3.5 Stars (out of 4)
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Katrina Kaif and Imran Khan have been established Bollywood stars for years, but this has been something of a breakout summer for both of them. Kaif scored big at the box office with Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, and Khan showed serious comedy chops in Delhi Belly.
Headlining Mere Brother Ki Dulhan (“My Brother’s Bride”), Kaif and Khan seem their most at ease in front of the camera. Not only do they share a charming chemistry, but they give two of their strongest individual performances to date.
Khan anchors Mere Brother Ki Dulhan (MBKD, henceforth) as Kush, an aspiring director in India who gets an odd request from his brother in London, Luv (Ali Zafar). Having broken up with his longtime girlfriend, Piali (Tara D’Souza), Luv decides to entrust his romantic future to Kush. Luv asks his younger brother to find a nice Indian girl for him to marry.
Kush enlists his parents and friends to scour Dehradun for a bride for Luv. The ideal candidate turns out to be a reformed party girl named Dimple (Kaif), whom Kush met years earlier during her wilder days. She describes her qualifications thusly: “I am correctly beautiful and appropriately sexy.” She gets the gig.
Predictably, Kush and Dimple fall for each other as they make wedding preparations. Only after Luv arrives do they acknowledge the problem: she’s about to marry the wrong brother.
The fact that MBKD feels a bit like something we’ve seen before is actually its strength. Debutant filmmaker Ali Abbas Zafar (who’s not the Ali Zafar who plays Luv) clearly set out to make a feel-good romantic comedy, and he achieved his goal.
To play up the familiarity, the opening dance number pays homage to some famous Bollywood routines of the recent past. There are plenty of dance numbers, and all of them are entertaining and well-integrated into the plot.
A few slightly unexpected tweaks to the formula are a nice surprise. While Kush is the film’s main character, Dimple does more to drive the story forward. She’s not a passive damsel in distress, but rather an impatient problem solver whose impulsiveness gets her into trouble.
In another unexpected twist, MBKD doesn’t have a villain. I kept waiting for Luv to reveal himself to be an oaf, or for Piala to turn into a “crazy ex-girlfriend,” but all of the characters are nice people. The situation — not the characters — provides the conflict. It’s tricky to pull off, but Abbas Zafar handles it well.
The advantage of this approach is that the story doesn’t get bogged down in maudlin montages of Kush and Dimple staring forlornly into the rain as a singer laments the cruelty of fate. Rather, the lovebirds recognize a problem and set about fixing it.
The lone complaint I have about the movie is that several jokes depend on cultural references that American audiences likely don’t share. There are repeated references to Complan, which I learned after the movie is a British nutritional supplement. (See Ricky’s comment below for a more complete explanation of the Complan references.) This isn’t a reason to avoid the film, but American moviegoers should know in advance that they won’t get all the jokes.