Ajab Prem ki Ghazab Kahani
The goofy, good-hearted hero is as old and as likeable as Dev Anand. He is without complexity or dark shades, laughing away woes and worries. He gets the heroine at the end, not because of his will or sex appeal, but because of poetic justice—because the good guy usually gets the girl.
Lead pair: Ranbir Kapoor and Katrina Kaif in Ajab Prem ki Ghazab Kahani.
Anand, Raj Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor and Shah Rukh Khan donned this role exceedingly well—remember SRK in Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa wooing Anna, the Catholic girl, played by Suchitra Krishnamoorthi?
Ranbir Kapoor, in Rajkumar Santoshi’s new film Ajab Prem ki Ghazab Kahani, is that kind of a guy.
In a charming town somewhere in India, with gurgling streams, brick roads and quaint cottages, Prem (Kapoor) lives with his parents. He doesn’t go to college or have a job, he can’t speak English, and he is a vegetarian. He is the president of the Happy Club—a place where people play carom and lovers meet. It’s a way by which Prem and his five friends make some money. His father, a working-class man, considers him a wastrel.
Prem falls in love with Jenny (Katrina Kaif), an orphan who was adopted by the Braganzas, a cruel family who want her to marry Tony, a rich man’s son. Prem wants to tell Jenny he has fallen in love with her, but never finds the right time to do it. Meanwhile, Jenny falls in love with a spoilt brat—the son of a power-hungry politician. Prem discovers this a little late in the story, and helps the couple elope. A comical, nutty don and his group enter the plot and much hilarity ensues, with fight sequences where smoking pipes suspend people mid-air.
Santoshi has had success with comedies of this genre. In 1994, he directed Andaz Apna Apna, with Aamir Khan and Salman Khan in the lead. Here too, he is adept at extracting good performances (Kaif, an incompetent actor, is surprisingly good in some scenes) and nailing the laugh-inducing moments. The film is sharply edited, and despite some loud and unnecessarily long sequences, it kept me hooked.
But you should watch this film because of Kapoor. In Wake Up Sid, it was obvious that he loved the camera and that the camera loved him. In Ajab Prem ki Ghazab Kahani, he lifts a formulaic script to make it funnier and warmer by many shades. His comic timing and delivery of dialogues (some of which are tediously long) are impeccable, and he uses his body for great comic effect. The lead pair has crackling chemistry together—a pair to look forward to.
Don’t hit me when I say this, but I am convinced that as an actor, Kapoor is a few notches above SRK, Anand and his own grandfather.
For Madhur Bhandarkar, “reality” is an amalgamation of stereotypes. Ever since his first film Chandni Bar (2001), he has dealt with stock characters and milieus, intending his films to be tell-all references to these worlds—the “reality”, as he conceives it, of the world of fashion, the corporate world, the world of socialites. In his new film Jail, he enters the world of criminals.
Behind the scenes: Madhur Bhandarkar (right) directs actor Neil Nitin Mukesh in his latest ‘reality’ offering, Jail.
Parag (Neil Nitin Mukesh) is in prison after being convicted of a crime he did not commit. His girlfriend (Mugdha Godse) and mother struggle for two years to prove his innocence, but fail continuously. Meanwhile, the lives of the jail inmates unfold. Clichés collapse on clichés as the film turns into another “reality” drama—gritty in intent, but shallow as it progresses.
A philosophical, benevolent man who got caught in a situation beyond his control (Manoj Bajpai), an impetuous lover convicted of murder—the staples that Bhandarkar chooses to focus on inside the jail are all good, innocent people who had momentary lapses of reason and committed a crime. Nobody is a dangerous criminal in this jail. As if to complement the stereotypical characters, the script has some shockingly trite lines and each character is given a predictable idiosyncrasy.
Mukesh showed promise in his first film Johnny Gaddaar, but performed poorly in his next two films. Here, he is once again woefully laboured as an actor. A man harrowed by a false sentence, the character moves from hope to violence to depression in the two years that he is in jail. In most scenes, Mukesh is so awkward and contrived that I felt little sympathy for Parag.
Bhandarkar’s faux-seriousness is tiresome; I think I’ll skip the next vanilla film he makes, possibly with titles such as “Court” or “School” or “Hospital”.
Ajab Prem ki Ghazab Kahani and Jail released in theatres on Friday.