I do not use the word “ghazab” lightly. When two Indian baseball prospects were lifted out of village life and thrown into baseball training camp, they visited the home of Barry Bonds and wrote in their blog – he has a refrigerator that turns into a TV – GHAZAB!! Similarly astonishing is how Ranbir managed to elevate his performance from film to film until he is at a point where you cannot imagine anyone else doing the role. In Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani he plays the slacker Prem who is President of the Happy Club, and rules over a group of fellow slackers whose only goal seems to be to unite hearts in love. On such a mission to kidnap a girl and reunite her with her boyfriend, Prem sees Jennifer (Katrina Kaif) and tumbles into love. Jenny thinks he is a kidnapper and her adoptive family think he is an extortionist (which he is!).
Santoshi’s film is like a 70s comic caper with kidnappings, garish costumes and sets, extreme caricatures in the characters – be it the wicked stepmother or the long-suffering always loving mother, bad guys who are inept, chance superstar encounters, a fight in a godown filled with stuff, and the leads played with innocence and charm and mischief. Andaz Apna Apna anyone? Yes the elements are all super familiar to us from that oft-watched cult classic. But instead of having two warring protagonists (Aamir and Salman) we have only one goofball in Ranbir and he is desperately trying to romance Katrina. Both stutter when they are upset, seem made for each other. Of course there are many imagined romantic song sequences, including a couple of dreamy ones, but in the end Prem discovers that Jenny loves another man – Rahul, and thus Upen Patel enters the film, followed by his caricature corrupt politician father (Govind Namdeo) and rotund wailing mother. While Upen talks of “poppety” deals and money and diamond necklaces, our boy Prem charms the girl with moong ki daal ke pakode and chutney! In the end there is a kidnapping, demand for ransom and a fight out in a godown with a large tank of water. I am sure you can fill in the blanks!
So does Santoshi manage to create another AAA for us? This one lacks the rough edges and out-and-out craziness of AAA, and is a rather more slick story. The protagonist and his lady are goofy but not at the level of Karishma batting her eyelashes while wearing a lampshade hat and Aamir opening his eyes to buggy size, nor do we have Salman with a necktie around his head as he battles his alimentary canal, or Raveena climbing down to jump to her death from a lower and less scary height! There is no Crime Master Gogo and above all there is no “Teja main hoon, mark idhar hai!!” Having got all that hangover out of my system, and concluding that Ajab is no AAA, I can then judge it for itself.
The goofy moments are not over the top, the slapstick is just short of shtick, and the comedy does crackle at times. The romance seems fresh and charming for the most part, and the songs are decently done. Outstanding moments for me were when Ranbir is asked by Katrina to slap her and he does and then goes “oo” and hides his face in his hoodie, or when he tries to con his dad, or with a goofy look keeps telling him “I like you!!” Katrina manages to look the part, until she opens her mouth. In the silent moments she is fine, but the rest of the time her trying to speak from silicone infused pouty lips is simply annoying. She is a looker NO DOUBT, and in the fantasy song with a black dress pooled about her feet, she stuns you. But boy she needs acting lessons. How many years will she get by in her career playing NRIs or girls who cannot speak Hindi? Ranbir is a revelation. He has oodles of charm, a lot of talent, excellent comic timing and even does some introspection very well. In that scene where he keeps talking in a monologue while telling his friends to talk of something else, reminded me of Aajy Devgan’s fine turn as he is drunk in HDDCS and keeps wanting to ask Aishwarya a question and then saying “Jaane do!”
All in all Santoshi delivers a frothy and fun-filled comedy with some romance and song and dance. The film is carried ably on the shoulders of its leading man. He was getting good, but we witness a phenomenon now – a star is BORN!