Heir to the majestic throne of Yash Raj Films, Aditya Chopra returns to the director's chair after a lengthy absence of eight years. After bringing us one of Indian Cinema's most treasured films of all-time, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge (1995), he returned with Shah Rukh Khan in another romantic epic, Mohabbatein (2000). He joins hands with SRK for a third time to write a relatively modest love story...the story of Mr. & Mrs. Surinder Sawhney.
Surinder Sawhney (Shah Rukh Khan) is a middle-aged, modest, and very introverted individual. Taking only that which is offered to him, Surinder weds Taani (Anushka Sharma) in accordance with her father's dying wish. Virtual strangers, Taani soon after admits that although she'll be a very devoted wife, she will never be able to love him. Unfortunately for Surinder, he was love-struck from the day he first laid eyes on the simple and innocent young lady. It is his quest to earn her love that gives birth to Surinder's outgoing alter ego - Raj. This is the basic premise of Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi.
As the film opens to the bustling streets of Punjab, you can tell this film will be treated in a much more real manner than Chopra's previous two works. Nevertheless, it is the trademark of YRF to find larger-than-life stories within mediocre ones. This is what Chopra achieves while analyzing the jodi of Surinder and Taani. Chopra's screenplay is above-average at best. While creating Surinder's alter ego, Chopra surreptitiously pens parallel stories - each of which serving as a sharp foil to the other. The couple of Story #1 is Surinder-Taani, whereas the couple of Story #2 is Raj-Taani.
Aditya leans heavily on Story #2 as the film's major selling point, which is obvious seeing as how it takes up most of the screenplay and initiates the conflict. What he fails to recognize is that it is Story #1 that is more appealing in its subtleties. We want to see more of the great Punjabi outdoors and less of the fabricated filmy in-studio dance session. We want to see more of the mysteriously restrained Surinder and his dimly lit relationship with Taani, not the obnoxious caricature of Raj (played by SRK for the umpteenth time). Perhaps the film would have been more engaging if the two stories were flipped, where Surinder was the uncanny alter ego of Raj.
Other issues with the writing are more singular in nature. For instance, Taani is unable to recognize her husband simply because he wears sunglasses instead of regular glasses and doesn't have a moustache. It's clear that this point was conveniently ignored by Chopra to further propel the script.
Furthermore, the music video of Phir Milenge Chalte Chalte sticks out like a sore-thumb. Intended as a portal into Taani's fantasies, it honestly feels like the projectionist switched over to MTV for 7 minutes. Fortunately for YRF, this is a rare example of a critical flaw leading to commercial popularity. Plainly put, the nostalgic song and dance number will be loved by one and all for its stroll down memory lane by way of a gyrating Shah Rukh Khan and special appearances by Kajol, Bipasha Basu, Lara Dutta, Preity Zinta, and Rani Mukherjee. Coming to my final major criticism of RNBDJ - Despite an otherwise novel story, the film tends to unravel in a very familiar fashion. In layman's terms, the climax is slightly more predictable than you would otherwise like it to be.
It may appear that the film is littered with flaws. Not so. Chopra, on the whole, delivers a welcome entertainer in true Yash Raj style. Although not nearly to the majestic levels of DDLJ or Mohabbatein, RNBDJ is still a sweet departure from other candy-floss cinema that would aim to hit the same spot. Despite its flaws, Chopra's screenplay brings to light the perplexing though of a wife cheating on her husband with her husband.
Salim-Sulaiman's musical score comes alive on screen. While on audio the OST may have fallen into mediocrity, it comes to life through visuals. Songs like "Haule Haule" and "Phir MIlenge Chalte Chalte" erupt beautifully on screen.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the entire film is the character of Surinder Sawhney (aka Suri), played masterfully by Shah Rukh Khan. It has taken the man a few years, but SRK has finally found his character. His timid shyness comes across with stunning clarity. You hardly notice any acting when it comes to Surinder. SRK admits that Suri is one of the more real characters he's enacted in his career. He's absolutely right. Chopra succeeds in creating an extraordinary persona out of a very ordinary man. In the words of SRK himself, "99.9% of the people in this world are like Suri." - It is this connection alone that makes Suri the landslide winner of RNBDJ.
Things are different with the character of Raj - Suri's self-perpetuated split personality. The outwardly obnoxious romantic caricature is something that SRK has played time and time again. Despite an adequate portrayal, Raj is too out of touch with reality. In attempt to create a balanced foil to Surinder, Chopra has given birth to an over-the-top individual who adds little creative integrity into the otherwise thoughtful story. Final Verdict: SRK succeeds immensely as Surinder, but merely fits the role of Raj.
Taani, played by newcomer Anushka Sharma, is a sweet and appropriate blend with both extremes of Suri and Raj. Nevertheless, she demands very little from her enactor. Scope aside, Anushka appears to be a welcome addition to the sudden onslaught of young female actresses. We'll have to wait for her next film in order to gain a clearer glimpse into her true abilities as a potent actor.
The third wheel is Bobbay, as conveyed by Vinay Pathak. It's pleasantly satisfying to see true talent being recognized. Vinay Pathak, who started his career with television and has been doing films for a decade now, is finally getting his share of attention. In the last month alone Vinay has featured as the lead in two critically successful films, Dasvidaniya & Oh, My God! Much of this thurst can be attributed to the surprise hit - Bheja Fry (2007). In RNBDJ Pathak is utilized as a stage tool, serving as a mirror to Suri's inner-thoughts. He plays the bit well.
RNBDJ is by no means another epic by Aditya Chopra. However, few will be disappointed by it. Keeping in line with true YRF fashion, RNBDJ provides its escapist viewers with another romantic twist. Besides, it's worth watching just to see SRK's down-to-earth portrayal of Surinder Sawhney. Go watch RNBDJ with an open heart for a good clean entertainer.