Film Review: 'Prem Ratan Dhan Payo'
Opened: 12 November 2015
Cast: Salman Khan, Sonam Kapoor, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Anupam Kher, Armaan Kohli, Swara Bhaskar, Aashika Bhatia, Deepak Dobriyal, Sanjay Mishra, Suhasini Mulay
Director: Sooraj Barjatya
Producers: Ajit Kumar Barjatya, Kamal Kumar Barjatya, Rajkumar Barjatya
As you may have gathered I wasn't overtly keen on the first glimpse of Prem Ratan Dhan Payo. It had a dated, been-there-done-that air about it which it couldn't shake off, and given that I've been subject to some utter headache inducing shite recently, I wasn't exactly enthused about subjecting myself to a three hour migraine, and that too on a Friday night. BUT. Having gone in with virtually zilch expectations, the film for all its archaic schmaltz, and stuck-in-the-80s plot twists sprung a surprise and a pleasant one at that.
With characters that seem to have popped out of Emmet Brown's time machine, Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, is essentially a Prince and The Pauper yarn, which despite being set in the present day, plays out more like a historical costume drama, albeit with cell phones.
The plot revolving around a simpleton, Prem, (Khan) who inadvertently gets caught up in a convoluted conspiracy, involving a royal heir, who incidentally also happens to look like him, is replete with scheming brothers and and bitter step siblings, and of course, an obligatory PG love interest (it is a Barjatya film after all), a princess no less, (Kapoor) who complicates matters by falling for the wrong guy.
It's all very loud, theatrical and hammy, and arguably not to everyone's taste, especially if you haven't been brought up on this kinda Bollywood fodder, and yet despite its prehistoric premise, credit where it's due, Barjatya's film is rather engaging for most of its three hour run time because he fills the film with some lovely moments mainly between Salman and Sonam, and fortunately for him, when the film falters, Salman, despite looking and acting like he walked straight off of the sets of Bajrangi Bhaijaan with his 'Bhai-isms', sees it through with his by now trademark affability and buffoonery.
Make no mistake though. If you go in expecting a film on par with previous Rajshri classics you're likely to be disappointed. Prem Ratan Dhan Payo is essentially a Salman Khan film, and not a Barjatya film – Salman's practically in every frame, and when he isn't it's Sonam who goes into fifth gear, successfully lighting up the few standalone sequences she gets, looking absolutely exquisite besides, and every bit the princess she's supposed to be playing.
Of the supporting acts, Swara Bhaskar and Deepak Dobriyal manage to give a decent account of themselves in spite of their over the top characterisations, while Anupam Kher although eminently watchable, gets stuck with a thankless part – one that he can no doubt probably play in his sleep.
The same can't be said for Armaan Kohli and Neil Nitin Mukesh however, both of whom mostly scowl their way through their caricaturish antagonists – I mean, the film is unlikely to do much for their credibility, but then when was it ever in the running to do that?
For all intents and purposes, there's a lot that's wrong with Prem Ratan Dhan Payo. For one it stretches endlessly and there are some cringeworthy scenes like a ludicrous fight sequence in a mirrored castle which sits atop a waterfall (I shit you not), and yet, despite all of that I can't quite bring myself to give it a sub par rating. Why? Well for one. Salman. Who has this knack for winning you over, despite never really bringing anything new to the table. And secondly, because for all its inanities and implausibilities you never have an iota of doubt that Barjatya can spin an enjoyable yarn and is a man that has conviction in his plot however ridiculous and over the top it appears on paper. And isn't fun what we're supposed to be having at the movies anyway or did we forget that when we all got caught up with being grumpy pseudo-intellectuals?
Go on then. Let your hair down, keep your expectations at bay and go and enjoy seeing Bhai do what he does best. A surprising, and rather unexpected three stars.