An unabashedly hokey but ultimately engaging romantic drama that marks the feature writing-directing debut of vet Indian actor Pankaj Kapur.

Exceptionally attractive soulmates are repeatedly separated by wars, riots, religious strife, terrorist attacks and their own chronic inability to discover each other’s forwarding addresses in “Mausam,” an unabashedly hokey but ultimately engaging romantic drama that marks the feature writing-directing debut of vet Indian actor Pankaj Kapur. The pace occasionally flags during its marathon length, and the over-the-top, steadily escalating melodrama of its extended climax might have struck even D.W. Griffith as excessive. But the charismatic performances of the appealing leads likely will help sell this overstuffed package to auds attuned to Bollywood’s trademark immoderation.

Rising star Shahid Kapur (“Kaminey,” “Kismat Konnection”), the helmer’s son, persuasively traces a daunting character arc as Harry, first glimpsed in 1992 as a happy-go-lucky young gadabout who hangs with homies in rural Punjab while eagerly awaiting acceptance by the Indian Air Force. He’s immediately smitten by Aayet (Sonam Kapoor), a comely newcomer who’s been sent to his village to escape strife in Kashmir. She’s Muslim, he’s Hindu — yet that doesn’t matter much to them, or their families. Unfortunately, she has to relocate around the same time that he gets his call to duty.

Fast-forward seven years, and the two are reunited in Scotland, where Harry is training with the RAF and she’s operating an antique store with her dad and uncle. But just when it seems they’re ready for wedding bells, Harry is ordered back to India to fly fighter jets in the Kargil War. And then the road to happily ever after gets even bumpier.

There’s more than a touch of “Top Gun” to Harry’s wartime heroics – an impression reinforced by sequences in which the pilot is glimpsed revving up his motorcycle – but the special-effects team isn’t up to the challenge of making the bombings and emergency landings entirely believable.

Another problem: Since the bulk of the pic takes place in 1999 and beyond, it’s difficult not to wonder why the frequently separated sweethearts don’t simply keep in touch via email. Showing unanswered letters accumulating at a long-abandoned house is a sweetly old-fashioned touch, but that retro gesture isn’t quite enough to enable a willing suspension of disbelief.

Still, many auds will be more than willing to overlook a plethora of plotholes and technical flubs to savor this star-crossed romance. It helps a lot that Kapoor is fetching and affecting while running the gamut from girlish exuberance to melancholy and terror over a several-years span. She and co-star Kapur are sympathetic and well synchronized in their charmingly intimate moments, and in two elaborate musical numbers — particularly a first-act wedding sequence that showcases Ahmed Khan’s choreography and a rousing tune by composer Pritam.

Mausam

India

Production

An Eros Intl. release of an Eros and Vistaar Religare Film Fund presentation of a Cinergy production. Produced by Sheetal Vinod Talwar, Sunil Lulla. Directed, written by Pankaj Kapur.

Crew

Camera (color), Binod Pradham; editor, Sreekar Prasad; music, Pritam; production designer, Sami Chanda; costume designer, Annamika Khanna; sound (Dolby Digital), Subhash Sahu; choreographer, Ahmed Khan; assistant director, Baljeet Singh Marwah. Reviewed at AMC Studio 30, Houston, Sept. 23, 2011. Running time: 166 MIN.

With

Shahid Kapur, Sonam Kapoor; Anupam Kher, Supriya Pathak. (Hindi, English dialogue)
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