With Salman Khan returning to the filmmaker and banner that is very much responsible for his growing popularity over the years, there has been much excitement and intrigue for ‘Prem Ratan Dhan Payo’ which has been this year’s Diwali release. The film was full of promise of Khan at his best once again but this time in a double role – with one being the much-loved Prem which he has always been known as ever since ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’ (1989). Sonam Kapoor is Khan’s leading lady in the film and her dance steps and the popularity of the title track of the film has done wonders for the anticipation and fun factor for the film’s pre-release. However, as much as the film has been awaited, does it actually live upto the expectations that audiences will undoubtedly have?
The story surrounds Prem Dilwale (Khan) who is largely obsessed with a Princess called Maithali. He is trying hard to meet her and accidentally gets spotted by King Yuvraj Vijay Singh’s security guard. He is taken to a royal forte with the promise of a meeting with the Princess, who is the fiance of Yuvraj, but he becomes entangled in stepping in for Yuvraj, who he happens to look like. Yuvraj himself is bed-ridden just days before his coronation is due to take place after an attempt was made to kill him. How long will Prem be able to keep up the pretense?
Rajshri Productions are primarily known for their family-oriented films and ‘Prem Ratan Dhan Payo’ is no different. Writer and director Sooraj Barjatya has made a decent attempt to bring his own and Rajshri’s signature style up-to-date with the current times. It wouldn’t be entirely right to say he has instilled modern-day values in the film which make Rajshri unrecognisable but it would probably be best to highlight that ‘Prem Ratan Dhan Payo’ does well in creating a balance somewhat of the traditional and the contemporaneously acceptable. Audiences who know Barjatya’s past films well, which starred Khan, such as ‘Hum Aapke Hai Koun’ (1994) and ‘Hum Saath-Saath Hain’ (1999), will also pinpoint that ‘Prem Ratan Dhan Payo’ brings the antagonist to light in a very different way. Barjatya has achieved to some extent what he set out to do which is deliver a decent film with a strong story which not only retains a genuine family-feel but also gets the audiences on side. It would be wrong to say that there are no shortfalls but the director has definitely shot the film in a crisp, easy-on-the-eye and contemporary way which reflects exactly what the audience will have expected.
As far as performances go, it cannot go without being said that Khan shines in both of the roles he plays in the film. His reprise of Prem is indeed the one the audiences will side with as Barjatya has done his best to make him as likable, innocent, comic and good-hearted as the audiences will remember him to be. Khan fits in well with the role, showing that he is the ultimate Prem no matter how many other actors have attempted to step in in recent years. However, Khan’s portrayal of Yuvraj is the one which seems to stand out. He is prim and proper, he is awkward in certain situations and his temper is something many are scared of but Khan seems to essay this role with just as much ease as Prem. Barjatya and early reports about the film depicted that one of the roles Khan would be undertaking in the film would have negative shades. It was a little disappointing that he wasn’t a little more “evil” but it probably wouldn’t have been quite as fitting to the storyline if he was.
When it comes to Kapoor, her performance as Princess Maithali is breezy and refreshing for a Rajshri film. Here is a character which is a modern-day Rajshri heroine who isn’t only dressed in traditional wear and who isn’t afraid of showing her other half when she feels something isn’t right. Maithali is also a lady who dips into her roots but yet remains the kind of girl-next-door which wouldn’t normally be associated with her royal ancestry. Kapoor seems to manage most of the character well but there were some parts where she seems a little mismatched with Khan. For the most part, their chemistry is particularly poignant and one of the best things about the film but it seems in others they are a little out of their depth. In certain places, something is lacking and this is probably the same thing which lacked in ‘Saawariya’ (2007) when they first shared the screen.
The ensemble cast which consists of the likes of Anupam Kher, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Swara Bhaskar and Armaan Kohli did well in their respective roles but there was a lack somewhat of an older generation of an extended family which Rajshri have previously included in their films. The emotions of certain characters are a little haphazard, with forgiveness and hurt taking place as readily as love and attachment. Mukesh comes across well despite sharing the screen with Khan and should be given his due for the role of Yuvraj’s younger brother. Kohli is definitely very out of place in most of film but the climax scenes sees him as the villain pulling the strings – this is a little confusing but he plays the baddie well. There are some quality scenes between Kher and Khan and Bhaskar and Khan’s characters which are a highlight of the film.
The ‘Prem Ratan Dhan Payo’ soundtrack gives a great yesteryear feel with a few songs which would fit in perfectly with the music that there was in the 90s. The title track has been the most popular with the audiences but it is Jalte Diye which steals your heart on screen and off. When watching the film, the first half seems to have a song every few minutes. This does have a tendency of leaving the audience a little bewildered but Rajshri movies are always known for multiple songs throughout a film which reflect the characters’ feelings when a scene or dialogue may not – ‘Prem Ratan Dhan Payo’ is also the same.
One would have wanted ‘Prem Ratan Dhan Payo’ to have ticked all the boxes and emerge a great success. Whilst the latter is definitely possible, the former seems to be a bit of a struggle. The story remains engaging throughout despite the number of songs and Barjatya has tried to give his trusted audience a film with a difference which still comes across as familiar. Apart from the quite expectedly sugar-coated feel in some parts, ‘Prem Ratan Dhan Payo’ pretty much does as it says on the box. It’ll make you laugh, it’ll warm your heart and it might even make you cry but, most of all, it’ll help you appreciate the Prem that Barjatya created 26 years ago. The same one who still seems to be magic even now.
BizAsia Showbiz rating: 3.5/5