Director: Subhash Ghai
Music: A.R. Rahman, Lyrics: Anand Bakshi
Running Time: 173 minutes
From the opening magical musical dream sequence
Taal spills over you in ravishing colors, glorious images and hypnotic
rhythms like a warm luxurious rainfall. The story is simple and fairly
well trodden in Indian films, but Subhash surrounds it with stunning style,
magnificent musical interludes and the iridescent beauty and breathtaking
presence of actress, Aishwarya Rai. This is the film that made me want
to explore Bollywood films further, that shattered my misconceptions of
what a Bollywood film was like. With sumptuous production values, wonderful
settings, thrilling cinematography it has more energy and dazzle than I
have witnessed in a while.
As I mentioned the story is a simple one – boy
and girl fall in love but one of the sets of fathers doesn’t approve and
it appears that all will go badly but true love wins . . . or does it?
There are a number of interesting aspects to this simple story that go
deeper than it might appear. Akshaye Khanna (a well liked and respected
actor in India, but I have to say I thought he was a bit of a twit) is
the son of an extremely wealthy businessman (Amrish Puri) and he and the
family visit their country home for a holiday. While walking through the
countryside he chances upon Aishwarya and her two sisters dancing in the
rain like goddesses of nature having a momentary fling on earth. I think
it was in this musical number that I became an Aishwarya fan for life as
she is beyond stunning in her white dress and the camera lingers on her
every move, her every expression, her every stretch like a cat with cream
on its face.
It turns out she is a local girl and her father
(Alok Nath) is a well-known local singer and songwriter. In a series of
intimate conversations and smoldering eye contacts the two fall in love
– but of course Akshaye’s family doesn’t approve of his love for such a
common girl. Father and daughter visit the family in Bombay to get their
blessing, but instead are humiliated and driven away – and Akshaye misjudges
what has happened and breaks off his engagement.
Enter the incredible Anil Kapoor as an entrepreneurial
music showman who spots Aishwarya and signs her up as a singer. His egotistical
on a buzz high-powered performance is mesmerizing and watching him slowly
soften in his newfound love for Aishwarya is a revelation. Aish becomes
a huge star and Akshaye watches her in melancholy on TV and promises to
win her back. At this point though who are we suppose to root for – the
rich boy with the pained expression on his face or the charming and charismatic
if somewhat manic Anil.
Aishwarya is a former Miss Universe (1994) and
her exceptional beauty will hit you like a truck. Though she is often criticized
for being too cool on the screen (and off), none of that is in evidence
here as she is toasty warm with large luxurious green eyes that will immerse
you in tenderness. Though her character is given less of an edge than the
others, she gives a terrific performance and her dancing routines are fabulous.
When she appears seemingly from nowhere dressed in white dress and halter,
bare midriff on display and her hips swaying seductively to “Ramta Jogi”
you will be reaching for a lifeline.
Enough cannot be said about how great the music
is – every number is excellent and the songs have a lot of variety to them
and you will be humming some of them for weeks afterwards. The numbers
are also extremely well integrated into the storyline and push the narrative
as opposed to slowing it down. Taal means the beat – the beat of your heart,
the beat of life, the beat of rhythm and music here brings it out to perfection.
My rating for this film: 9.0