a wide array of emotions. Sameer (Salman Khan) is half Indian/half Italian (sure, that’s believable) who visits India to learn to sing from a renowned musician who keeps a mansion full of eligible, young women and gossiping family members. Aishwarya is Nandini, his strong-willed and also musically inclined daughter. Surprise! Nandini hates Sameer at first, but eventually the two fall in love. Stupidly keeping their romance a secret (because it’s more fun that way), our love/songbirds get in serious trouble when Nandini’s hand in marriage is given to fledgling lawyer Vanraj (Ajay Devgan), and the 8 months-long affair with Sameer is harshly exposed.
After Sameer is banished from the opulent haveli, Nandini (in a coma of depression) marries Vanraj, who eventually finds out about her sordid past and makes it his life’s mission to reunite his begrudging wife with Sameer. They go to Italy, and after a series of random events (Nandini gets shot - say whaaat?), they eventually find Sameer. But Nandini’s feelings have changed. She now realizes that love = sacrifice, and so she loves that Vanraj sacrificed so much of himself for her. She explains and apologizes to Sameer, and then runs into the arms of Vanraj.
What they did right: The soundtrack, by Ishmail Darbar and Mehboob (lyrics), is exceptional and by far the best part of the entire production! Each song is wonderfully composed and choreographed to tell the evolution of the characters. The costumes and sets are lavish, vibrant, and give a good impression of the family’s lifestyle in the first half of the film.
What they did horribly wrong: Bhansali must have thought audiences were really dumb or wouldn’t care - the second half of the film is set in Italy, but the crew actually worked in Budapest, Hungary and made NO efforts whatsoever to pretend that they were in Italy! There isn’t even stereotypical B-footage of the Colosseum or the Trevi Fountain to suggest the setting. Instead, we see Hungarian landmarks, signs and words, and actors whose dialogue was obviously dubbed into some kind of gibberish Italian. Watching it 11 years later, it is quite obvious and embarrassing. Also, with the runtime being about 3 hours, it seems they could have really used an editor!
Casting: Ash (and her arrestingly beautiful eyes) does a great job with her headstrong/devastated character. It is clear that she is talented - not just by dancing marvelously, but also moving the story along with just her expressions. Ajay Devgan has some great lines about what it means to be a man (his father asks him where is his manhood if he can’t control his woman! yeah…filmi gems like that are sprinkled in). Sameer and his mother, played by yesteryear bombshell Helen, are obnoxious most of the time and barely likable. It is obvious that SLB transferred some of his own father issues to Sameer, who thinks of God as his deceased father’s BFF, and yells/talks to him throughout (why not talk directly to your dad then?). Also, since Sameer is supposedly a good singer I would have liked his voice to be consistent; but when he opens his mouth we hear Shankar Mahadevan, Kumar Sanu, Udit, and Vinod Rathod at various times (which I don’t really mind since the songs are so good!).
Apparently, Indian audiences in 1999 were dumb and SLB made fools of us all, since the movie became a super-mega-blockbuster hit and received praise and awards from all directions. So here I was, thinking that this movie was a classic of sorts (it did cement Ash’s status as a star), but now I see the reality - it does not stand the test of time and cannot be considered a quality production, a mere decade later.