Going by 2002┬┤s track record, it would seem that there isn┬┤t a trace of originality left anywhere in Bollywood. Big hits like Raaz (What Lies Beneath) and Awara Pagaal Deewana (The Whole Nine Yards) were Hollywood knock-offs as were "off-beat" films like Hansal Mehta┬┤s Chhal (Donnie Brasco, In Too Deep) and Yeh Kya Ho Raha Hai (American Pie).
Video Sound Production┬┤s Kehtaa Hai Dil Baar Baar continues the year long trend. This time the film being "adapted" is the Jay Roach-directed, Robert DeNiro-Ben Stiller starrer Meet the Parents.
Ritu Patel (Kim Sharma) is a Gujrati pediatrician in New York City. She falls in love with Sundar Kapoor (Jimmy Shergill) who is certified as a doctor, but runs a meals on the go cart serving Indian food instead. Her father, Roger Patel (Paresh Rawal in the author backed role) isn┬┤t too happy about his daughter┬┤s new friend. Roger has always wanted his daughter to get married to a man who fulfilled his "3P" requirement - A Professional Patel owning Property.
Ritu┬┤s sister┬┤s wedding is announced and she decides Sundar should spend a week living in the Patel household so he could help the family prepare for the festivities and also get to know Roger better. She is convinced that Sundar and Roger could get along if only her father would give the boy a chance.
How Sundar tries to fix the messes he creates and whether or not Ritu and Sundar┬┤s love story takes off forms the crux of the comedy.
The film begins on a strong note, establishing the characters at a brisk pace and moving the usually slow romance angle at breakneck speed. Unfortunately, the film looses its momentum once the wedding kicks off.
Raman Bharadwaj┬┤s screenplay should have been tighter. Bharadwaj makes his biggest mistakes when he strays from the Meet the Parents formula and tries something original. Instead of working in the obligatory Hum Apke Hain Kaun? and Dilwale Dulhuniya Le Jayenge type wedding sequences, Bharadwaj should have concentrated on writing in more situational comedy.
Director Rahul Dholakia is markedly confused throughout the film. He doesn┬┤t know if his film is a family entertainer or an over-the-top comedy. Especially weak are the numerous slap-stick comedy scenes that are interspersed throughout the film. Most of them are scenes we have seen in countless David Dhawan films for years in a row, and they come off as especially bland and unnecessary in this film.
Luckily, dialog writer Neeraj Vohra has come up with some rib-tickling lines to save the film from mediocrity. Even in segments of the film where the plot slows down, the one-liners keep coming. Vohra┬┤s knowledge of the NRI experience seems to be pretty strong, and his witticisms on the lifestyle of Indians abroad frequently raise laughs. The film is made funnier due to the fact that Vohra saves the best lines for the funniest character; almost every other line spoken by Roger is downright hilarious.
Paresh Rawal is really the man who makes the film work. He sores to new heights as a comedian with the Roger Patel character. The real star of the film, Rawal is all of side-splitting, dramatic, and underplayed in one film. The way he delivers the occasional English dialog and his timing on Vohra┬┤s quips is alone what makes the film worth watching. After brilliant comic roles in Aankhen and Awara Pagaal Deewana this year, this film is another feather in Rawal┬┤s cap. The only other commendable performance in this affair is Kim Sharma┬┤s. Despite enacting only a supporting role, Sharma leaves her mark in a number of sequences, be they dramatic, comedic, or romantic. She breathes life into a flat character that most other actresses would have played straight and without any flair. If Ritu Patel is charming, cute, and endearing it┬┤s only because of Sharma┬┤s quirky, idiosyncratic portrayal.
The weakest link here in terms of performance is the banal Jimmy Shergill. He plays the same wide-eyed, idealistic hero we┬┤ve seen in hundreds of films by now and refuses to bring anything new to the character. What┬┤s worse, he seems to be suffering from a strong Shah Rukh Khan hang-over - he attempts the quivering smile, nervous dialog delivery, and suave young man style that made Khan famous whenever the script lets him. Unfortunately for Shergill, his attempts to mimic Khan┬┤s style fall flat and he comes of as awkward and uncomfortable in front of the camera instead.
The supporting cast is just about functional. Johnny Lever is somewhat notable; he is in his element here thanks again to some well written dialog.
Technically, the film is very well done. Ashok Kumar┬┤s (Jeans) cinematography in New York is absolutely stunning. The city has been captured on film beautifully. Jatin Lalit┬┤s music score is also very good. It has more than a handful of pleasant tunes that are well picturized and well placed in the film. Editing is likewise crisp. Production values are first-rate, but not very innovative; a strong Yash Chopra influence is ever present throughout the film.
On the whole, Kehtaa Hai Dil Baar Baar is an above average time-pass. It probably won┬┤t linger in anyone┬┤s minds long after the credits roll, but it offers solid entertainment during its runtime. But in a time when unbearable films like Annarth and Jeena Sirf Mere Liye are the norm, can we really complain about this?