The difference between Aditya Chopra and Karan Johar - Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi reviewed


Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (India, 2008)

Seen: Sunday, 29th March 2009 (cinema, special screening)
Runtime: 167′
Director: Aditya Chopra
Cast: Shahrukh Khan, Vinay Pathak, Anushka Sharma, Bipasha Basu (cameo), Lara Dutta (cameo), Kajol (cameo), Rani Mukherjee (cameo), Preity Zinta (cameo)
Production House: Yash Raj Films
Plot: Surinder, a shy boring middle class kind of guy is trying to make his newly wed wife fall in love with him. And there’s a dancing competition…


Impressions In Short
It sucked. Maybe not very badly (it was watchable), but it still sucked. I’m pretty disappointed.

More About the Film
Like Aditya Chopra, Karan Johar made sweet, soppy romances with Shahrukh in the 90s and early 2000s. There is however a significant difference - Karan Johar has moved on. Judging by Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, Aditya Chopra has not :]
This film is a 90s Shahrukh romance, it’s just that the exterior bits (the cinematography, costumes, sets etc.) have been modernized and Shahrukh is 10 years older. The rest is not much different than the cheesy and corny 90s romances Shahrukh used to do.
Don’t get me wrong - I am fully capable of enjoying some of those 90s romances. They have a certain charm in their cheesiness and corniness. But they aren’t exactly great cinema and I guess I just expect more from a hit film released in 2008 *sigh*
The premise of the film seemed really interesting and unusual at first. I think it could have worked. The film starts with shots of Shahrukh in his moustached get-up bringing his bride (or so we have to assume from her clothes) to his house. The thing is - she won’t touch him or talk to him, even though he seems to be really sweet and sensitive around her. When they get there, the house isn’t ready for her, nor do any of his friends know he’s gotten married. The marriage was clearly a very sudden thing.
And so begins this story - a freshly wed couple that sleeps in different rooms and hardly speaks to each other (let alone touches) even though the guy is madly in love with her. You’d think a Bollywood romance that starts so unusually would be great, only it isn’t :]
It falls into corny 90s conventions very fast after that. They’re like that because the groom she was meant to marry (love marriage, not arranged marriage) died in a bus accident a day or so before the intended date of her wedding. Then her dad gets a heart attack or something upon the news and then on his death bed he asks her and Surinder (who he used to teach at school - Surinder was his favourite student) to marry for his peace of mind.
I could have stomached that if there were one or two plot points like that, but the whole film is that far-fetched and it’s mostly done in earnest. And it’s not just the major plot points that are like that. There are minor things which are just as annoying. For example - lets say a guy is sitting in the cinema and his date is sitting next to him in a way that to leave she has to pass in front of him and obscure his view of the screen. Is it possible for him not to notice she left? ;) Or for that matter, does it make any sense whatsoever to try and convince the audience that Surinder is so sensitive and caring and yet he doesn’t notice when his wife leaves the cinema even though she has to pass in front of him to do it? ;)
This film has a very strange set of values also. Ewelina, who I was watching with, actually came out of the film thinking it was sexist. I didn’t think so, I got the impression it was radical both ways :] Like on the one hand it did kind of seem to portray some sexist attitudes as ok, but on the other when she’s close to cheating on Surinder he thinks none the worse of her for it, nor is he possessive or forceful towards her at any time. There’s also a pretty strong “macho is not the way to go” kind of message in the film. I guess that for the most part it’s the girl, who assumes most of the sexist attitudes rather than the guy. Something that annoyed me a lot was how the girl kept speaking up about “how all girls are” and “what all girls dream of”. The lines were so clearly written by a guy :]
Finally, it pains me to say this, but Shahrukh sucked :] I haven’t seen a part of his that felt this bad to me for ages. He was hamming all the way through and didn’t really get me caring about either Surinder or Raj (his two alter egos in the film). I mean sure, Surinder was a pretty sweet character the way he was scripted and the message of the film - that a boring, sweet and normal guy can be attractive is nice. But the way Shahrukh played him, I just wasn’t sold on him - it was too hammy and exaggerated. Not to mention that I think he was miscast. As far as I’m concerned this wasn’t a part for a 42-43 year old actor. Shahrukh can still pass for somewhat younger than he is, but IMO this was a part for somebody who looks around 25-33 and I think that’s just below what Shahrukh can convincingly play at this point. I think that’s part of the reason he was so hammy actually :] He tends to exaggerate much more when he’s playing below or over his age.
The irony is that he actually took it down on one of his most famous mannerisms - the crying. He was very contained on that (and he had quite a bit of it cause this is a really soppy film).
Just about the only bits of his part that I liked were his monologues. I haven’t seen him do monologues for ages, come to think of it. They make him do speeches or voice-overs, but the last time I’ve seen proper, lengthy monologues was in Darr (1994) I think. And I was really reminded of the monologues in Darr actually, even though the characters were very different ;) The sad thing is I felt he had a lot more chemistry with the dummy he was saying his monologue to than with any of his co-stars :] Not something I’m used to with Shahrukh - usually he has chemistry with everything and everybody *sigh*
Yash Raj Films has not had much luck at the box office for the last 1-2 years and having seen this, I think I can see why :] They’re getting really dated. The whole structure of the film - the length of it, the songs (the dancing was rather unspectacular) and the way they were put in, the story… everything was dated. I’m surprised this did so well actually - I suspect it may have been a combination of Shahrukh not having had any film releases for over a year and the film coming out soon after the Mumbai blasts when I imagine many people wanted some escapism.
Something I’ve started having question marks over is the editing. Many of the shots used in the film are funnier in the promotional footage, which suggests the timing/rhythm they chose for the film may be wrong. I was particularly surprised with part of a song sequence where Shahrukh is doing strange things with toothpaste and such in front of a mirror. In the making of footage I thought it looked hilarious. In the film it wasn’t even funny.
And so then, when I have thoughts like that I start wondering if it’s a coincidence that the only other big hit Yash Raj Films has had for the last 2 years or so was Chak De! India - a film directed by an editor, who would have surely had a lot of input into the editing of it rather than solely relying on the technical team in the studio…
Anyway, I really hope this is Shahrukh’s last conventional kind of romance. If he makes more I’m going to seriously doubt whether I want to see it and then probably watch it anyway ;)

In short - no, not really ;-P Unless you’re a die hard Shahrukh fan - preferably one that really enjoys his 90s romances and/or his hamming ;)

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