Ajab Prem Ki Gazab Kahani, a comedy set in a comic book universe, is a frustratingly uneven film. Some of it is genuinely funny and delightful and some of it is repetitive, and annoyingly tedious.
But even in its most limp moments, what keeps the film from derailing is its lead pair: Ranbir Kapoor and Katrina Kaif. There is such sizzle and beauty and unadulterated charm here that you really can’t look away.
The story, co-written and directed by Raj Kumar Santoshi, is set in a picturesque little town, which seems like a cross between Goa and Ooty.
Specifics are irrelevant because Santoshi isn’t aiming for realism here. This is a cheerfully artificial world, in which Prem, played by Ranbir, lives with his parents.
Prem is a 9th standard drop-out whose main job is being the President of the Happy Club. The happy club hopes to make people happy but mostly its members boast about doing nothing.
Enter Jenny, played by Katrina, a lovely lady with a slightly troubling back-story: she is an orphan and the parents who adopted her are now forcing her into marriage with an obnoxious boy only because he is rich.
Jenny and Prem, who both have a tendency to stammer when they are emotionally wrought, become friends. And Prem, who can’t bring himself to tell her that he loves her, finds himself in the uncomfortable position of trying to get Jenny away from her own wedding so she can get together with her boyfriend, Rahul, who has issues of his own.
In its best moments, Ajab Prem is crackling comedy.
Santoshi keeps it light, fluffy and fun. There is a real sweetness in the scenes in which Prem and Jenny first discover that the other also stammers.
Some of the dialogues sparkle. The trouble is that the film cannot maintain this tone and energy. So, the humour dips and the gags become forced.
At times, the film strains so hard for laughs that it almost feels like the director is beating you with a stick and ordering you to enjoy it. But even here, Ranbir and Katrina don’t let up. Of course, he carries the bigger burden.
Ranbir, as the bumbling nerd, is in almost every frame. Watch him in a ball room scene, in which his body won’t stay still or at a cop station, hesitantly declaring his affection for Jenny.
Hopefully someday, Ranbir will find a script that matches his talent.
Ajab Prem isn’t it. But the film is engaging enough, as we say in Mumbai, time-pass. Go for it. (NDTV)