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Saathiya: Rani Mukerji, Vivek Oberoi’s tale on domestic bliss was as mainstream as it was authentic

Shaad Ali’s debut directorial, which released 19 years ago in December 2002, comfortably oscillated between being an off-beat boy-meets-girl narrative and a commercial potboiler.

Pratishruti Ganguly
Dec 22, 2021
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Saathiya, starring Rani Mukerji and Vivek Oberoi in the lead, marked director Shaad Ali’s debut as a filmmaker. Ali chose to remake mentor Mani Ratnam’s Tamil blockbuster Alaipayuthey, incorporating minor changes to set the story in Mumbai doldrum. Nuanced, layered and sensitive, Saathiya comfortably oscillated between being an off-beat boy-meets-girl narrative and a commercial potboiler zhuzhed up with AR Rahman’s music with immense recall value. The commercial trappings were not hard to spot. It cast as its female protagonist, Rani Mukerji, one of the most bankable Hindi cinema stars, and ensured that there were enough flights of fancy sequences to keep the audience vested into the daily squabbles of its characters’ lives.

Despite the critical acclaim that Saathiya amassed, the turn of the century hardly saw filmmakers taking a deep-dive into complex relationship tales. Chalte Chalte (2003), which released a year later and depicted the crumbling marriage of a couple from different socio-economic backgrounds, was decent enough for the time. However, there was only so much the film could communicate about love with a sexist hero and a meek heroine at the centre.

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In Saathiya, its male protagonist Aditya is a rich, entitled brat. But he is not really unlikeable, neither does he resist change. Similarly, its female protagonist Suhani wears her responsible, independent persona with pride. The first half of the film spends time developing the brewing romance between Suhani and Aditya inside crowded Mumbai locals, surrounded by hollering men and women trying to unsuccessfully wiggle in and out of the trains. Their different economic backgrounds are subtly hinted at in the beginning, but as the film progresses, the rose-tinted glasses come off to reveal the scabs and burns of a bruised relationship.

In Saathiya, its male protagonist Aditya is a rich, entitled brat. But he is not really unlikeable, neither does he resist change. Similarly, its female protagonist Suhani wears her responsible, independent persona with pride. The first half of the film spends time developing the brewing romance between Suhani and Aditya inside crowded Mumbai locals, surrounded by hollering men and women trying to unsuccessfully wiggle in and out of the trains. Their different economic backgrounds are subtly hinted at in the beginning, but as the film progresses, the rose-tinted glasses come off to reveal the scabs and burns of a bruised relationship.

poster

Saathiya was neither the Archie-comic inspired Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, or the ultra urbane take on relationships like Dil Chahta Hai. The characters in Saathiya live in a decrepit apartment in Mumbai because none of them can afford to rent a bigger, flashier house. Their space looks lived-in, organic and brimming with life and vitality. Their friends are often found gatecrashing their humble abode, indicating the perpetual lack of space in Mumbai for middle-class youths.

In all fairness, Saathiya does turn tragically sluggish in the second half of the film, when the marital issues start cropping up. From insecurities rising from miscommunication to the fear of social chastisement, Saathiya touches upon many-an-issue, but the resolution is arrived at without much trepidation or sweat. Okay, maybe some blood, but despite dialling up the stakes to a freak accident, the climax feels just that much synthetic and formulaic.

Nevertheless, 19 years later, Saathiya’s lilting music, its immensely likeable leads, and a satisfactory resolution make the movie an apt holiday watch. If you are avoiding saccharine this Christmas, Saathiya is the perfect bittersweet love story for a generation battered by cynicism.

Watch Saathiya here


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