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Since 1st March, 1999
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Oi ma! Aila! Main toh kehta hoon aap purush hi nahin… mahapurush hain, mahapurush…. Suno suno duniya ke logon, sabse bada hai Mr Gogo….

Teja main hoon, mark idhar hai…. Please oranges lijiye naa…

Some of the ghazab lines from one of the greatest Bollywood comedies ever made, Andaz Apna Apna. But isn’t it absolutely ajab that minutes after coming out of Rajkumar Santoshi’s new comedy, you just can’t remember one good line? One line that made you laugh out loud.

All you remember is Salman Khan, who seemed to have walked over from the next-door set of Veer with that Troy-like hairstyle, telling Ranbir about Katrina: “Tu aise darr darr ke bol raha hai jaise tu mere girlfriend ko apni girlfriend bol raha hai!” Well, the only reason you remember that line is because you can read between it.

Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani could have been made by Priyadarshan or Rohit Shetty or David Dhawan. It is just an addition to the assembly line production of slapstick physical comedies where bicycles without brakes drown in water, water tanks are electrocuted and people start flying like Superman. And true to this golmaal genre, it’s silly. So silly that someone has to travel across states to get in touch with another person rather than just pick up the phone in his pocket!

For a film which has ghazab kahani in its title, Ajab Prem… has no kahani to start with. Prem (Ranbir) falls in love with Jenny (Katrina) but before he can tell her his dil ki baat, he learns that she loves someone else. So he stays mum and helps her out till slowly kuch kuch starts happening to her. Yes, it’s that predictable.

But there is one very good reason to stay awake through these 150 minutes. The reason’s Kapoor, Ranbir Kapoor. After the stellar turn as the kid who grew up in Wake Up Sid, here is Bollywood’s new boy wonder pitch perfect as the stupid lover with a heart of gold. We have seen his comic timing already in Bachna Ae Haseeno and here Ranbir just underlines his effortless flair for comedy.

Besides being a terrific actor, who is ‘in’ the scene, scene after scene, Ranbir has the starry knack of jumping out of an ordinary film and making the performance count. Check out three extraordinary scenes. First is the dance ball, where Prem is in a non-stop waltz mode, very much like The Tramp, which again would remind some of Ranbir’s grandfather. Then there’s the confession at the church in broken English — look how Ranbir turns the clumsy lines into poetry. And then the hilarious scene where he dissuades Jenny’s Rahul (Upen Patel) not to marry her.

What makes Ranbir look even more brilliant is the mediocrity around him. While he looks very good with Katrina — it’s a cracking chemistry and the pair sure deserves a few more cracks at the movies — the latter is really no match in the acting department, often taking the zing out of certain scenes with her out-of-place histrionics. Like the one where Jenny comes back from the station and tells Prem: “You are drunk!” She is so over the top that Prem should have been telling her that.

Nothing, of course, comes close to Upen Patel who must seriously be in the race to be crowned the worst actor in Bollywood history. As Ranbir’s parents, Darshan Jariwalla and Smita Jaykar, however, are a riot and they really provide some of the funniest moments in the film.

Going with the stale storyline, the song situations too are very old school, often formulating from dreams and fantasies. That really takes away some of the charm of the Pritam soundtrack, which is fittingly loud and fun. Prem ki naiyya and Tera hone laga hoon stay with you.

Besides Ranbir, the best thing about Ajab Prem... is that Santoshi tease that the film may actually have its apna own andaz. Like the way both Prem and Jenny stammer when they are upset. It may be a case of Kaminey déjà vu but here it does draw the laughs. And that towel dance by Ranbir, the blue stripes confirming the Saawariya dig. Sadly, it stays just a tease and the magic doesn’t permeate to the whole film.

But then again, this is ajab desh ki ghazab audience. Andaz Apna Apna failed miserably at the box office before becoming a cult classic on TV. Today when an All The Best becomes a hit, Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani may well turn out to be — as Amar Prem would have said — “first class, tip top”!

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