Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani (APKGK) is the latest film and the second comedy from director Rajkumar Santoshi. Santoshi is probably most well known for his realistic message-driven films (such as Damini and Lajja), but his 1994 comedy Andaz Apna Apna is considered by some to be a bit of a cult classic. Billed as a “bubbling comedy of errors”, it consisted mostly of gags and slapstick strung together, and generally meandered all over the place. While it contained some cracking dialogues and genuinely funny moments, it was watchable mainly because of the talents of its two stars, Salman Khan and Aamir Khan.
APKGK is the story of Prem (Ranbir Kapoor) – the strange Prem of the film’s title – and how he falls in love with the pretty Jenny (Katrina Kaif). And it’s the story of how Prem goes from being unable to express his love for Jenny, to finally finding the words to tell her he loves her.
Prem is an unemployed school drop-out who, along with the fellow members of the Happy Club (of which he is President), spends his time conning the local uncles into joining (and coughing up the membership fee to keep the club afloat), mooching meals from his frustrated father, and occasionally arranging an “abduction” (like the one that opens the film) in order to unite couples in true love. It’s in the course of one such “abduction” that he meets the pretty Jenny. They become fast friends when they realize they both are given to stammering when overcome with strong emotion. Prem falls in love with Jenny, wants to ask her to be his life partner – but in true filmi fashion, he waits too long to do so. Jenny is packed off to Goa by her family, who want to marry her off to the rich and boorish Tony.
Prem and his Happy Club buddies come to her rescue – they believe, as does Prem, that this will be the moment that unites the two of them once and for all. Jenny is thrilled that Prem has come to help her, and tells him of her love – for Rahul (Upen Patel). Because Prem truly loves Jenny, he will do anything to help her, even arranging to abduct Rahul so that he and Jenny can elope.
Along the way there are chases, lots of slapstick, some decent music and dance numbers, a few well-appointed gags, and a gangster and his gang. There is also a particularly well-orchestrated fight scene, as well as the occasional sharp bit of dialogue.
I was intrigued when I first saw the trailer for APKGK: with its cheerful comic-book inspired style, it seemed bright and bubbly and well, a bit of a comedy of errors – shades of Andaz Apna Apna.
But if I’m honest, APKGK is a bit like a trip to the fair, where, instead of a ride on the roller-coaster, you settle for one on the merry-go-round. And it’s pleasant enough, but eventually you realize that all you’re doing is going around and around and around, and when you feel like you might like to get off, it goes around one more time, and then another.
APKGK is pure cotton candy – all spun sugar and air on a slim paper cone of a plot. It is brightly coloured, frothy, very silly, and despite some crackling moments, just a bit too long and occasionally draggy. As sweet a treat as it is, too much cotton candy is still not completely satisfying, and APKGK, not unlike Andaz Apna Apna, suffers from a little too much froth and not quite enough substance.
The film is, in fact, not the amazing story of the title: it is, however, a sweet but small story about love, about how Prem falls in love with Jenny and spends the first half of the film working himself up to tell her, and a strange story about how, simply because he loves her, he spends the second half of the film doing everything he can to ensure her happiness. Because what is love if not that, the desire to see your beloved happy, with “no complaint, no demand”, as Prem might say.
APKGK is, however, the story of one amazing guy, prepared to sacrifice his own happiness for that of the one he loves, and if it succeeds (and it does, surprisingly, despite its tendency to meander terribly and rely on too much fluff to lift it up), it is because of Ranbir Kapoor. Kapoor lights up the screen from the moment he first appears on his runaway bicycle, and he runs away with the film thanks to his impeccable comedic skills, his charm, and his physical grace (and by this I mean not only his dancing, but also how he moves at all times). Katrina Kaif acquits herself adequately here, but let’s be honest – she’s here to be the pretty object of Prem’s affections. There’s no doubt that she is lovely, and that there is some evident chemistry between her and Ranbir Kapoor; and happily, she does manage a few moments of comedic charm of her own.
But it’s also clear that the film, with its slim plot and seemingly endless slapstick, would go nowhere if not for the immense talents of Ranbir Kapoor, who, more than anything, gives the film what sparkle it has.
Kapoor’s Prem puts the amazing in Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani, and makes that extra turn on Rajkumar Santoshi’s merry-go-round totally worth it.