India 1985
Directed by Ramesh Sippy.

A small fishing village. Mona (Dimple Kapadia) helps her father run the local pub. Her childhood friend Raja (Kamal Hassan) is the best fisherman in the village. He loves her, but to her they're just friends. Enter Ravi (Rishi Kapoor), the wealthy inheritor of his vicious, scheming grandmother's professional fishing operation. He spends time in the village with the locals, falls in love with Mona, and she with him, and becomes best friends with Raja. When he later discovers that Raja is in love with Mona, he is devestated, and the two friends begin one-upping each other on how much they are willing to sacrifice for each other.

The love triangle in SAAGAR is of the traditional variety -- and I mean really traditional -- it goes back to the epic tale of the Ramayana, with the undying, true love of Rama and Sita being echoed in Mona and Ravi, and the undying friendship between Rama, Sita, and the monkey god Hanuman echoed in their relationship with Raja. At one point in the Ramayana, Hanuman tears open his own chest, so everyone can see that Rama and Sita are imprinted on his heart. This is a serious friendship, and so it is here. At one point, as Raja selflessly helps the two lovers, Mona says to him, "I thought Gods only existed in the stories." To which Raja, still in love with her but unwilling to do anything to ruin her happiness, replies, "Some of us are not lucky enough to be human."

Even so, the melodrama in SAAGAR is a bit too subdued to be entirely engaging. Moments that would usually lead to extended misunderstanding, years-long enmity, and violence, here are resolved in just a few scenes. Dramatic conflicts are set up, then quickly dropped. Even the wicked grandmother is unable to sustain an extended bout of wickedness. So the story stretches on.

The casting also creates some problems. Mainly because Kamal Hassan creates a likeable and attractive, rough and tumble character in Raja, yet we are to believe that Dimple Kapadia falls for Rishi Kapoor instead, who has had many great moments in his career, but here, appears to be just another goofy looking over-weight guy with poor fashion sense and a pompadour.

It was easier for Indian audiences to imagine, though. SAAGAR is Dimple Kapadia's comeback movie after a twelve year absence, during which she married star Rajesh Khanna, had a couple kids, and got divorced. Getting back into the business, it was a natural to star her opposite Rishi Kapoor -- the same actor she worked opposite in her debut film BOBBY in 1972. No one viewing this movie on its release would have thought for a second she would end up with any of the other actors on screen.

The producers decided on one more way to spice up her return to the movies -- nudity. I've never seen any in any Bollywood film, except perhaps the occasional back, and of course bare belly buttons. But Dimple actually has a brief topless scene in SAAGAR. It was shocking and controversial and thrilling to audiences at the time, but it did not mark a beginning of more and more nudity in Indian films. Even today, the brief nudity comes as a complete (though not unwelcome) surprise. The scene lasts perhaps no more than a second, an accidental disrobing, a flash.

So Dimple Kapadia fans should probably seek out SAAGAR (and probably have already). Otherwise, it is a well made film, let down by poor scripting.

Rating: Marginally Recommended (Marginally Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on January 08, 2005.


dimple, in whatever sensuous role you act, you have such a grace that any man who loves art, will come to know that you are born for acting. You are, no doubt, great. I am proud to be an Indian because you are one of a few reasons. My country gave birth to such a great artiste. It is degrading myself to say i am your fan; no- i am your devotee. you have a magnetic vibe which i feel just looking at your photo. regards.

Posted by: santosh kesav at April 15, 2005 02:34 AM

Saagar was not Dimple's come back movie. It was Zakhmi Sher.

Posted by: Rajib at March 24, 2009 09:53 AM
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