I’ll be upfront. I have never really like Sooraj Barjatya’s films. No, not even Hum Aapke Hain Kaun. And no, not even pretended to like them in case someone asked me at a wedding. This is why I entered the cinema hall with understandable trepidation, prepared to be either dulled out by Barjatya’s trademark Doordarshan-era Sanskaar or by some more of Salman’s Bhai-gasms.
Fortunately, I was only wrong on one count.
Read on to find out.
Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, hereinafter referred to as PRDP for the sake of brevity has Salman Khan portraying two different characters (Because, what is better than one Salman Khan? The answer, two Salman Khans). Prem Dilwale (Bhai) is the star attraction of a rather enjoyable Ram-Leela troupe in Ayodhya, when he meets Princess Maithili (Sonam Kapoor), who runs an NGO for disaster-struck people.
As Bollywood wisdom suggests, a crush develops and Prem soon follows her to Pitampura (Or someplace to that effect. And no, not the Delhi-wala). Enter Prince Vijay (Bhai, again) who as it happens is engaged to Maithili and is the supposed head of a family of step-sisters and step-brothers.
Lo, behold and switcheroo and…. You know the rest.
WOOS: The thing with watching a Sooraj Barjatya film is that grudgingly, you will almost always come out admiring its production design. The lavish sets, the intricate ornaments, the very extravagance of all the sets and palaces is actually pretty gorgeous to watch (Even though it becomes an eyesore soon enough). Barjatya and his production team, especially the Art department gets the flavour of the characters’ environment just right, with each and every element made to add a touch to the world these characters inhabit.
Salman Khan. As a person who watches most of his films with alternating smirks and grimaces, I have always better appreciated him when he has underplayed his characters, a boiled down version of the Bhai persona he seemed to have make his own in the past few years. Which is why I was pleasantly surprised after watching him in Bajrangi Bhaijaan (A fairly tolerable fare, with some charming performances). PRDP has more of the same, and he comes off fine with it, neither bailing nor blowing the roof off with his performance. Plus, as it happens this would be the best performance in the film. By far.
MEHS: For over two decades, Sooraj Barjatya’s recipe for a successful film, has always been much of the same. One Tablespoon of family values, two teaspoons of Sanskaar and Bhakti and a pinch of sweet, PG-13 love in a cauldron of a Joint family (Albeit, somewhat downsized this time around). However two decades later, it has become more exhausting than entertaining. Sentiment and emotional grandstanding notwithstanding, PRDP tries to include themes such as familial bonding and sibling rivalry to create some tension but, in the absence of a good script, it just comes off as more dull, and just more boring.
The acting is well, strictly okay. Sonam Kapoor does what she does best, looking pretty. And to be honest, she really does. But, the illusion is broken as soon as she has some dialogue. The rest of the cast, Anupam Kher and Neil Nitin Mukesh of GoT-infamy do not fare well either. Armaan Kohli looks like he found some money stumbling out of the studios of Jaani Dushman while the usually wonderful Swara Bhaskar is reduced to nothing.
The music by Himesh Reshammiya is the most snooze-worthy set of songs I’ve heard in a really long time. And they are so, so many of them. *Yawn*
VERDICT: Sooraj Barjatya’s Prem Ratan Dhan Payo is a film that should have been released 15, or even 10 years ago. It is the kind of film Alok Nath watches on a Saturday night, and not really the good kind. PRDP is pleasant and quaint, and is even mildly tolerable for most of its running time. But, when a film is almost three hours long with almost a dozen songs, it’s pretty much given that you’ll walk away exhausted and frustrated. PRDP is exactly that. Approach with caution, fellow cinephiles.
I give it a generous 2/5.