‘Mirzya’ mixes time periods in stunning retelling of tragic Punjabi Mirza-Sahiban legend

(ROMP Pictures)

Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Mirzya, which opens today worldwide, offers the story of a doomed love triangle that literally transcends time, thanks to a novel—for Bollywood—storytelling technique.

Mirzya essentially interweaves three stories: the central Punjabi folkloric legend of legend of Mirza-Sahiban, a thinly related contemporary take on its tale of tragic romance, and a sort of gypsy music-and-dance commentary that loosely ties the other two together. So structurally, Mirzya is anything but a typical Bollywood film.

Cinematically, it’s truly stunning, especially in its mythical depiction of the folkloric segments. Newcomer Harshvardhan Kapoor (Bolly superstar Anil Kapoor’s son) as the Mirza-derived character suitably fits the role of warrior-on-horseback, firing arrows at aggressors—and exploding bombs and missiles–with blazing speed and accuracy in breathtaking desert and lake locales. As the gorgeous Sahiban character Suchitra, fellow newcomer Saiyami Kher (granddaughter of actress Usha Kiran and niece of actress Tanvi Azmi), in exotic costume, explains Mirza’s fateful desire—which carries over to Kapoor’s Munish character in the contemporary parallel.

The mesmerizing slow-motion photography of the folklore fantasy also carries over into the contemporary scenes, most notably in the polo sequence starring another newcomer, Anuj Choudhry, as Karan, the prince who is Munish’s rival for Suchitra. But what really brings out the intensity of the film’s romance through the ages is the music, composed by the famed Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy Bollywood team of Shankar Mahadevan, Ehsaan Noorani and Loy Mendosa, and delivered most notably by the great Punjabi bhangra king Daler Mehndi.

Mehndi has a robust tenor reminiscent of Pavarotti and infuses his Mirzya songs with the dramatic urgency sought by Mehra. His is the perfect voice to convey the immortal love that is the credible heart of the film, that for audiences unfamiliar with Mirza-Sahiban, might have been otherwise missed.