Dhai Akshar Prem Ke consists of a strong cast (Abhishek, Aishwarya, Amrish Puri, Anupam Kher, etc.), good music directors (Jatin-Lalit), good director/producer (Raj Kanwar), and a decent and entertaining, though not original, (Walk In the Clouds inspiration) storyline. The ingredients are there to make a good film....but so many films fail, not because of the individual elements that make the movie, but how the elements are put together to work as a whole. On the other hand, many movies click well, because the elements fit just right. DAPK falls in between these two, leaning more towards the successful side, but just not quite there.
The setting of the movie is Punjab, and the main female lead, Sahiba (Aishwarya), comes from a traditional Rajput family. Traditional holds that she should get married (arranged) after high school, but with the support of her grandmother, she fights for her college education and her strict father (Amrish Puri) surprisingly relents. Now Sahiba is on her way home from college. She witnesses a murder and is both scared and frantic. She meets Colonel Karan Khanna (Abhishek), who she spills her story to, and he laughs it off at first. She becomes increasingly upset and Karan begins to believe her. They then part- she heads home and he heads to meet the love of his life, Sonali Bendre.
When the bus he is traveling on stops for a break, Karan sees Sahiba trying to commit suicide and saves her. After calming her, they share their own stories and she tells him of her family┬┤s plans for her marriage. While making a phone call home, she jokingly tells her family that she got married in order to put off their nagging for arranging her marriage. When Karan takes her home, they mistake him as her husband and he takes on his role accordingly. DDLJ kicks in and Karan manages to charm the entire family with his kindness and win their hearts, except of course, her father┬┤s.
Later it is known that Karan did not have a standard mother/father family. Sahiba begins to fall in love with Karan, and Karan in return, though he does not admit to it as he has already (or so he thinks) given his heart to his long-time friend, Sonali, who he secretly admires and loves. How the truth unfolds, both to Sahiba┬┤s family, as well as Sahiba┬┤s-Karan┬┤s-Sonali┬┤s feelings for one another, makes the story of Dhai Akshar Prem Ke.
The acting on the part of Abhishek and Aishwarya were excellent. Both were given ample camera time and used it to their benefit. Acting on the part of Amrish Puri, Sushma Seth, and Anupam Kher were also commendable. Sonali, though having a guest appearance, should have had a slightly more developed role.
Though scenes have been lifted from movies like DDLJ and supposedly Titanic, the scene in which Abhishek saves Aishwarya from committing suicide is worth mentioning. Another well-picturized scene is the Abhishek-Amrish Puri scene in the burning factory, when they escape through a tunnel with fire following them. On the other hand, a repulsive scene that we could have definitely done without was the long crude scene of a kid refusing to clean up after using that bathroom and Abhishek being the patient one who talks to him and cleans him up. I am not sure what they were trying to accomplish with that scene, but whatever it was, they definitely did not manage to accomplish it.
The songs are nothing spectacular (as opposed to Refugee and Tera Jadoo Chal Gaya) but the picturization of the songs were amazing and set the songs alive. The title song had a very authentic Punjabi setting, a harvest festival wedding set up, equipped with traditional Punjabi outfits and Bhangra (a definite plus!) that gave Abhishek a chance to show the Punjabi side of him. The song was well-done and caught a nostalgic glimpse of apna Punjab. The rest of the songs had breath-taking shots from Europe and other parts of India, and the choreography and outfits were noteworthy. On particular shot worth mentioning was the sandstorm buildup in Rajastan that engulfed Abhishek and Aishwarya for a few seconds.
Abhishek┬┤s dancing is definitely improving and kept up with Aishwarya well. Aishwarya┬┤s outfits throughout the rest of the movie were very nice and bright, and Abhishek┬┤s standard outfit consisted of pants and every color of Hilfiger shirts possible.
On the other hand, holes in the story and direction were evident. Kanwar could have developed the action scenes more as well as included the much-needed comedy to lighten up the intense storyline (e.g. pick up some from the hilarious Kunwara). The child-cleanup was not needed at all, as mentioned before. Abhishek┬┤s background as a Colonel should have been more developed, since he ended up seeming more like a Colonel by name rather than actual position. A direct conflict (e.g. argument) between Amrish Puri and Abhishek lacked and could have developed the intensity of their differing ways a bit more.
Overall, this film is worth watching in the theater (the general comment from the audience). With both pluses and minuses to the film, though this may not be the film to set Abhishek┬┤s career soaring, DAPK is definitely one that showcased both his talent and dancing ability. Don┬┤t forget...Amitabh had five flops before he hit the jackpot....