Sooraj Barjatya made his directorial debut with ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’, a young romance entrenched in Indian family values. He followed it up with ‘Hum Apke Hain Koun!’, a family drama that followed a more traditional approach than his first film. His third film ‘Hum Saath Saath Hain’ could not replicate the humongous success of his last two films but was a respectable success nonetheless. Sooraj then surprised everyone by following in the footsteps of younger filmmakers like Karan Johar and Aditya Chopra, making a fairly urban romantic film in the form of ‘Main Prem Ki Deewani Hoon’. Some might argue that ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’, too, had a youthful flavour to it but one cannot deny the fact the Hrithik-Kareena-Abhishek starrer did not bear the stamp of Sooraj Barjatya. Three years later, the director vowed the audience with ‘Vivah’. Almost after a decade after his last film released, Sooraj Barjatya is back with ‘Prem Ratan Dhan Payo’, a film that seems to contain all that you expect from a Sooraj Barjatya film.
Prem (Salman Khan) is an actor/entertainer who performs in local plays in Ayodhya. Prem is a large-hearted guy who donates all his income to a trust managed by Princess Maithili (Sonam Kapoor). Prem is smitten by Maithili and wishes to meet her. Prince Vijay (Salman Khan) shares a troubled relationship with his half-siblings Ajay (Neil Nitin Mukesh), Chandrika (Swara Bhaskar) and Radhika (Aashika Bhatia). A plan is hatched to murder Vijay. Vijay survives but is severely injured. Upon realizing that Vijay has a Prem lookalike, his staff, which includes Diwanji (Anupam Kher), decide to rope in Prem to act as Vijay till the prince regains his health.
The film stands at 164 minutes and you do not feel disengaged with the narrative even for a moment. 15-20 minutes into the film and you know how things are going to unfold. Yet, you do not lose interest even as it moves along predictably and songs pop up one after another. The reason for this is because Sooraj Barjatya has a super strong grip on the narrative and is crystal clear about the way he wants the film to shape up. He sets up the stage for emotions to flow, songs to peep in and a tinge of humour to be spruced up. The drama gets over the top at places but is enjoyable nevertheless.
While the screenplay is good, the fact remains that it is largely predictable. The good thing is that even though the basic plot is not difficult to guess, there are some beautiful moments that catch you unaware and leave you smiling. Though most of the characters have been etched properly, the ones played by Neil and Armaan could have been developed a little more. Barring ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’, Sooraj Barjatya’s films never really had an antagonist as such. While Mohnish Behl’s villainous character in ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’ was a memorable one, one cannot say the same about Armaan’s character in this film.
Salman Khan is mostly seen as Prem and the other character makes an appearance towards the beginning and end of the film. The actor does well in bringing out the contrast between the two characters. He infuses an incredible amount of charm as Prem and makes sure that it joins the list of the other popular ‘Prem’ characters he has played. Sonam Kapoor looks alluring and carries off the role of a princess remarkably well. It makes one sad to see Neil Nitin Mukesh playing a rather puny supporting character when he deserves to play better and bigger roles. Anupam Kher displays warmth as the loyal servant to the royal family. Armaan Kohli is sincere in his villainous turn but the role does not leave him with too much scope to perform. Swara Bhaskar delivers one of the stronger performances in the film. Deepak Dobriyal lends humour in a few scenes but seems under-utilized. Aashka Bhatia is impressive as Radhika, the younger sister.
Sooraj Barjatya elevates the script (written by him) several notches higher with his skilful direction. He proves that there are very few who could make family dramas as well as he does. The villain’s part could have been stronger but he gets the emotions just right. The script might be a little predictable but overall, it serves as a good backdrop to the kind of film he wanted to make. The film is filled with several songs (Himesh Reshammiya) and most of them are melodious. They are picturised well and do not bore you when they appear on screen. The background music (Sanjoy Choudhary and Himesh Reshammiya) is nice. The camerawork (V Manikanandan) captures the grandeur of the film well. The editing (Sanjay Sankla) is good; there are barely any dull moments. The lustrous look of the film can be credited to art director Chandrakant Desai.
Films based on familial values can never go out of fashion. Sooraj Barjatya manages to narrate a story that talks about traditional values and does not seem dated. The film spins a weave of emotions that people can relate to and packs in enough entertainment for people to relish. Sooraj Barjatya, yet again, succeeds at making the kind of cinema he believes in with absolute conviction.