The wedding in Mere Brother Ki Dulhan takes impossibly long to fructify. The impediments are merely the snowballing effects of the problem that the film’s title itself gives away—the man is up against his brother, and by extension, the holy cow, the family. Who gets the bride and how is then the question.

Poor execution: (from left) Imran Khan, Katrina Kaif and Ali Zafar in Mere Brother Ki Dulhan.

Luv Agnihotri (Ali Zafar), who has an ugly break-up with his “BBCD" girlfriend in London (“British-born confused desi" is just one of the many clichés, all of which collapse on one other by the end of the film). He calls his brother Kush (Imran Khan), who is an assistant director in Bollywood films, vacationing in Dehradun, their hometown, and asks him to find a good Indian bride. “I want to settle down," Luv says.

Kush’s search begins with the help of their parents. After many failed visits to the homes of prospective brides, all of whom are an amalgamation of all the “Indian woman" stereotypes a lazy writer could possibly muster, they end up at the Delhi home of a diplomat whose daughter, Dimple (Katrina Kaif), Kush had happened to meet five years ago. She was a rock chick who hung out with men, got arrested by the police for staging a concert for thousands somewhere by a highway. She also smoked spliffs.

Dimple is not yet the tamed shrew Indian celluloid men love, but a woman looking for a “package" to marry.

Who falls in love with whom, how, and what it takes to ensure it’s finally a big family wedding is a staggering exercise in mindless, hack writing—full of platitudes, no surprises.

The drunk, tottering heroine is now an overused “new Bollywood" axiom. Dimple, standing atop a car bonnet and impersonating dialogues from Sholay, is painful to hear and watch because of the way the scene has been acted and executed. There are many such scenes in which writer-director Ali Abbas Zafar tries to overreach his limits and fails. There are no moments that have even a semblance of cinematic magic.

The cinematography, music and choreography are mediocre. The cinematography by Sudeep Chatterjee is strikingly banal and the visual scheme is worsened by numerous, unnecessary fast-forwards and slow-motions. Delhi, Dehradun and Agra, where the film is set, are mere backdrops—having the Taj Mahal in the frame when in Agra does not really count.

Khan seems quite indifferent to his role—and the awkwardness with which he played his early roles is evident again—and Kaif’s lack of acting skills is sorely obvious again. Zafar, who was promising in Tere Bin Laden, appears to be trying too hard—his mannerisms are laboured, and in some scenes, distinctly mirror those of Shah Rukh Khan’s.

Mere Brother Ki Dulhan is representative of the tendency to extrapolate the classic Bollywood romance to suit an ill-conceived “new Indian youth" milieu invented by writers, producers and studios. This new Bollywood romance—a well-executed example of which is Band Baaja Baaraat, also produced by Yash Raj Films—is often bereft of great romantic moments and is driven largely by caricatured milieus and the sweeping idea that Indian youth has changed and so romance has to change.

The charming, in-between world of Raj and Simran in Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (world citizens with an Indian heart) is replaced by a world where the hero and the heroine negotiate contrived extremes. Dimple, while in college, is frustrated with Indian hypocritical attitudes towards gender (she also, quite bizarrely, leads a caravan of college students on a north Indian highway with a guitar in her hand), and in her later avatar, becomes a willing candidate for arranged marriage. Luv is confused till the end about whom he loves and why. Kush is a do-gooder who can’t go it alone with the woman he loves. For all of them, family is supreme.

Such writing is confused, but safe. It kowtows to the notion that even though there are aberrations to the rule, that even though the young Indian strays and smokes marijuana, even though it is now okay for him to be an assistant director in Bollywood films and for her to be footloose with a guitar in her hand while in college, he and she come back to participate in the great Indian wedding shebang.

It could be close to reality, but when popular cinema regurgitates society’s worst conventions through stories told shoddily and half-heartedly, it can’t rise above polished trash.

Mere Brother Ki Dulhan is one such film. The stereotypes and the complete lack of wit or originality do not justify its running time of two-and-a-half hours.

Mere Brother Ki Dulhan released in theatres on Friday.

* Film Review | Contagion

Middling thriller: An easy watch.

Director Steven Soderbergh takes an easy subject—that of a mystery disease spreading across continents and killing millions—for his new suspense drama, ‘Contagion’. Tailor-made for box-office success, but nonetheless made in the director’s restrained, realistic style, the film is an easy watch. The clues to the mystery are accessible, and most scenes are quite literal.

With a star cast that includes Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow in the roles of regular people affected by the disease, and Kate Winslet as a medical professional in a tizzy, trying to arrest the mystery killer with her team of doctors, ‘Contagion‘ is a middling thriller.

‘Contagion’ released in theatres on Friday.