It can now be told. Sooraj Barjatya's eagerly anticipated Diwali bonanza Prem Ratan Dhan Payo is actually a variation on Mark Twain's The Prince & The Pauper where two lookalike heroes, a commoner and a royalty, exchange places to see what the other one's life feels like.
The two roles are played by Salman Khan.
Revealing this and further information, a source close to the project says, "More than Mark Twain's novel The Prince & The Pauper, Sooraj Barjatyaji is a fan of the 1968 film Raja Aur Runk which was based on the same classic novel. The film is also inspired by the Dharmendra starrer Yakeen and the Shashi Kapoor starrer Haseena Maan Jayegi where the leading lady's beloved is replaced by his double. That explains Salman's look of discomfort and guilt as Sonam Kapoor dances all around him in the song 'Jalte diye'."
Raja Aur Runk was produced by the legendary L V Prasad. The Marathi actor Mahesh Kothari played the two roles in Raja Aur Runk. The film was popular for its music composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal.
Sooraj Barjatya's Prem Ratan Dhan Payo sees the return of Salman as the Bhagwan Shri Rama-avatar Prem. The ideal son, brother and family-man which Salman played in Sooraj's Hum Aapke Hain Koun and Hum Saath Saath Hain was lost in an avalanche of bad-boy-with-a-good-heart roles.
The Swach Bharat government brings to us the newly-repackaged clean-boy Salman in Barjatya's Prem Ratan Dhan Payo after Kabir Khan's Barjrangi Bhaijaan where Salman makes a political pitch for Indo-Pak amity.
Says a close buddy of the actor, "He is doing roles that have a certain image-consciousness about them. Earlier too he never played chichora roles. He would never misbehave with women no matter what the nature of the role. He never kissed his heroines. Now he's doing roles that are much more than time-pass. In Barjatya's film he is the archetypal Rama from Ramayan. In Kabir's film he is a guy who wants peace between India and Pakistan."
So is this a new politically conscious Salman?
"It's the same Salman. But more committed to making his films a tool for a better society," says Salman's friend.