A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Veer-Zaara -- a Bollywood movie featuring India's hottest stars -- will draw in American fans of star-crossed romance as well as those who love great dancing and costumes. The singing and dancing segments are fine viewing for tweens (they'll see a rum bottle in one song and near-kisses and shoulders bared in another), but they probably won't sit through the rest. The third act especially is dominated by weighty themes. Those who watch can't miss the pleas for understanding and peace between India and Pakistan or the film's strong support of equality for women.
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What's the story?
Told in flashback from a Pakistani jail cell, VEER-ZAARA introduces young, female human rights lawyer Saamiya Siddiqui (Rani Mukerji) who's determined to free Veer Pratap Singh (Shah Rukh Khan), an Indian prisoner who has remained silent and nameless for 22 years. Saamiya somehow knows Veer's name, which finally gets him talking: His life as an Indian air force rescue pilot changes dramatically when he meets Zaara (Preity Zinta), a Pakistani girl who crosses the border alone to fulfill her Indian nanny's dying wish to have her ashes taken to her homeland. Veer falls for Zaara the moment he rescues her from a bus crash and eventually compels her to visit his family's village for the festival of Lodi. After a night of dancing and celebration, Veer's uncle urges him to woo her before she hops on a train home. But Veer loses his nerve when she's met at the station by her fiance. Zaara is determined to do her duty to her family and forge a political alliance with her marriage, but can't get Veer out of her head as she prepares for the wedding. Seeing her torment, Zaara's maid Shabbo (Divya Dutta) calls Veer and urges him to cross into Pakistan. Despite what it may cost him, he doesn't hesitate.
Is it any good?
If Veer-Zaara stuck to the intense romance and the fantastic soundtrack, this Bollywood feature would have had a real shot at some Hollywood bucks. Especially when you add in the head-turning star power of Shah Ruhk Khan and Preity Zinta. But most Americans will have a hard time making it through act three's never-ending court scene and will find the long speeches about peace and understanding between nations more heavy-handed than poignant -- important sentiments certainly, but way overstated here. And then there's Zaara's dad almost literally dying of dishonor -- that's melodrama for you.
Back to the singing and dancing: when Veer sings about beautiful Northern India you'll want to visit immediately. We see saris in a stunning array of bright colors dot miles of lush fields and a village carnival bursts into merry celebration. Shortly after, Indian icon Amitabh Bachchan makes a great cameo in a raucous Lodi festival number. Just try to keep from getting up and dancing along. Even the slower love songs will hold viewers, especially as Zaara dreams about seeing Veer everywhere while she prepares for her wedding. You'll be as hypnotized as Zaara and tempted to wish the movie would never end. But careful what you wish for.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about their favorite love stories. Do you like against-all-odds drama? Or do you prefer romance mixed with comedy? Do you like it when the actors are big stars (Khan and Zinta are superstars in India)?
For teens and up, what did you learn about Indian-Pakistani relations? Where can you find out more?
This Bollywood movie tried very hard to show what makes Indians and Pakistanis the same. Can you think of any Hollywood movies that try to convey similar messages about peace and understanding?
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