In the film industry, a “logline” is a single sentence that summarizes a movie’s plot. It’s an effective way to pique an audience’s interest or pitch a story to investors. Take Die Hard, for example: A cop’s attempt to reconcile with his ex-wife is derailed when her office building is taken over by terrorists.
Loglines aren’t unique to Hollywood; many great Indian movies can be succinctly summarized as well. Chak De India: The Indian Women’s Field Hockey team must overcome their own internal struggles before they can take on the rest of the world.
I’ve tried to craft a logline for Mausam, and I can’t do it. I don’t know what Mausam is about. Okay, I obviously know that it’s about two young people whose fondness for each other spans decades. So what?
In my example loglines for Die Hard and Chak De India, the conflicts that fuel the plots of both films are contained within the sentences. John McClane is at odds with both his ex-wife and the terrorists. The women’s hockey team fights internal and external battles.
Mausam‘s biggest problem is that it has no conflict. There’s no reason why the lead characters, Harry (Shahid Kapoor) and Aayat (Sonam Kapoor), can’t be together. Their parents don’t object, they’re not engaged to other people, they’re not driven apart by war or culture. Rather, their budding romance is stymied by minor obstacles and a lack of communication.
Harry and Aayat begin falling for one another in Harry’s village in Punjab, where Aayat has moved to escape violent riots in Kashmir. Then Aayat leaves in the middle of the night, without so much as leaving a note for Harry.
Seven years later (in 1999), Aayat and Harry meet again in Scotland. Actually, she spots him first but doesn’t say anything. She waits for him to notice her among all the women in Edinburgh, even though he has no reason to suspect she’d be there.
Her explanation for why she fled so suddenly years earlier? Her dad phoned and asked her to join him in Mumbai. No emergency, and she wasn’t in danger, she just moved house in the matter of a few hours on a moment’s notice.
The couple appear to be on their way to marriage when, this time, Harry is abruptly called away without time to contact Aayat.
Aayat’s excuse for not contacting Harry is difficult to believe, but Harry has no excuse at all. He has Aayat’s cell phone number, her home phone number and her home address. Rather than call Aayat to tell her why he had to leave, he phones his sister in Switzerland and tells her to go to Scotland (without calling first) and meet Aayat in person to explain what happened. Of course, Aayat has herself moved to parts unknown by then.
Harry and Aayat meet several times in subsequent years before they finally commit to a future together during a preposterous action-packed climax. The finale is so stupid, I laughed out loud.
What makes the silliness of actor Pankaj Kapur’s directorial debut such a shame is that Mausam is a great-looking movie. Harry’s hometown is a charming village out of time. There are a number of breathtaking set pieces, as when Harry races on his bicycle to catch Aayat’s departing train. Closeups of Sonam Kapoor — who’s plenty cute on her own — make her look angelic.
Kapur might yet have great success as a director, so long as someone else writes the screenplay.
Another problem that will only affect international audiences is that Mausam‘s English subtitles are translated too literally, something that doesn’t work given the different sentence structures of Hindi and English. Consequently, the jokes aren’t funny, and one must spend so much mental energy reconstructing the words into meaningful sentences that it distracts from the action on screen.
Overall, Mausam proves that style doesn’t trump substance. As gorgeous as it looks, Mausam is too boring and silly to warrant the nearly three hours of attention it requires.