As a movie enthusiast, one awaits successful actor/director combinations to affiliate for yet another film project. Almost three decades ago, MAINE PYAR KIYA  gave 'birth' to one such union -- director Sooraj R. Barjatya and actor Salman Khan. Their subsequent films raised the bar, with moviegoers certain that the duo would live up to the lofty expectations. The film fraternity was equally enthusiastic as well, since the duo struck gold at the ticket counters. Naturally, the hype surrounding PREM RATAN DHAN PAYO is tremendous, more so because Sooraj and Salman team up after more than a decade [HUM SAATH-SAATH HAIN; 1999] for their fourth outing together.
Rajshri, the banner founded by the late Tarachand Barjatya [Sooraj's illustrious grandfather], is synonymous with family sagas mainly. Sooraj has kept the tradition alive, making films that are seeped in Indian ethos and traditions, except that the canvas only got larger with every film he attempted. PREM RATAN DHAN PAYO has opulence in every single frame and one presumes, it's Rajshri/Sooraj's most expensive film to date. What remains consistent, however, is the intent of providing unadulterated entertainment, seamlessly merging romance, conflict, action and dollops of emotions. The supremely talented storyteller, who knows the pulse of Indian moviegoers, promises to offer a complete package in this almost 3-hour magnum opus too.
A few questions cross your mind as you saunter into a cineplex to watch this combo's fourth film together... Does PREM RATAN DHAN PAYO work in its entirety? Is it a worthy successor to the films helmed by Sooraj, with Salman in the lead? With Salman being considered an invincible force after a string of blockbusters, will PREM RATAN DHAN PAYO emerge a monstrous hit as well?
A few naysayers may opine that in this era of plexes, atypical family sagas seem archaic and may stand dim chances at the box-office. The acceptance levels are minimal by those who look Westwards for inspiration. However, you cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that if a film involves you, keeps you glued to the screen for most parts and you eventually root for the on-screen characters, it's bound to win hearts and also walk away with the pot of gold at the box-office. PREM RATAN DHAN PAYO is *that* film. A film that wins you over with its simplistic charm. A film that has all it takes to emerge a money spinner at the turnstiles!
Let's keep the plot line succinct. A conspiracy is hatched to eliminate the prince, Vijay [Salman Khan], days before his coronation is to take place, by his younger brother [Neil Nitin Mukesh] who eyes the throne, riches and power. A lookalike of the prince, Prem, steps in at this point, who loses his heart to the prince's beloved, Maithili [Sonam Kapoor]. What happens next?
Does the plot ring a bell? Well, there's speculation that PREM RATAN DHAN PAYO is inspired by L.V. Prasad's Sanjeev Kumar starrer RAJA AUR RUNK , an Indian adaptation of Mark Twain's novel 'The Prince And The Pauper'. However, the story of PREM RATAN DHAN PAYO bears a striking resemblance to Anthony Hope's novel 'The Prisoner Of Zenda' , which has been adapted innumerable times on film, stage, television and radio. Having said that, the serpentine twists and turns in the screenplay of PREM RATAN DHAN PAYO makes it dissimilar from the above named films.
Sooraj's hold on the script is evident from the commencement of the film itself as he moves from one episode to another swiftly. Like always, the hallmark of his films is the undercurrent of emotions and PREM RATAN DHAN PAYO depicts the familial bonding and the conflict amongst family members skilfully. Additionally, he uses vibrant colours [costumes, sets] and opulence to make it a visually arresting experience. In short, the drama is captivating, the emotional moments are punctuated wonderfully in the narrative [more so towards the second and third acts] and the finale, when the key questions are answered, enhances the seamless narrative.
Blemishes? A couple of them, frankly. The film could've done with a lilting score [more on that later]. Also, too many songs, in quick succession, could've been avoided. The villains' track is half-baked and so is their culmination. The run time could've been shorter too... Thankfully, the plusses easily outnumber the minuses here.
Like Sooraj's earlier films, PREM RATAN DHAN PAYO is embellished with too many songs, but the soundtrack this time ranges from excellent [title track] to hummable ['Jalte Diye', 'Aaj Unse Milna Hai' and 'Prem Leela'] to plain mediocre. The silver lining is, one doesn't mind the mediocre tracks that crop up since the strong narrative more than compensates for everything else. Besides, the title track is a chartbuster and its choreography is the icing on the cake.
Every frame is crafted wonderfully, with the DoP capturing the grandiose sets with splendour. The background score is effectual at most times. Action scenes are limited to the finale. Dialogue are in sync with the mood of the film. A couple of lines do stay with you for sure.
It's sacrilegious to envision any other actor enacting the part of Prem in a Sooraj R. Barjatya movie. When the reels unfold, you don't see Salman, you see Prem and that is one of the biggest strengths of the film. This time around, Salman is cast in a dual role -- while he takes to Prem, the simpleton, like a fish takes to water, he's equally competent as Vijay, the prince. What's interesting is, the two characters are as diverse as chalk and cheese, but it is Prem that's winsome and endearing and Salman makes sure he interprets it brilliantly. This is a Salman show from Scene A to Z.
Sonam Kapoor is earnest. She looks stunning, but more importantly, she carries her part effortlessly. Initially, her pairing opposite Salman did raise eyebrows, but when you watch the goings-on, you realise that Salman and Sonam do make a lovely on-screen couple.
The supporting cast is equally proficient. Anupam Kher is superb, his performance doesn't miss a beat. Cast in a negative role, Neil Nitin Mukesh underplays his part very well. Armaan Kohli, who appears in a biggie after a really long break, does a fine job. Swara Bhaskar is another talent who impresses with a power-packed portrayal. Deepak Dobriyal is fantastic and contributes to the laugh-out-loud moments. Deepraj Rana is first-rate. Manoj Joshi impresses in his part. Suhasini Mulay, Sameer Dharmadhikari, Aashika Bhatia and Sanjay Mishra are decent.
On the whole, PREM RATAN DHAN PAYO is the perfect Diwali entertainer for the entire family. The film will win abundant love [prem], while its investors will reap a harvest [dhan], making it a memorable Diwali for all concerned. This one's a record-smasher -- scoring from East to West and from North to South, scoring at plexes as well as single screens, scoring at metros as well as non-metros, scoring in the domestic market as well as in the international arena. B-L-O-C-K-B-U-S-T-E-R!
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