Synopsis – Loosely based on the novel The prince and the Pauper. Ever loving Prem is respected and loved by all and Vijay (both played by Salman Khan) is in the world of hatred and violence! Their lives are temporarily changed to discover the other side of the world!
My Take – Over the past few years I have always made sure to dumb down my hopes before walking into a Salman Khan starring film. But after the much-loved Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Salman seems to back in order to cater to his massive audience base with his trusted Sooraj Barjatya. Director Sooraj Barjatya has spawned some successful films like Maine Pyar Kiya, Hum Aapke Hain Koun.., Hum Saath Saath Hain and Vivah. Film boasting off the tradition and culture of Indian family with tuneful music and grandeur sets. The story of Prem began back in 1989, when Salman Khan and Sooraj Barjatya first teamed up for the love story Maine Pyar Kiya. In 1994, Prem took on a new avatar, but was played by the same Khan, and won hearts in Barjatya’s 14-song family drama Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!. In 1999, Salman Khan stepped into a new Prem’s shoes in the ensemble saga Hum Saath-Saath Hain. With this film, Khan and Barjatya interpret Prem yet again, this time using Rajasthani royalty as the backdrop and giving the actor the additional challenge of playing a dual role. This fourth collaboration with Salman Khan after gap of 16 years, an adaption of American author Mark Twain‘s novel ‘The Prince and the Pauper’ (1881) has created extreme hype and soared sky-high expectations. But is it worth all the hype? The answer is, partly yes, partly no! Reason? While Barjatya‘s story is undeniably sweet, the narrative’s structure appears outdated & the excessive running-time (171 minutes), spoils the fun. The director seems to have been stuck in a time warp, with a really old fashioned story and goody-goody, melodramatic treatment infused with family drama & typical song-drama routine. However, Salman ‘Bhai’ Khan charms as Prem & enacts dual-roles, endearingly. The story follows Prem (Salman Khan), a theater artist who donates his entire income to a charitable foundation – Uphaar. The connection between Prem and Uphaar is Princess Maithili (Sonam Kapoor), whom he had seen while rescuing flood victims. Prem was instantly infatuated with Maithili. He discusses his desire with his friend Kanhaiya (Deepak Dobriyal) to meet her and both of them decide to go to Delhi where she runs her Uphaar foundation. Later, when Prem comes to know that she is coming to Pritampur for the coronation of her fiancee prince Vijay singh, he decides to go there. Meanwhile in Pritampur, preparations are on for the coronation of prince Vijay Singh (Salman Khan also). Diwan (Anupam Kher) suggests Yuvraaj Vijay Singh that his two sisters should go to station to welcome and receive princess Maithili. On Diwan’s insistence, Vijay Singh goes to meet his two estranged step sisters Chandrika (Swara Bhaskar) and Radhika (Aashika Bhatia).
Chandrika is not ready to interact with Vijay Singh without her lawyer Mr. Bhandari’s presence. Infuriated Vijay walks out and on his way back, he falls prey to a pre-planned assassination attempt by his younger half brother Ajay (Neil Nitin Mukesh) & distant relative/ manager (Armaan Kohli). While Vijay fights for his life in a secret segment of a royal fort, Prem and Kanhaiya are spotted by Vijay Singh’s close aide and brought to Pritampur. Diwan plans to bring Prem and Kanhaiya to the fort as Vijay Singh and as an esteemed photographer respectively. What happens thereafter? How Prem molds himself in Vijay Singh’s role? Is he able to leave his mannerisms of a nautankiwala and become a sophisticated prince Vijay Singh. Is he able to generate seeds of love in Maithili’s heart? Is he able to reunite Vijay’s estranged step sisters – Chandrika and Radhika and bring them back to fort? Is he able to ignore his own love for Maithili for Vijay’s sake? What happens to Maithili and Prem’s love? What happens, when Maithili comes to know that she is loving Prem who is not the real Prince Vijay Singh? Does the family unite together ever, if yes, how? How does Prince Vijay react and respond to the changes which Prem has brought in? Maithili decides to choose whom- Prem or Vijay? Is Prem able to sacrifice his love for Maithili? Master of presenting the values of Indian culture and custom on silver screen innumerable times, Sooraj Barjatya gives you a fine first half with grand opening scene of Prem and introduction of each character coupled with bit humor. Till this point, the film is tolerable however the second half tumbles down the rabbit hole and refuses to pick up. The expected ingredients are all there — the importance of the family unit, the emphasis on propriety and good public behavior, the celebration of mercantile culture, the worship of wealth and social status, the assigned roles for men and women. This is the fairy tale world of Disney movies, but with Indian touches. There is a song which pops up every now and then, and the film takes its own sweet time to get going. The film’s biggest strengths are in its emotions, its tradition values, its simplicity and its message that family is everything. The sequence where Prem writes off everything to his sisters is the film’s highlight. And the films first half where comedy is at the fore front is entertainment and laughter to the max. But with a run time close to three hours, everything else become a true test of patience and endurance. Everything in this 171-minute film is over-the-top in its saccharine sweetness and after a point, it is hard to keep track of why we should care for these one-dimensional, cardboard characters. Barjatya is so determined to tell, rather than show, that he over-emphasizes everything. So a girl who likes football wears football boots even when she’s at home; Maithili is supposed to be a “career woman”, but is only shown as a submissive partner who always does what her husband wants her to. Barjatya packs in songs and opulent dance routines but manages to say little of significance other than to emphasize and re-emphasize the importance of family and staying together.
And despite the attempt to intersperse English in the dialogue (“Shree Ram ne little little steps liye”), it is clear that Barjatya and his story are still stuck in the dark ages. The characters of Sonam Kapoor and Anupam Kher are the most fleshed out in an otherwise sketchy narrative. Barjatya shows his hand while directing the tender family moments, but he doesn’t have any feel for thrillers. The conspiracy that replaces Vijay with Prem is mostly forgotten, and the real question is not whether or not Vijay will return, but who will walk away with the bride. This film commensurates with Sooraj’s every movie. It’s nothing new, being in tow with the drama, emotional content, the seemingly sweet romance which are actually pretty much just a boring and awkward couple of moments and a creepy/cliche climax. It’s a serious thought that filmmakers need to consider before writing such crass stories. They are converting the public into their puppets and most of us laugh at what they throw at us. Leaving the dull music aside (except Aaj Unse & to some extend the title song), its the performances which raises the film to a watchable level. Yes! Its Salman all the way, the Superstar is at his most endearing as Prem, the clean-hearted soul, who spreads love everywhere. Its a delight to watch him, from start to end. As Prem Dilwala he will win the hearts of all the movie going audience, this is one of his most memorable characters. The innocence, the comedy, and the way Prem romances is just too entertaining. Well all know Salman Khan is synonymous with Prem, but this new Prem Dilwala is going to become a iconic character. As Vijay he does a great job also. Sonam Kapoor plays her role with complete grace, and her and Salman‘s chemistry is perfect. She looks extremely beautiful. Anupam Kher is in fine form, and impresses throughout. Deepak Dobrayal is hilarious. Armaan Kohli, and Neil Nithin Mukesh play their smaller parts well. Swara Baskhar is good. On the whole, ‘Prem Ratan Dhan Payo’ is a disappointing old fashioned family drama relying on wafer-thin plot. If you’re watching this movie because of Salman Khan, then you might actually end up liking it. From technical perception, this is a poorly made movie, but considering the entertainment point of view, it is just an average movie. It may seem as a good entertaining movie in the moment, but take some time to think. Is it?
Director – Sooraj R. Barjatya
Rated – U
Run Time – 171 minutes