Saturday, November 7, 2009

Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani - A sweet love story!

Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahni is that rare film these days – a modern update on the classic romantic masala format that retains its Bollywood dil, instead of going Hollywood on us. Ajab Prem is a totally cynicism-free film, full of all the earnest good cheer and well-meaning moral lessons that I want from a Bollywood film. If sunshine, rainbows, lollipops, and vintage Kapoor smarming aren’t your thing, then 1) it’s possible you have no dil and 2) Ajab Prem is not for you. Everyone else, keep reading!! I’m keeping this as spoiler free as I possibly can – the only cameo mentioned is Upen Patel, and you see his name in the credits.

The story takes place in the small town of “Wellington,” where Prem (Ranbir Kapoor) is the local good-hearted troublemaker. Prem and his band of friends – including, I think, one of Imran Khan’s friends from Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na - roam about town, scrounging free food from Prem’s dad, who runs a local restaurant, and doing the occasional good deed to justify their existence as the Happy Club.

(Be sure and note that the time-honored filmi tradition of keeping framed photos of oneself in one's room is still alive and well.)

Prem is a good person at heart but is still a little immature. He dropped out of school, quit every job he ever had, and is wearing on his parents’ last nerves. Enter the beautiful girl-next-door, Jenny (Katrina Kaif). Of course, he immediately develops a crush but as the film progresses, it slowly deepens to love as he learns what it is to care for somebody other than himself. I don’t want to give to much of the plot away but let’s just say that Prem takes too long to confess his feelings and Upen Patel makes a special guest appearance.

While the story itself isn’t anything new, it is presented in a very fresh way. Ranbir Kapoor is completely charming as Prem, channeling a young Shammi Kapoor, and he pulls off some very entertaining gags and outrageous dance moves. Ranbir does again what he did in Bachna Ae Haseeno and takes a character that I would normally find unappealing and makes him sympathetic. As played by Ranbir, Prem isn’t just another lazy guy waiting for destiny to strike, he’s a guy who is just waiting to gather the motivation to grow up.

Make no mistake, this is Ranbir’s film and he carries it effortlessly.

Katrina Kaif is lovely as Jenny. I know some have criticized her acting abilities, which, to be fair, can be shaky at times, but she has this natural grace that serves her well. They dressed her down for most of the film and she looks sweet, instead of her normal glamorous look. Jenny, as a character, was wonderful. She’s uncertain about her place in life, but she is not afraid to take a stand when need be. Her natural hesitance and protective emotional barriers make it very plausible that she wouldn’t see the signs of Prem’s love and would get distracted by Upen Patel’s more direct and macho appeals. Also, she works at a library and loves books. How could I not love her character?!

Although this was Ranbir’s film and the story told from his point of view, I thought the film – and Katrina - did a nice job of establishing Jenny as a person, instead of just another Dream Girl.

As for the story itself, it really felt like a modern version of a Shammi Kapoor film. Prem and Jenny are not wealthy NRIs - they’re middle class and live in smallish houses instead of sweeping palaces with three chandeliers. Upen Patel, as the rival, was a wealthy prince type, and the film played with one of my favorite tropes – showing the wealthy to be awful and greedy.

Boy-meets-girl may be an old chestnut but I can’t emphasize enough how fresh the film felt. The direction was very entertaining. The comic-book style of some of the sequences is engaging and adds a twist to the love story. The Christian-angle was actually used to further the plot, instead of just being there for show and the songs were very enjoyable. I almost wished they had squeezed in one more! The costumes and the set design were gorgeous. I loved almost every single dress Katrina wore and Ranbir looked sharp without looking wealthy.

I’m sure I’ll have more to say once I see it again – this film is one I plan to purchase on DVD!


Anonymous said...

This sounds exactly like something I'd love. I always have a hankering to watch ordinary people who don't live in huge sprawling mansions.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, interesting review. I don't think I will have time to go to the theater, but it sounds like something I would like on DVD.

Filmi Girl said...

@nayika I hope you get to see it!! Yes, I was very pleasantly surprised to see that Ranbir and Katrina lived in normal houses and wore normal - if rather nice - clothes. :D The whole film was wonderful!

@myrna_nora It should hold up well on DVD... :) I hope you get to see it eventually. Shammi Kapoor for the 2010s!

Anonymous said...

I'll see anything that's Shammi-like :)

But I have to wait for the DVD.

Anonymous said...

I saw this last night and loved it! I've become a huge Ranbir Kapoor fan and I've seen everything of his so far (I know it's not much, but still.) I think he has so much character and is charming as all get out. I think he had great on screen chemistry with Katrina and I'm glad they paired a younger couple together for once. I'll join you in recommending this one!

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

Sold- it definitely looks light enough to be a relaxing and happy watch. Thanks!

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