Monday, November 9, 2009

Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani (2009)

There is a distinct difference in how Romantic-Comedies are interpreted by filmmakers and audiences in Hollywood and Bollywood. While American movies tend to be Romantic movies with a measure of comedy thrown in, contemporary Bollywood makes them primarily as musical comedies with a love-story theme. While Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani is firmly set in present-day Bollywood mannerism, Rajkumar Santoshi's inspiration is classical Bollywood. This lends the film a distinct adorable flavor that many modern comedies lack.

Prem Shankar Sharma (Ranbir Kapoor) is the president of Happy Club, a rag-tag association formed by a handful of unemployed youngsters that operates out of a coffin shop. While they mostly indulge in harmless mischief, they occasionally help unite separated lovers. When Jenny (Katrina Kaif) and her family move into their small town, Prem falls in love, Jenny is sent to Goa, Rahul (Upen Patel) defies his father (Govind Namdeo) who just wants to win the elections and Sajid Don (Zakir Hussain) just wants some money, and probably respect.

Rajkumar Santoshi is well-known for his excellence in action and drama (Ghayal, Chinagate, Khakhee, Damini). The one goof-ball comedy he did make, the iconic Andaz Apna Apna, gave us an idea of the kind of humor he is capable of executing. Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani is populated with equally wacky moments of fun that make the movie an effective comedy. Nevertheless, Santoshi lays the comedy on a simple-love story. In the tradition of romantic comedies from the 60s, ala Tere Ghar Ke Samne, Pyar Kiye Ja and Kashmir Ki Kali, the story spends several emotional moments with the leads that adds depth to the movie, giving it a charming resonance. However, with his last few movies not cashing in at the box-office, Santoshi (perhaps at the behest of his producers) undoes some of the good work by going for commercialism. Thus, the movie falters in pacing. There are instances when the obvious is overplayed Рspending too much time either in exposition or in observance, including two clich̩ scenes that remain a la mode in Bollywood.

A big triumph of the movie is its lead actor Ranbir Kapoor. This stalwart prodigy from the Kapoor clan brings in the charisma of a star, combines it with a wonderful chemistry with leading lady Katrina Kaif, and packs it up with fantastic comic timing. Like his grandfather, father and their brothers, Ranbir Kapoor has his own charming style that makes him instantly likeable. Paired opposite him, Katrina Kaif finally delivers what can be called a performance. Santoshi maneuvers her vulnerable beauty, guiding her with a deft hand through a role that she makes her own. Darshan Jariwala, the erstwhile Gujrati theater actor turns in a fine comic performance as Prem’s father, reminiscent of the two fathers from Andaz Apna Apna. Pritam’s triumphant soundtrack, especially “Tera Hone Laga Hoon”, enhances the required musical quota to an enjoyable indulgence.

After a dozen movies, eight of which have won him numerous awards, Santoshi has given us a movie that aims to serve the single purpose to entertain. That it mostly does so, and with his known ludicrous style, is a welcome achievement. That it misses out in some ways is unfortunate. Although not touching the ridiculous height of Andaz Apna Apna, it is nevertheless a worthy companion for the “Rajkumar Santoshi Comedy” label.

My rating --> 3.5 of 5

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