Film: Prem Ratan Dhan Payo
Cast: Salman Khan, Sonam Kapoor, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Swara Bhaskar, Anupam Kher, Armaan Kohli, Deepak Dobriyal
Director: Sooraj Barjatya
A lot has changed in the Hindi film industry since 2006, the last time Sooraj Barjatya’s name flashed across the screens as a movie’s director. His Vivah didn’t exactly set the box office on fire, at least not on the lines of what his earlier films Maine Pyar Kiya, Hum Aapke Hain Koun and Hum Saath Saath Hain did on the ticket windows. Cut to 2015 and Barjatya has now rehashed the same formula in his latest venture, Prem Ratan Dhan Payo (PRDP), complete with a masterstroke: He roped in Salman Khan to up the film’s star value a million notches.
There is a problem, however. PRDP leaves you asking one big question: Are we ready to gulp down a mouthful of cheesy romance that is high on ideals and moral values?
It all begins in Ayodhya where Prem Dilwala (Salman Khan) is the self-appointed keeper of the collective social consciousness. After announcing his arrival with ‘Kisi ke haath chalte hain, kisi ke pair chalte hain…humare dono chalte hain’, he sets on a task to meet Princess Maithili (Sonam Kapoor) of Devgarh Fort. After some heavy-duty emotional scenes, he manages to enter the fort, but is left aghast at the deceit and treachery of a royal household. Prem, along with his friend Kanhaiya (Deepak Dobriyal), decides to be a part of all this, of course with noble intentions. Come on, this is a Rajshri film, not any Anurag Kashyap narrative. Can Prem crack the code and infuse happiness all around? Does he succeed in keeping the fort’s age-old traditions alive? Will you call your mother at the end of it? Will you return the entire cutlery you have stolen from hotels? Will you use a towel to wipe off your tears before the end credits?
Salman Khan set a benchmark for the ultimate Boy Scout with his Bajrangi Bhaijaan act, and now he surprises us even more. His character is so virtuous that you will walk out of the theatre fighting a morality crisis. He has a counterpart in Maithili who is solidly under-pressure to perform as per the royal decree. Our Miss goody two-shoes runs an NGO, eats at not-so-classy restaurants and wears matching clothes. And yes, she sometimes likes to flaunt her little black dress for some ‘quality time’ with her fiancé. Just to make sure the message is conveyed to the audience, Diwan Jee (Anupam Kher) explains ‘quality time’ with a lot of hesitation and innuendos. On second thoughts, you need to do this in a film which is strictly vegetarian in its approach. For your reference, people eat veg korma, tanduri bhindi and butter chole in PRDP. It’s all so ‘saatwik’ (pious), you see. Sweets lovers, don’t feel left-out, laddu-pede-jalebis have also been given ample screen time.
Kher as Diwan Jee is on an extension of his Saudagar (1991) role. You get what makes a proper ‘family’ film: Two families, fighting for land, none of them blessed with humility or family love. But, if it doesn’t ends well, then ‘Picture abhi baaki hai mere dost’. So, to complete the rest of the film, we have Yuvraj Ajay Singh (Neil Nitin Mukesh), Rajkumari Chandrika (Swara Bhaskar), Rajkumari Radhika (Aashika Bhatia) and some loyalists. One of these loyalists is Chirag Singh (Armaan Kohli). Remember Jaani Dushman Ek Anokhi Kahani?
It’s not like the director is absolutely sure of his own screenplay, but he chooses to keep marching on the road better travelled. In one of the scenes, a very important character is getting treated in a dungeon. Another one asks: “Why don’t we shift him to some hospital with security?” Diwan Jee says, “We can’t trust anyone,” which translates into ‘go take a walk haters, and don’t leave your logic behind’. That’s why I didn’t dare to even smile when Khan says, “Aap paristhiti ki gambhirta ko samajh nahi rahe hain.”
Take my words: Elephants, camels, palaces, exotic dishes and soft background score can’t make you happy. You need a family in order to be happy. So true, but isn’t it a bit stretched statement to make through a 174-minute film?
Salman Khan is quite likeable in PRDP. In fact, his comic timing has gotten better in recent times. Add to it the many honey-coated dialogues that make the proceedings funny. For example, Sonam says, “Ram jaisa kahenge Seeta waisa hi karegi.” As if they have already accepted themselves as divines. It’s a different matter that some religious people might get offended with Seeta breathing passionately. They keep delivering dialogues in slow motion. The pattern they follow is ‘dialogue – crescendo rises – dialogue – song.’
Himesh Reshammiya’s lullabies are the perfect icing on the cake: Enough to make PRDP look like a film straight out of the ‘80s.
The trouble with PRDP is, fun-filled scenes turn into tearjerkers in a moment, and you don’t know what’s hit you. It has everything a quintessential Hindi ‘masala’ family film would crave for. But take our advice: Go with a full packet of tissues, you will need all of them. To me, PRDP stands for ‘Poor Rich Devout People.’