090dcd67bb47f48d055104aa8ae6e9cd-2MUJHSE SHAADI KAROGI. Director: David Dhawan. Players: Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar, Priyanka Chopra, Amrish Puri, Kader Khan, Sashikala. Music: Sajid-Wajid. Theatrical release (EROS). Hindi with English subtitles.

David Dhawan has had strong success with ro-mantic comedies (Bade Miyan Chhote Miyan, Deewana Mastana) featuring Dhawan’s favorite lead Govinda. The problem was that teaming with Govinda and Sanjay Dutt in Jodi No. 1 was not any different than choreographing the same duo through Ek Aur Ek Gyarah. Having honed his skills there, Dhawan finally puts it all together in a huge way by replacing Govinda with Salman Khan. Using Khan along with co-stars Kumar and Chopra, Dhawan transforms a ho-hum inconsequential love triangle into a delightful film.

Let the record show that there is nothing groundbreaking in the storyline. Sameer (S. Khan) is a jinxed dude befallen by bad luck when it comes to dating and finding a suitable marriage partner. Temperamental to boot, Sameer lands a cushy job as a lifeguard on a Goa beach and immediately sets his eyes on the budding fashion designer Rani (Chopra). Sameer’s female trouble follows him to Goa in that Rani’s father (Puri) takes an instant dislike to the accident-prone Sameer. Adding insult to injury, Sameer’s romantic competition heats up when Sunny (Kumar), a dastardly slacker shows up to share Sameer’s apartment.

Using a bold storytelling technique achieved mainly through use of primary colors especially during the beach scenes (filmed in Dubai), Mujhse Shaadi Karogi sustains both an eye-catching narrative and interest. Khan, who can be unruly off screen, here finds a disciplined comic groove nicely complemented by the rogue Kumar plays. (Is he what he appears to be? Is he rich? Is he a straight wolf in a gay sheep’s clothing?) While Chopra, former Miss World, may not have comedy in her well-coiffed pores, she’s damn nice to look at.

Even though Anu Malik contributes one tune, this is clearly a Sajid-Wajid show. In a breakout musical punch, Sajid-Wajid muscle their way into major reckoning with a lighter-than-air, foot-stomping soundtrack. As an arrangement style sharply contrasted with A.R. Rahman whose Karnatik musical home turf is self-evident in most of his works, Sajid-Wajid go for a more traditional (read North Indian) sound that goes gangbusters with Udit Narayan-Alka Yagnik duets Lal Dupatta and Rab Kare. The former is a red-colored on-screen fantasy of special note. Presented as a sumptuous ethnic-costumed fantasy (in fact, most songs are dream sequences), the combination of Sajid-Wajid’s heavy tabla beat and songwriter Arun Bhairav’s folky-teasing lyrics results in an oh-so-catchy song that lingers long after the curtain falls.

For staging a decent finale, Dhawan owes a small debt to 2003’s Oscar-nominated Lagaan. Weaving cricket into a storyline can payoff very well, thank you. Mujhse Shaadi Karogi not only makes a cricket stop but also features a cameo by Kapil Dev, surely a demi-god in India’s vast cricket pantheon. Cricket, beach blank bingo (with blankets optional), and a great musical score—who could ask for more?

Aniruddh Chawda writes from Wisconsin, on America’s North Coast.

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