Movie Review: Prem Ratan Dhan Payo (2015)

PremRatanDhanPayo2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Devoted Salman Khan fans have expectations of movies starring their Bhai, and surely Prem Ratan Dhan Payo (“Received a Treasure Called Love“) fulfills their expectations. For moviegoers who aren’t hardcore Salman fans, the film seems too familiar.

Don’t get me wrong, Prem Ratan Dhan Payo (PRDP, henceforth) is a fine enough film. It lives up to its billing as a spectacle, with colorful dance numbers and magnificent sets. The story is full of teary-eyed reunions and blossoming romance.

But this all feels like something we’ve seen before, and that’s coming from someone who hasn’t seen any of Salman’s three previous collaborations with writer-director Sooraj Barjatya. Salman plays the same character he always plays these days, no matter if he’s starring in an action flick or a romantic comedy.

Prem (Salman) is a supremely righteous devotee who narrates religious plays. His best friend, Kanhaiya (Deepak Dobriyal), is an actor who dresses in drag to perform the lead female roles in the plays. At Prem’s insistence, they donate all of the money they earn to a charity run by the beautiful Princess Maithili (Sonam Kapoor).

On their way to meet the princess in person for the first time, the guys are intercepted by representatives of the princess’s betrothed, Prince Vijay (also Salman). Prem looks exactly like the prince, who is presently comatose following an attempt on his life by his scheming younger brother, Ajay (Neil Nitin Mukesh). Vijay’s right-hand man, Deewan Saheb (Anupam Kher), convinces Prem to temporarily pose as the prince, giving Prem the perfect opportunity to spend time with the princess.

While posing as the prince, innocent Prem comes to learn that Vijay is kind of a jerk. Complicated family dynamics — Vijay is his father’s firstborn, Ajay was born to their father’s second wife — have strained the relationship between the brothers. Their younger half-sisters — Chandrika (Swara Bhaskar) and Radhika (Aashika Bhatia) — by their father’s mistress have turned their back on the family completely.

Worst of all, from Prem’s perspective, is that Vijay is mean to Maithili. The royal couple argues all the time, and Vijay once tried to get fresh with Maithili (a big no-no to Prem, who doesn’t even approve of kissing before marriage).

Prem takes his opportunity as Vijay to try to heal the relationship between the siblings and to make things right with Maithili. If he can’t have her himself, at least he can lay the foundation for a happy marriage to Vijay. Prem asks her to list all of Vijay’s faults, which she does in song form. Unfortunately for international fans, the song lyrics in PRDP are not subtitled.

As one would expect, Salman is almost always the focus of attention. This myopia means that the villainous machinations against Vijay take place primarily offscreen. The revelation of who was plotting what and why is abrupt and confusing.

If you’re going to cast Neil Nitin Mukesh as the villain, use him. Don’t give him fewer than thirty minutes of total screentime, especially in a movie that’s nearly three hours long.

Same goes for Deepak Dobriyal, whose character is sidelined once they get to Vijay’s palace. Dobriyal is one of those actors who has my attention whether he’s the focus of the scene or not. Again, if you’re going to cast him, use him.

Prem describes his relationship with Kanhaiya thusly: “You’re my compulsory companion.” That’s a good description of any character who plays sidekick to Salman. Salman’s characters are often written as being unconcerned by money, which means that it falls to his “compulsory companions” to pay for everything Salman’s characters buy. Since Salman’s characters are usually supposed to embody moral purity, why are they always mooches?

PRDP delivers a bunch of songs, many of which are lavish spectacles. Sonam is pretty, and Salman is heroic. Things proceed pretty much as expected. A happy ending is all but guaranteed.

I don’t know that that’s enough to make PRDP a must-see movie for its own sake. For a holiday weekend outing with family and friends, it’s reasonably entertaining (although the lengthy runtime is a challenge, especially if your theater doesn’t have an intermission break). But is it unique? Is it memorable? I’m not so sure.


23 thoughts on “Movie Review: Prem Ratan Dhan Payo (2015)

  1. JustMeMike

    I saw this yesterday here in Sarasota. It played at the Regal Hollywood 20 on Main Street. I caught the Friday 1:00 PM screening. There were maybe a dozen folks in attendance. As you say this is a flawed but still entertaining film.

    My feeling was that the film was much more of a production/spectacle than the mere unfolding of a story. You cannot fault the production in terms of the quality of the sets, designs, costumes, locations, and so forth meaning the film was beautifully shot and indeed was quite special visually.

    On the other hand the film was overcooked with music – I think there were about 9 featured musical numbers. And it was too many. Which clearly stretched the film into 170 minutes with no intermission. Then there was the insistent and often intrusive musical score which played in a near continuous manner during all of the dramatic dialogue scenes. Again it was overkill.

    Now SK is nothing special on his feet – to me he’s a bit too muscular to be an accomplished dancer. He was effective in using his arms and hands, and he wasn’t totally overmatched but in truth, none of the featured sings were memorable musically. But as you pointed out, he is effective playing ‘the nice guy’.

    Many have stated that Sonam isn’t much of an actress – I had no issues with her performance. In fact I liked her performance.

    I thought Anupam Kher actually was so very effective in his role. He’s a a quiet actor but he always manages to steal most of the scenes he’s in.

    Likely the film will do well initially but will slow down at the box office. Overall the film is an enigma, in that you have all these songs, and dance numbers, and at the heart of the story we find jealousy and greed, as well as treachery and deceit.

    1. Kathy

      Glad you didn’t have to drive all the way to Tampa to see this, Mike! I’m really curious to see how this holds up next weekend. There are these huge gaps in the release schedule for the rest of the year, all to accommodate presumed blockbusters, and I’m not sure that’s necessary. It’s just the middle of November, and we might only get three new Bollywood movies in US theaters for the rest of 2015: Tamasha on Nov. 27, and Bajirao Mastani and Dilwale on Dec. 18. Those gaps seem like missed opportunities to me.

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  5. Deepak C.

    Die-hard Salman fan here but this was pretty bad. The throwback elements of family drama and romance were fine (Sonam was miscast IMHO, but did OK), but the scheming brother and his entourage could’ve been done without. Also makes no sense that the Prince could even survive such an encounter, but I guess we’re supposed to just let those things go. Disappointing reunion for Salman and Barjatya, hope they can do one more movie together and redeem themselves.

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          1. ashokbhatia

            Saw it, Kathy. Overall, average 2.5/5.0. Pluses: Acting, Photography, Process of self-discovery while searching for an ideal soul-mate, Women being more clear-headed and strong than the men they come across. Minuses: Music, Slow pace, Weak storyline, Complicated presentation, Distracting characters like the auto driver.
            Ranbir’s character has traces of Barfi and Wake Up Sid.

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