It's Bhopal..in the present, though it could well be 1908. Because the Rajshris live in a world of their own, and their films are watched by people who probably populate that world too.
Based on of their own productions (Tapasya-1976), which in turn was based on the even older Vachan (1855) and there is always the Ritwick Ghatak classic Meghe DhakaTara, which can't even be mentioned in the same breath as this. They are all about a women 'sacrificing' her own happiness (read: marriage) for the sake of her family.
Kaushik Ghatak, the director of Ek Vivaah Aisa Bhi, used to make soap operas before this and the style remains the sameâ€”the restless camera and wailing songs (Ravindra Jain) running almost throughout the film, telling you in verse what you can already see happening on screen. So pervasive is this background track, that there is barely a moment of silence or introspection in the film.
Chandni (Eesha Koppikkar) is an aspiring singer, who lives in Bhopal with her father (Alok Nath) and two younger siblings. She meets another singer Prem (Sonu Sood) at a music competition and they fall in love.
The film is inhabited by stock Rajshri characters â€“ the father's aloo-paratha gobbling doctor friend, the heroine's chirpy Muslim friend, the hero's Sikh and Muslim buddies, an evil aunt and her hen-pecked husband.
On the day of the engagement, the father dies; Chandni is afraid her siblings will suffer if she leaves the house, so she calls off the marriage. Prem, who is devoted to her, promises to wait till she is ready. She becomes a music teacher and he goes on to become a famous singer.
Years later, when the brother (Vishal Malhotra) marries a bitchy rich girl (Chhavi Mittal), she asks Chandni why she could not have sent the kids to boarding school, where their education would have looked after, so that she could have pursued a career. Which sounds like a sensible, practical solution, and makes Chandni's sacrifice (and by association Prem's), needlessly masochistic.
But the rich girl is called Natasha, speaks English, and wants the ghastly decor of their precious house changed, so she must be vamp. She also complains about power cutsâ€”when today, generators are easily available.
Chandni looks increasingly harried, but wants to continue her 'sacrifice' till the sister (Amrita Prakash) gets married and goes abroad too, driving most viewers to tears of frustration, and poor Prem to exasperation.
To make heavy-duty melodrama workâ€”especially since it makes so little sense todayâ€”actors of calibre are needed. Eesha Koppikkar doesn't look like simpering comes easy to her and has a harsh voice. Sood appears to be completely out of place, like he'd much rather be fighting in other film than standing around looking gooey-eyed here.
It may nice to see a universe where people are mostly good and noble, and there must be an audience for this kind of filmâ€” people who watch domestic dramas with overdressed women on TV, and mistake it for Indian values and culture. That doesn't mean the film is not boring, bland and irrelevant.