Film Review: Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani

Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani

Directed by: Rajkumar Santoshi

Starring: Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif,

I love it when film titles are ridiculously long. Guaranteed the day after you’ve seen the film, you will be asked to repeat the title of the film so many times you feel you should be on the PR team for the film. Nevertheless, with a title like Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani (APKGK), it really is a matter of the film doing what it says on the tin and that is half the battle won – at least you won’t go in expecting a hard hitting social drama…

APKGK is the story of Prem (Kapoor), a happy go lucky boy who is always trying to make other people happy but ends up causing a disaster in the process. When helping out a friend, he comes across Jenny (Kaif) a sweet girl who he falls in love with. As their friendship develops, aliens come down and take over the world. OK, maybe they don’t but you can pretty much guess how the story unfolds…

APKGK is a very charming film that wins you over with many laughs and physical comedy that is restrained from going over the top. Although I wasn’t laughing at some of the more sadistic comedy (people falling down stairs or being winded) there is plenty to keep even the cynical amused.

The film has a retro feel to it, heavily referencing films from across the decades, from Manmohan Desai to elements of Santoshi’s earlier work (Andaaz Apna Apna, in particular gets a nice tribute). This is a clever device that allows the film to get away with quite a lot – we don’t question some of the sillier parts of the film and some of the abrupt jumps in the film’s logic are excused as being borrowed from back in the day. The danger with this though is it may alienate some people from the film and even worse, fail to connect some people to the film.

Furthermore, although I liked the way the film focuses on Prem and Jenny, I did feel most of the supporting cast were given stock roles but despite this (and to his credit) Santoshi extracts decent performances from all the cast. I also had a problem with the second half which I felt could have been much stronger and less bloated – I felt at least two songs could have been chopped and then my favourite song from the soundtrack – Tera Hone Laga Hoon could have been played in full (what is it with songs that are picturised on Katrina Kaif being cut short? Also see Teri Ore from Singh Is Kinng and Hai Junoon from New York).

I really liked the styling for the film with both Katrina and Ranbir looking good in their respective wardrobes and mention must be made of the song Tu Jaane Naa which looks more like a Vogue India shoot and totally out of place in the film (though one could argue it is a Santoshi trademark – did the scene remind anyone else of a song from the film Pukaar which starred Anil Kapoor and Madhuri Dixit?) Ranbir looks good in a designer suit and stubble whilst Katrina erases her style meltdown in last month’s Blue with a gorgeous black dress and that ethereal look which explains her popularity.

To be fair, this is also perhaps Katrina’s best performance to date. Yes, she still speaks half her dialogues in English (note to dialogue writers – give her full Hindi monologues!) and there are some scenes where she misses the mark totally but when Katrina gets it right, she does well and becomes at one with her character which is far more than she has done in any film so far. She certainly outshines fellow phirangi Upen Patel who has few comic lines but manages to make all of his lines unintentionally funny.

One of the main contributing factors to Katrina’s performance is her chemistry with Ranbir, which is simply very good. The two go on screen together very well and the sense of ease and spontaneity between the pair comes across nicely. This also brings us nicely to the star of APKGK – Ranbir Kapoor. After a good show in Wake Up Sid! Ranbir gives a very good performance, carrying the film on his shoulders with ease, attacking the comedy and emotional scenes with equal gutso and generally imbibing the film with a sense of playfulness. His performance can be a bit uneven at times but this endears him to the audience and Ranbir is progressing from film to film at a satisfactory pace – with Rocket Singh – Salesman Of The Year up for release next month, it will be interesting to see if Ranbir can end 2009 on a high with three good films in a row.

All in all, I enjoyed APKGK – I wasn’t too sure what to expect (having evaded trailers and the PR blitz for the film) and it was a pleasant surprise. It won’t be to everyone’s taste but having said that, it is a film that is confident in its premise and encourages the audience to buy into it (which is a rarity with comedies which usually go for all out silliness or take themselves too seriously) and come along for the ride.

 My final thought? APKGK is a film that has something unique about it and is worth a watch – definitely one of the better comedies seen this year.

(Previously posted on www.gorafied.com on 6th November 2009)

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