This Diwali it’s been an embarras de richesses.
Bollywood’s exclusive “Being Human” dynamo Salman Khan has sent countless fans into a frenzy of excitement with a double appearance in Sooraj Barjatya’s romantic magnum op Prem Ratan Dhan Payo.
One Salman Khan in a movie is enough cause for ecstasy (the feeling, not the pill).
Two Salmans in the same film can only mean the Gods are super-pleased with Indians.
And when two Salmans combine with three Sooraj Barjatyas (story, screenplay and direction), you can bet Ram Rajya has arrived on Earth, the cows, Black Bucks and pavement dwellers are safe and there will be non-stop fireworks on the screen.
Say what you will, but Sooraj Barjatya knows his craft and is so in tune with the WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook millennial generation.
So in Prem Ratan Dhan Payo we have Maharajs, Yuvrajs, Rajkumaris, Diwans, horse carriages on winding mountain roads, caparisoned elephants, magnificent palaces on rocky hilltops, glass palaces by the lakeside and dusty towns like Ramgarh and Pithampur where surgery is performed in dimly-lit dungeons and the Yuvraj is protected by suited Praetorian guards wearing dark glasses.
What a great setting! All opening the curtain for a magnificent royal drama, the likes of which has never unfolded on 21st century screens anywhere.
The Yuvrajs fence, talk of Polo, speak in French and, alas, suffer from mortal ailments like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (Yuvraj Vijay Singh has digestion problems).
And the colorfully attired commoners are so ready to break into song and dance at a moment’s notice.
Rajkumaris – Smiling & Scowling
One of the great thrills of PRDP lies in the anticipation.
You never know whether the next frame will feature the smiling Rajkumari or the two scowling Rajkumaris.
Rajkumari Maithili Devi (Sonam Kapoor) with a perennial plastic smile is busy with helicopter charity – touching down briefly to distribute relief items to flood victims and get her cheeks kissed by adoring, grateful children before lifting off into the skies.
The two scowling Rajkumaris are estranged from the Yuvraj and will speak with him only via a lawyer. Elder scowling Rajkumari Chandrika works as a lowly accountant in a small school while the younger short-skirted Rajkumari Radhika is forever in a “Bend it like Beckham” haze.
During a brief touch-down moment, helicopter Rajkumari Maithili manages to touch the heart of our saintly Ram Bhakt hero Prem Dilwale (Salman Khan).
When White people can “always have Paris,” hey, why can’t we Brownies “always have Prem” in Sooraj Barjatya’s films.
I can’t for the life of me understand why people whine that Sonam Kapoor is clueless, graceless and awkward for the entire duration of her screen presence in PRDP.
It’s not as if Sonam has ever shown the slightest sign of talent or displayed the least bit of grace in her many flops. Nor are Bollywood movies made to showcase talent.
Like a dutiful, bright Indian girl, Sonam is following in the footsteps of her elders. After all, Sonam’s Bollywood ‘auntie’ and Prem’s erstwhile Dilwali Aishwarya Rai has established an enduring international brand by non-acting in over two dozen Hindi and English films.
Thanks to Sooraj Barjatya’s brilliant story, we have a repeat of the great Bollywood innovation in PRDP – Two completely unrelated people (Yuvraj Vijay Singh and commoner Prem Dilwale) with no connection to each other look exactly similar.
So when Yuvraj Vijay is attacked and seriously injured in a palace plot, Prem effortlessly steps into the Yuvaraj’s place with the help of the virgin Diwan (Anupan Kher).
Stop sniggering now.
If Vijay can turn into Don in 1978 and 2006, why can’t Prem swap into Vijay’s clothes in 2015?
Now don’t you be surprised with the constipated look of Yuvraj Vijay Singh because PRDP is in part a subliminal advertisement for the expediting power of laxatives to ensure smooth passage.
Pre-laxative Yuvraj = Vijay Singh; Post-laxative Yuvraj = Prem Dilwale.
Why fret about absence of chemistry between Salman and Sonam when there’s plenty of biology in the form of Sonam’s low-back cholis, revealing black mini and Salman’s rippling 18-pack muscles.
In the constant war between chemistry and biology in Bollywood films, I’m a loyal footsoldier on the side of biology!
Before you know it, Sooraj Barjatya has achieved his decade-long objective.
Scowling Rajkumaris are smiling, injured Yuvraj has recovered from his grave injuries (except for a small Bandaid on his back), the commoner Prem Dilwale has won the heart and hands of helicopter Rajkumari and the villanous sibling Yuvraj Ajay (Neil Nitin Mukesh) has reformed into Baba Amte.
If I have any complaints with PRDP, it’s that the film is too short at just 174-minutes and that the other Salman (Yuvraj Vijay Singh) now has no Rajkumari girlfriend by his side. A ménage à trois twist would have made for an avant-garde ending to this charming romance.
Also, if only Sooraj Barjatya had added another 100 minutes, we’d have been fortunate to see the children of Prem Dilwale and Rajkumari Maithili Devi gambol in the royal courtyard and play hide-n-seek in the repaired Sheesh Mahal.
The addition of a few more songs would not have been amiss and provided the commoners, elephants and horses of Pithampur and Ramgarh (in America, we call them the 99%) with more work.
Its minor blemishes aside, Prem Ratan Dhan Payo is a pathbreaking beauty that comes but once in a decade.
Rush to the theatre, fall on your knees in gratitude and savor the moment.