I often think of myself as a timid man. One without the guts to go watch some of the movies that get released in our country. I know what most people say – ‘It’s just entertainment, leave your brains/kidney/urinary tract at home and watch them’ . But I often back out of such ventures, my pusillanimous sense of aesthetics afraid to venture further than my comfort zone.
But last night, as I was waiting for sleep to seduce me, I discovered the film on Hotstar. Perhaps some things are destined. May be I was supposed to watch the film on a Sunday night, after two good joints and a day of fulfilling work.
Here is a very late review of ‘Prem Ratan Dhan Payo’. If you have watched the film, good for you. If you haven’t, don’t fucking bother. It’s only interesting if you like Trash movies.
And Prem Ratan Dhan Payo is top quality trash. Top draw, big budget, operatic trash that you can sit back and relish after a good dinner and some sweets. If you don’t like Trash, you might feel like cutting your stomach open and eating your liver.
When the iconic 21st Century Fox logo flashes with its iconic tune and trumpets, you realise Bhai is going to piss over all the childhood memories attached to it.
In the Opening Credits, you realise who the film is going to be about. One frame in the Credits reads: ‘Salman Khan’s Costume – XYZ, Salman Khan’s Legal Counsel – XYZ, Salman Khan’s Service Tax Counsel – XYZ’.
Within 5 minutes, our man is dancing with men dressed as women in a song called Prem Leela. I turned around on my bed to lie down on my front, and pulled up my blanket, this was going to be a Trashfest of glorious proportions!
Prem Ratan Dhan Payo is vintage Salman Khan.
It is Salman Khan not giving a fuck about you, himself, the cosmos, and Einstein’s Gravitational Waves.
This is Salman Khan in and as Salman Khan. Whether it is waltzing from bone-crunching action to a song named
‘Meena ho Rajjo ho, ya ho Sheela…
(wait for it) …Prem Leela…Prem Leela
Or dancing in the middle of a dialogue, sending you back to painful memories of Hello Brother and Yeh Hai Jalwa. Or using random English words in the middle of a sentence even though he plays a village simpleton.
And in a glorious bit of Troll-casting, Bhai is joined by none other than Sonam Kapoor. That woman with such an enigmatic voice that when she talks, you’re unsure if she’s saying something/asking you a question/suffering due to a scarcity of Hajmola.
Sonam Kapoor and Salman Khan share the same initials, and acting abilities. In this film, Sonam Kapoor runs an NGO, flies in a chopper, and does ‘nice’ stuff, like distributing clothes and food to poor children. Salman Khan wants to thank her for her good nature and begins to behave like an 8 year old on cocaine – making faces at the camera, smiling, twitching, doing Prabhudeva steps in the middle of a monologue. Uski marzi.
After a while, the entire enterprise seems like a school’s Annual Day drama, where the Principal’s son is the hero, and the rest of the school is playing along. You think you are set for a regular Salman Khan film.
(Dhan Dhan Dhan…)
There is another Salman Khan. A sophisticated prince who speaks English.
In order to pull off the highly complex task of portraying another character, the makers resort to the classic Bollywood trick – giving the ‘other guy’ a moustache. This other Salman Khan is calm and composed. For eg, after a fencing match with Neil Nitin Mukesh, he says, ‘That was close, Ajay. Good job’.
This prince uses words like ‘Ranjishein’, and visits people on a horse drawn carriage, fully aware of man’s developments in the domain of automobile cars. Because, Salman Khan.
What follows is a classic case of dual identity, with Salman Khan playing both the roles with such nuance that you can’t tell who’s who. You can’t even tell who you are, after a point. In an effortless performance, Salman Khan skilfully walks the middle line between four lines of coke and six lines of coke.
There are other actors thrown in so that Prem doesn’t feel lonely on the sets.
There is Anupam Kher playing a desi Alfred, offering sagely advice to Batman Khan. I wasn’t surprised to see Anupam Kher essay the role, because honestly, I have only seen Anupam Kher essay ridiculously asinine characters all my life.
And it is surprising that he won a Padma recently even though there are SO many actors who have achieved much more. You’d think that only Congress and Communists did stuff like this – rewarding their Yes-men with rewards. And giving Anupam Kher a Padma doesn’t stink of sycophancy at all.
But let us not besmirch a Salman Khan film by looking at it through a socio-political lens.
Prem Ratan Dhan Payo is more than that. Watching the film reminded me of the time I had gone to a circus for the first time. I had never been to a circus, but I had read stories, and watched Mera Naam Joker across its runtime of four centuries, so I was excited. I wasn’t a kid or anything – must’ve been around 23, and there was this girl who I thought was cute, and she for some reason wanted to go watch the circus, so I tagged along.
It was a very self-aware experience. I was amazed that they still do stuff like that – elephants balancing on cycles, and clowns whose pants slip off and dwarfs on unicycles on ropes. After a little while, I was transfixed. I had let go of my self-aware, I’mGoingToBlogAboutThis avatar, and enjoyed the entire show.
Watching Prem Ratan Dhan Payo is a bit like that.
At one level, it is a film that has Salman Khan in it. But at a deeper subliminal level, it is also Salman Khan educating the nation about the various varied effects of psychotropic substances. When he is listening to other people talk, for example, it is the perfect expression of a person who has smoked one too many of Shiva’s Regals. When he is fighting, it is a perfect demonstration of coke-rage. When he is singing songs, it is to display the wonderful effects of Ecstasy. When he is being romantic, he smiles with the glee of a sublime blot of Amsterdam acid. It’s a layered performance in the truest sense.
Bhai is showing us as a nation how to handle life’s complexities. He has chosen the largest mass-medium in the country to spread the message.
Bhai is, after all, being human.
A very high human.