Prem Ratan Dhan Payo

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CAST: Salman Khan, Sonam Kapoor, Anupam Kher, Deepak Dobriyal, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Armaan Kohli, Swara Bhaskara, Aashika Bhatia
DIRECTION: Sooraj R Barjatya
GENRE: Family
DURATION: 2 hours 54 minutes
STORY: Performer Prem and Prince Vijay share the same face but totally different worldviews – as Prem handles Vijay’s family, foes and fiance, whose view wins this royal battle?

MOVIE REVIEW: Straight away, Prem Ratan Dhan Payo is Salman Khan’s triumph. Salman simply blows the top off the theatres with a double role that makes you laugh, gasp, sigh – and cry. Prem Dilwale, Ayodhya’s Ram Leela artist, admires Princess Maithili (Sonam) and her charitable work. Prem decides to meet Maithili at the coronation of her fiance Prince Vijay (Salman) in Pritampur. But Vijay’s fallen prey to a conspiracy by his wicked brother Ajay (Neil) and relative Chirag (Armaan). As Vijay suffers their violent assault, Pritampur’s Diwan (Anupam) asks Prem to play Vijay’s part – and protect Maithili.
Salman performs with superb finesse, skillfully creating a caviar-chole bhature cinematic contrast. His Vijay is tense, terse and taut, radiating machismo but no gentleness, loneliness with king-sized ego. His Prem is luminous with life, cheekily cheery – teasing Diwanji as ‘virgin Bapu’ – then deepening, like sugar stirred into kheer, in silent gazes of hesitant love. The acting is ace – this year is Salman’s finest yet in cinematic grace.

Sonam carries off her princess beautifully, a stylish cross between Gayatri Devi and Coco Chanel, conveying a girl wrapped in delicate chiffon, but with a free, passionate soul. Deepak Dobriyal delights as Prem’s dost Kanhaiya, Armaan works a violent swagger well while Neil sulks as a sour prince whose gimlet has way too much lime. Playing bitter sisters, Swara and Aashika have one of the film’s sweetest moments – with a brother who stops being a royal pain.

There are slight drawbacks. Some unconvincing sequences – a feudal football match, giggling flood relief, dancing halwais, action atop a plyboard mahal – could’ve been trimmed. But the film captures the gold-rimmed goggles and mothballed notions of a mofussil maharaja. And alongside tradition, it presents modernity too, in a princess who chooses her own prince – and an aam aadmi more regal than royalty (whose feather redefines Mughal-e-Azam’s love scene).