Ever wondered what a nineties’ Rajshree-production nostalgia, brewed with bits of Hum Saath Saath Hain, Bend It Like Beckham, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, action a la Matrix and Dabangg, Bhansali-esqe grandeur, bad acting, and the return of the evergreen Prem would feel like? It would feel exactly like it sounds: a relentless and stressful roller coaster, called Prem Ratan Dhan Payo.
Barjatya’s latest film does not risk leaving anything to the imagination. In the times of either ‘masala’ movies, or gritty realistic films, PRDP is an exotic bird. It holds the viewer’s hand through a three-hour-long lesson in ‘How to annoy your audience by explaining every single plot point.’ Not straying from his style, Barjatya clutters the film with everything Rajshree: be it sanskar or sappy music. The only missing link is the beatific Alok Nath.
The film tries to justify its 180- minute length time by packing in a lot. Sadly, there is not much to like. Even seasoned actors like Swara Bhaskar and Anupam Kher could not save this royal mess. Performances by the rest of the cast, including the protagonists Sonam Kapoor and Salman Khan, are terribly forced.
The plot is as loosely stitched together as can be. Essentially revolving around a domestic conflict over property rights, it is wrapped with the shiny plastic of morality and familial love, between a set of half-siblings, born to a ‘colourful’ king in a kingdom unheard of. Each conflict is resolved individually, making the film an ultimate exercise in patience.
Poor characterisation is another of the film’s follies that could have been avoided, had the filmmaker realised that this is the 21st century. No, Mr Barjatya, smart phones, and fancy gadgets are not the only signifiers of modernity; free-thinking individuals are. What is most troubling about the characterisation is the clear dichotomy between domesticated women and the quintessential 70’s vamp. One’s dressed entirely in desi garb, the other in outfits that barely cover the essentials. One’s evil, the other’s not. Why the filmmaker chooses this approach is beyond comprehension, like much else about this film.