Prem Ratan Dhan Payo: A cracker that we haven’t outgrown

A still from Prem Ratan Dhan Payo  

In one of the most evocative scenes of Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, Anupam Kher, the trusted master of ceremonies in many a Rajshri film, tells Salman Khan that simplicity is your biggest prize. Indeed it is, not only his, but director Sooraj Barjatya’s as well. Together, they take us back to a pristine cinematic utopia, which the mind finds hard to react to but the heart responds. It is like that Diwali cracker that continues to catch our fancy.

At a time when Hindi cinema is digging deep into complex realities of modern day family, Sooraj makes a shiny statement on tradition and values of joint family. No wonder, the villain of the piece is a CEO, who manipulates members for the family to his advantage. It is something for it is hard to find a black character in Rajshri’s universe. The CEO is the only character who doesn’t seek redemption. It seems like a comment on the times when even relationships are managed, when money is everything. Sooraj stretches the Brajatya barometer a bit this time and looks at the corrupt practices that have seeped into the Hindu family system. He makes a case for sister’s share in family property. There is a patriarch who wants to bring his love children and legitimate kids under one roof. And above all Prem is an outsider here who comes to the family to spread love and underline the value of relationships.

Genre: Drama
Director: Sooraj R. Barjatya
Cast: Salman Khan, Sonam Kapoor, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Anupam Kher, Swara Bhaskar, Deepak Dobriyal
Having said that at the core it is a loose adaptation of “The Prisoner of Zenda”, and on the top it is yet another Rajshri film where the contraption of mush and melody rules with strains of melancholy and mirth liberally thrown in between. Logic is again in short supply and once again many will find that the idea is dated. But over the years the banner has managed to strike a chord with the ingenuous amongst us. Take the case of a crucial scene where the prince of a state turns a sober event into a football match between boys and girls in all age groups. It looks juvenile on the surface but this is Sooraj’s way to teach gender equality to an audience who don’t want to spoil their nail paint in scratching the surface. Or those who don’t want to believe anything that doesn’t meet the eye!

It starts from Ayodhya and Ram Leela, the setting of the biggest family drama of all times, and quickly moves on to unravel Prem leela. Prem Dilwale (Salman Khan) is a big-hearted, small town artist, who contributes liberally to a charity run by princess Maithili (Sonam Kapoor). This time when he learns that she is coming to the neighbourhood state, he decides to meet her in person. Little did he know that the state is ruled by prince Vijay Singh (Salman in a double role), who is his look alike. Those who have read Anthony Hope’s novel or have watched its several permutations would know that the prince becomes a victim of a family intrigue on the eve of his coronation and is replaced by the simpleton by the loyal Diwan (Anupam Kher) of the state.

In Sooraj’s films not much happens in terms of plotlines and surprises but here Salman ensures that the single layered screenplay doesn’t become drab. He enjoys the moments and makes the infantile-looking situations work. It is also a kind of screenplay that suits Sonam’s style of acting. There is not much to convey between the lines and Sonam sparkles in such an atmosphere. As the coy Rajshri heroine, who largely tows the hero’s line, she simpers her way through and it doesn’t come in the way of a film which is self aware. Neil Nitin Mukesh, as the scheming brother, who doesn’t want to live under the shadow of his elder brother, has not much to do after an imposing entry scene. Arman Kohli, as the CEO, has returned after a long while but he seems to be still reeling under Jaani Dushman’s hangover.

They are stereotypes that fit into the Rajshri crossword without demanding any clue. It is Deepak Dobriyal who rises above the staple friend. Similarly Swara Bhaskar manages to make an impact as the step sister and Anupam Kher shows how repetition doesn’t necessarily be dreary. His scenes with Salman provide some sinew to the melodrama. Wish Himesh Reshammiya were a little more consistent in a film that runs for almost three hours to accommodate all his compositions. Wish the dialogues had a little more punch. Wish Sooraj reflected a little more on the darkness beneath the light but overall it is a family get together that you don’t mind attending in festive mood.

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Printable version | May 7, 2021 3:14:28 PM |

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