At the surface level, the story of Rab Ne seems to be screaming for a different genre of filmmaking — a creepy, psychotic thriller exploring the dynamics of arranged marriage, infidelity, cinema and escape. Seriously, how else would you treat a film about an introverted, ordinary-looking, boring man who develops a split personality on learning that his wife would never love him and then, conspires to make her cheat on his boring real self by messing with her head and complicating her already vulnerable state!
But this isn’t an art-house Anurag Kashyap-experiment to end with political incorrectness. It’s as mainstream as it gets as Aditya Chopra sugarcoats this dark subtext, treating it like any other superhero story. Considering that the ‘Raj’ type in Hindi cinema is a superhero of sorts in the sense that he always wears a flashy costume and can make any girl fall in love with him, Aditya treats this character type like Sam Raimi would treat Spider-Man and also borrows a trick or two from Hollywood’s romantic comedies — the makeover segment or the dance competition ploy to weave the plot around.
Superhero ‘Raj’ slips into costume and out, complains how it gets uncomfortable around the crotch, to win over his Mary Jane with not much saving-the-world business to keep him busy. But while Spidey does it for a bigger reason than just MJ, Raj’s sole motivation is to stalk his wife and play out his fantasy as somebody else. His obsession with his alter-ego reaches new heights when he wants his wife to cheat on the real him — the goofy Surinder Saini who starts off well.
Every few scenes, at every stage of complication, the voice of reason and romance in the form of the larger-than-life Vinay Pathak asks Surinder why he doesn’t tell his wife the truth. But Suri Paaji just wants to mess with wifey’s head. If that aspect of the film does not irritate you, you can be assured that you will be thoroughly entertained watching Shah Rukh Khan’s dual role as a superstar and actor. While a superstar plays the same type over and over again, an actor tries to break the mould and reinvents himself. Rab Ne is that rare film where an icon gets to feed both the actor and the star in him and Shah Rukh Khan revels in both these roles, breathing life into the longest of monologues, to the point of making you shed a tear for the character, which at least on paper, fits the description of a psychopath.
To Aditya Chopra’s credit, Rab Ne is a fairly engaging tribute to cinema and its function over the years with some finely written and choreographed songs (music Salim-Sulaiman) that provide the perfect platform for debutante Anushka Sharma to dance her way into the big league. Ravi K Chandran’s obvious attempts to fill up the frames with yellow and earthy tones do not go unnoticed and that’s never a good thing. Extras strut in and out of frames with cued in precision even in the scenes that call for realism. Three-film-old Chopra Junior needs to make more films before he’s completely out-dated especially since today’s young filmmakers pay much more attention to background detail.
Rab Ne is an adventurous experiment, a happy albeit superficial compromise between art-house and commercial cinema, a product that’s best described by the leading man’s moustache and glasses. Clearly fake and wannabe art-house but as long as there’s the familiar Raj around to entertain you with his flirting, singing and dancing routine, you really don’t want to complain.
Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi
Director: Aditya Chopra
Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Anushka Sharma, Vinay Pathak
Storyline: A very ordinary-looking common man brings home a pretty wife and hopes to make her fall in love with him.
Bottomline: Return of the ‘Raj,’ the Mohabbat-Man