Prem Ratan Dhan Payo – A Review

Sooraj Barjatiya reunites with Salman Khan in Prem Ratan Dhan Payo this time wooing Sonam Kapoor. Barjatiya and Salman have had a very successful run at the box office with movies that were milestones in Bollywood with Maine Pyaar Kiya, Hum Aapke Hai Kaun and Hum Saath Saath Hai. Barjatiya movies aren’t known for their path breaking storytelling or film making – he is known for his wholesome family friendly albeit slightly cheesy song and dance filled capers.  But then again Barjatiya also made the dastardly Mein Prem Ki Deewani Hoon.

With PRDP we are introduced to the Ram Leela actor Prem Dilwale who is the epitome of the typically Sanskaari Prem that we have come to expect from the Barjatiya camp. He is besotted by Princess Maithili who he saw once when she came in a helicopter to a flood relief camp nearly blowing off all the tents that were created on the banks of a river. Yep logic is nowhere to be found in this movie but bear with – maybe the earnestness that seems to have suddenly possessed Salman may help us tide over this minor mis-giving.  Enter Princess Maithili aka Sonam Kapoor.

Sonam Kapoor is pretty as a picture all through the movie – the self-proclaimed fashion icon dons many a beautiful looks. But Sonam Kapoor’s acting skills are non-existent.  Her eyebrows seem to have a life of their own and seem to doing all the acting for her. Sonam’s face seems to be permanently stuck in a worrisome look. Her lackluster dialogue delivery compounds the problem.  Speaking of pretty faces there is the actor with three names and zero talent – Neil Nitin Mukesh. His role in the entire enterprise isn’t exactly clear. Then there is the evil scheming Armaan Kohli who plays the estate’s CEO which is as absurd as it sounds.  Anupam Kher plays the trust worthy diwan of the royal family and carries the entire burden of the old and wise that was usually shared by Him, Alok Nath and Reema Lagoo.

Sooraj Barjatiya was all about a huge ensemble cast with simple stories which would be told with a firmly grounded moral compass which often veered very close to male chauvinism but still managed to pull it off. He was never the big set pieces and opulence guy and his attempt at the same this time around seems halfhearted with no real thought being put in to the outfits for most of the male cast. It seems like Ajay Arvindbhai Khatri regurgitated all over the cast with clothes that are on the clearance rack.  What Barjatiya manages well is the music – the songs are all memorable and hummable. But their dance sequences leave a lot to be desired. While Jalte Diye is a beautiful song the song sequence which tries to marry the Mughal-e-Azam scene with the feather with the color scheme of Chand Chupa Badal mein falls flat and it doesn’t help that Sonam lacks the sensuality of either Madhubala or Aishwarya.

Salman Khan tries his hardest to infuse some fun with his role of a simple village bumpkin pretending to be a prince trying to woo a princess while working to uncover the sinister plot that put him in this predicament in the first place.  The whole climax at the sheesh mahal seems pointless and completely out of place in a Barjatiya movie. The second half of movie seems to be entirely unnecessary just as the football match before the intermission.

Memorable songs, an earnest Salman make this a slightly enjoyable time spent at the cinema but it by no means is a movie I have any inclination to revisit this movie unlike other Barjatiya capers.

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Shaandaar – A Review

Vikas Bahl directs Shahid Kapoor and Alia Bhatt in the Big Fat Indian Destination wedding capers Shaandaar. This is Vikas Bahl, the director of Queen, My top pick for 2014 over Boyhood, Gone Girl and Nightcrawler. Shahid Kapoor who last lived up to his true potential as the Shakespearean hero Hamlet in Haider and Alia Bhatt silenced critics in the surprise hit Highway. Take these 3 and put them in an Indian wedding scenario and there are bound to be fireworks! Right? WRONG!

The curse of Karan Johar strikes again! What we end up is an ill-conceived, badly written, under directed and choppily edited mess that you shouldn’t even poke with a 100 ft. pole. Stay as far away from this as you possibly can.

You have Sushma Seth the matriarch of the family who are quietly going bankrupt who tries to strike a business deal with the Fundwani’s by marrying off their plump daughter Isha to the 8 and ½ pack wielding himbo Robin. There is this plot of the Kamlaji and his daughter in law Geetu who try to keep feeding Isha calorie heavy food to keep making her fat, they promise to gift the groom gold equalling the weight of Isha and then they complain and make snide remarks at her ballooning weight. It makes no sense at all. And for Sanah Kapoor, Pankaj Kapur’s daughter both in the movie and in real life to make a debut in such an uncharitable way is just unacceptable. She is charming and funny and has the marks of being a decent actor (much like mom Supriya Pathak) but she is subjected to such horrible body shaming and name calling that it is unforgivable. More so because there is no redemption for her and no I cannot count the climax as redemption because by then you don’t care about the movie or its characters.

There is an absurd amount of animation in this movie, a frog called Ashok, thought clouds that are full Technicolor dream sequences, Pankaj Kapur’s dreams which he hands to his insomniac daughter Alia which is something straight out of harry potter with a 2-d animation on a piece of paper. There is a set of twins more horrifying than twins from the Kubrick classic The Shinning. Nothing in movie makes any sense whatsoever.

Indian weddings are ripe for storytelling. You can tell it from the point of view of the Barjatias where it is a never ending sequence of rituals and celebrations and it has its own ironic charm where everything is blinged out and amped up and basically sequins on steroids or it goes the deeply dysfunctional Monsoon wedding way where the family dynamics come to the fore. Heck even in Queen the opening sequence was that of a bride being left hanging by her groom right after the mehandi. Anyone who mocks Indian weddings is an incompetent fool who doesn’t know how to tell a compelling story.  But Shaandaar seems the least interested in anything that resembles coherence. Nothing in the movie makes sense and it is a shame because Shahid and Alia are beautiful to look at and come packed with charm and wit and they try helplessly to make a go of things but it is impossible when there is no story to be told.

Shaandaar is also massively let down by Amit Trivedi and his music. there is no memorable song and it seems like there was no effort made. the Hungama Hogaya from Queen which was such an iconic remix, Trivedi tries again here by trying to remixx old songs but the effect is pointless. The cinematography is actually quite lush and beautiful especially the shots of the dawn breaking over the british moors but it is just massively let down by nothing to tie the visuals together. The animation andCGI work which is quite good seems to do nothing to further the story and is sticks out like another tacked on unnecessary piece much like the animated dog and parrot from Mein Prem ki Diwani hun. in reality it almost seems like they looked at Mein Prem ki Diwani hun ( an abomination of a movie) and decided we are going to take all the same elements and show them how to make a good movie . they even had Pankaj Kapur in the mix. but unfortunately for them the results are just as atrocious.

Karan Johar needs to understand that as a producer he cannot be allowed to stamp his brand of glam onto the storytellers like Kashyap (Bombay velvet) and Bahl (Shaandaar). Throw your money at them and let them tell the story they want to tell. No one can do NRI-centric escapist fantasies like he can and if he has an itching to direct then stop being lazy and direct a freaking movie and don’t try to steamroll otherwise decent storytellers. This is an absolute and utter waste of time.