Two bit players in Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon hit the nail bang on the head. In the course of an unduly protracted, insufferably infantile Valentine's Day sequence in the first half of the film, one of them (Vrajesh Hirjee, playing a Parsi lover boy) wonders: "Yeh kya childish game hain?" Close to the end of the overlong mush fest, another character (Tanaaz Currim as the heroine's elder married sister) captures the general mood of the audience: "Yeh kya paagalpan hain?" Yes, we all want to know!
Tarachand Barjatya must be turning in his grave. The patriarch of one of popular Hindi cinema's most famous families had, during his lifetime, made his distribution and production company synonymous with a kind of simple, quaint, heart-warming cinema that thrived on its old-world integrity and commitment to quality. One of his grandsons, Sooraj Barjatya, the first member of the family to actually take up film direction as a profession, did no major damage to the banner's hard-earned reputation with blockbusters like Maine Pyar Kiya and Hum Aapke Hain Koun…
But with the horrendous MPKDH, the young man has undone five and a half decades of good work in one fell swoop. This isn't a Rajshri film at all. The material trappings have changed with the times but none has done so for the better. The kabootar of Maine Pyar Kiya has given way to E-mails, the sequined sarees and bright ghagra-cholis of HAHK era have been replaced by micro minis and flimsy tops, and the coy flutters of the eyelashes and stolen moments of bashful romantic banter have been pushed out of the frame by a more aggressive brand of sexuality.
The changes go beyond the surface. The love triangle - MPKDH narrates a trite tale of two buddies in love with the same girl - could well have been an extract from a triple-sundae Yash Chopra romance. The giggly, garrulous, midriff-baring gaggle of girls who perpetually hover around the leading lady are straight out of a Karan Johar film. The story, of course, springs from a Rajshri hit of the mid-1970s (Chit Chor), but this garish, sickeningly puerile update is a blind hurtle down a course strewn with inanities.
A shy and reticent NRI tycoon, Prem Kumar (Abhishek Bachchan, who makes his entry only in the second half) is due to fly to India to finalise a deal and meet his prospective bride, Sanjana (Kareena Kapoor), a pouting, shouting, doubting Jane. Following a last-minute change in his plans, Prem's childhood pal, current employee and namesake, the gregarious Prem Kishen, a modern-day mix of Chit Chor's Amol Palekar and Geet Gata Chal's Sachin, makes the trip in his stead. Watched over by an animated parrot whose knowledge of the Hindi language is limited to the titles of Mumbai films and badgered by her mom, Sanjana falls in love with the adventure sport loving houseguest.
When the original Prem, a poetry-loving young man of few words, arrives on the scene with his doting mom (Reema Lagoo) and eccentric secretary (Johnny Lever), Sanjana's confused parents (Pankaj Kapur and Himani Shivpuri) are at their wit's end. The young lady is now too deeply in love with the first Prem to see the second Prem as anything more than a good friend. Copious tears are shed and emotional dam bursts are triggered as the girl's parents play the blame game and the heroine has to choose one Prem over the other.
MPKDH runs for over three hours; the actual story could have been told one hour flat. The film sinks under the weight of its ordinate length - and two much prem. Hrithik Roshan and Kareena Kapoor seem to believe that being over the top is a top idea. So they ham so much that it leaves the audience grunting in pain. The twosome delivers what must surely rank as the worst pair of performances one has ever seen in a Rajshri film.
Ironically, it is the weakest and least prominent of the lead actors, Abhishek Bachchan, who makes the biggest impact. That perhaps has something to do with the fact that he, being the third angle of a messy triangle, is given the least number of lines to speak. But even a shoddy script replete with stale ideas and corny dialogues cannot keep Pankaj Kapur down. He rises above the banality of the film, but that's all he can do because MPKDH is a clear case of much ado over nothingness.