Dec 13, 2008

Entertainment - Movie Review;Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi

Khalid Mohamed

How now. Meet Punjab Power Company's employee Surinder Sahni aka Suri. He crunches his breakfast toast, hangs out with a barber dost, and occasionally digs into a murgh musallam roast. He's a nice, ordinary sort of bloke on whom life has played a cruel joke. Croak?

No, no, not at all. You don't have to pity the bespectacled, Clark Gable-moustachioed Suri of Aditya Chopra's Rab ne Bana di Jodi. In fact, the Amritsar-domiciled Suri is a soul brother to the mousy Clark-Kent-cum-Superman. And of other dual-personality-toting wonders from a wild variety of sources such as V Shantaram's Navrang, Raj Kapoor's Satyam Shivam Sundaram, Golmaal (Hrishikesh Mukherjee's, please), and even a faint shade of Jerry Lewis' Nutty Professor. In effect, you get two SRKs for the price of one. A kind of Satyam Shahrukham Surinderam.

Our Simple Surinder-turned-Rocking Raj makes you laugh and sob alternately. Honestly, after quite a long famine you're treated to a banquet of entertainment. For most part of the way, the spread is fun, feel-wonderful and perhaps expectedly, shouldered by a 10-on-10 performance by Shah Rukh Khan. Often when the screenplay flags, he keeps you engaged with his effortless schizophrenic shifts from a mild-mannered nerd to a jazzy Joe.

Indeed, you wonder how the actor pulls it all off with conviction even when Aditya Chopra's story, at its very concept, is absolutely implausible. You keep worrying why a woman can't tell the difference between Surinder and Raj (not even the good old fake 'massa' or birth pimple here). Is she plain blind, short-sighted or ditzy? And why does the director eventually lapse into utterly regressive stuff towards the finale with the woman falling at the man's feet? She even equates him with God. They don't use the words pati parmeshwar. Yet, Chopra's chauvinistic slip shows. Not done.

Quite clearly, the plot is as improbable as a flying kangaroo and as antiquated as a dinosaur. There are tacky interludes, too, like the sumo wrestling bout and the special effects lights switched on and off in Amritsar. Also, the running time is too lengthy. And the finale dance competition - both in its prize and in its presentation (too many flashback inserts) - is not even in the dramatic, suspense-fraught league of the TV Baliyes and Dikhlajas. Moreover, the self-congratulatory references to one's own hits (Dilwale Dulhaniya.., Dhoom) just don't spell class.

With so many rock-strong reservations, then, why is your heart still upbeat? That's because at the core, there's something very sensitive and supportive being said about the little David who has to fight the big Goliaths every day, the biggest one being his own anxieties and personality imbalances. That's Surinder Sahni (Shah Rukh Khan), who's been trundling along in a dispiriting 9 to 5 desk job till he's coerced into a marriage with a younger woman (Anushka Sharma). He likes her, she likes him not. Slow and steady, like the tortoise he hopes she will give him love some day. Maybe, maybe not.

More metaphorical than 'real', the conflict is between a girl who believes in grandeur, dance and monsoon drives, and a common man who strives to fit into her wonder world. A line of dialogue encapsulates it all. "Neither do I have any great hopes of finding love, nor do I have any great need for it," Suri says. Frankly, as a dialogue writer Chopra scores much higher than he does in the other writing departments.

The barber friend's characterisation is just about passably etched but finely performed by Vinay Pathak. In terms of negative virtues, the absence of a back story for Surinder (what no tais, daais and khandaan koonba?) is a welcome relief. Ditto, the exile of gossip spewing mohalla stereotypes.

Ravi C Chandran's camerawork is efficient. Salim Suleiman's music score is remarkable essentially for the title song. The set designs are serviceable, with the Dil To Pagal Hai hangover persisting over the disco-practice hall. Incidentally, the movie medley number is imaginatively choreographed by Shiamak Davar, with Kajol, Bipasha Basu and Rani Mukherji adding to the boogie allure. Preity Zinta and Lara Dutta look totally out of sorts in this sequence though.

Debutante Anushka Sharma is assured and upright but you wouldn't kill to eat paani puris with her, the way Suri-cum-Raj does. Incontestably, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi is an SRK show. The end credits with snapshots is a delight, don't miss them. The actor sends you home with a smile and a tear. So, here's a must-grab-ticket to SRK.

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