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Don't fall in love . . . rise in love
on December 5, 2005
Taal is almost two movies in one, its two halves linked together by love. What begins in the scenic, provincial setting of Chamba ends in the boisterous city of Bombay. In some ways, it is a conventional love story involving that most star-crossed of romances, one between a wealthy young man and a poor young woman, and all the necessary complications such a love gives rise to. In Bollywood, though, nothing is ever simple - and the whole atmosphere of this film swings ponderously between beginning and end.
Akshaye Khanna plays Manav Mehta, a well-bred young man who comes to India with his fantastically wealthy father and quickly falls in love with Mansi (Aishwarya Rai), the daughter of a local folk singer named Tarababu. How could he not fall for the most beautiful girl in the world? She, her father's only child, resists Manav's affection, afraid to give her heart to a man of such wealth. She is right to fear that Manav's family will not accept a poor girl such as herself (especially his aunt - aunts always seem to pose a major problem for romances in India). She does love Manav, though, and he pledges his everlasting love before accompanying his family back to Bombay. Manav's father had treated Tarababu as a brother in Chamba, but such high regards for the folk singer disappear when Tarababu takes Mansi to be with Manav in Bombay. Mutual insults are exchanged between the two families, and Manav himself sends Mansi away. The love affair looks to be dead and gone at this point, but then Manav learns how his family had dishonored Tarababu when he arrived. Although Mansi wants nothing to do with him, Manav not only renews his pledge of love to her, he remains steadfast in the belief that she will come to him eventually.
Meanwhile, Tarababu and Mansi have been welcomed by Vikrant Kapoor (Anil Kapoor), a famous musician and TV producer who has made all kinds of money remixing the songs of Tarababu. Vikrant takes the simple girl and transforms her into an international singing star - and, as you might expect, falls in love with Mansi. Manav, still confident in his love, shows up from time to time but seems to have lost Mansi forever - yet he still manages to prove his love in the most simple but daring of ways. Herein lies the power of true love; it has the ability to change not only the souls of two lovers, but also the hearts of those around them. A lot of things happen as the story progresses towards its end, leaving Mansi to make the difficult choice of whom she will be with in the film's climactic finish.
Naturally, there are a number of wonderful songs scattered throughout the film, and the movie showcases Rai's beauty across the whole spectrum from young, simple village girl to mega-glamorous international superstar. The whole superstardom thing tends to make the second half of the film a little overblown (and the costumes worn by Vikrant's dancing troupes are just horrible), and I think that takes a way a little bit from the beauty of the film's romance, but the simple truths of this story still shine through. It's a wonderful love story told as only Bollywood can tell it.