Santoshi Strikes Back!
AJAB PREM KI GHAZAB KAHANI. Director: Rajkumar Santoshi. Players: Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif, Govind Namdeo, Smita Jayakar, and Upen Patel. Music: Pritam Chakraborty. Theatrical release: Tips Music Films.
After a long hiatus from comedy and the disastrous political thriller Halla Bol(2008), Rajkumar Santoshi brings back his signature slapstick sense of humor, a la Andaz Apna Apna, with the retro-titled Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani. This time, the genre is rom-com (romantic comedy). With a star studded cast of Kapoor and Kaif, expectations are high, but Santoshi delivers; Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani is a funny, silly, cartoonish comedy best enjoyed with a total suspension of disbelief. It will leave you with a smile on your face, humming a happy tune on your way back from the theater.
The film begins with a poorly conceived sequence of gags and misunderstandings, but quickly picks up when we are introduced to the life of Prem Kumar Sharma (Kapoor) and his happy-go-lucky friends, who together form the Happy Club. Prem and his friends try to bring happiness to people’s lives by uniting long lost lovers and other such acts of kindness. But mainly, they just sit around and gab.
Prem meets Jenny (Kaif) in a farcical comedy of errors and, after a series of misunderstandings, a friendship develops between the two. The budding romance is bound to encounter a roadblock or two, but the film maintains a light, humorous feel throughout and doesn’t radically shift gears at any time. The comic sequences become sillier and sillier as the chaos and havoc come together at the climax.
Kapoor delivers yet another solid performance. His boyish good looks, comic timing, and dance skills make him the perfect candidate for this generation’s romantic comedies. For a change, when a character is supposedly just out of college, he actually looks it. Kaif looks good, and has improved in her acting, though her Hindi is still jarring. However, since she plays a Christian girl, the bad Hindi is somehow justified. Upen Patel plays a small role and looks quite terrible. His acting is even worse and one can’t help but wonder why Santoshi cast him for this important role. It’s a pleasant surprise to see talented ensemble actor Govind Namdeo in a comic role for a change, and he does a good job as always in his small role.
Ajab Prem builds on the theme of romantic love without being sappy. The direction and script by Rajkumar Santoshi are very good. The film makes no attempt to be something that it’s not—you will either get the sense of humor and love it, or just hate it altogether. The songs by Pritam are excellent, especially “Tu Jaane Na,” and “Tera Hone Laga Hoon,” both sung by Atif Aslam.
Those of you who loved Andaz Apna Apna will enjoy Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani. If you are one who didn’t, still try and watch Ajab Prem—you might be pleasantly surprised!
Antara Bharadwaj is an independent filmmaker based in San Francisco.