Rajshri’s New Look


. Director: Sooraj Barjatya. Players: Shahid Kapoor, Amrita Rao, Alok Nath, Anupam Kher, Seema Biswas. Music: Ravinder Jain. Theatrical release.

Rajshri Films have put together some of grandest Hindi box-office hits over the last 20 years. Maine Pyar Kiya and Hum Aapke Hain Koun set the box office ablaze when there were released. While not quite in the same wavelength as their prior juggernauts, Vivah has Rajshri proving that even a smaller cast and limited purse strings are sufficient to result in family-friendly screen magic.

In keeping with the Rajshri tradition, here again is a story where nothing much happens, but what little does happen is handled with care and cunning. As is often the case with Rajshri Films, once again there is a wedding in the making. The pending arranged nuptials of Prem (Kapoor) and Poonam (Rao) appear to be made in screen heaven. She is not so rich and his rich family is willing to overlook the income gap. What we are less prepared for are Poonam’s evil step-monster (Biswas) meddling to create mischief and Poonam running into an unfortunate accident that nicely gets the story off-track.

The Barjatyas are great at extracting emotions from little-nothing moments. A family picnic, a pending visit by the would-be in-laws, the romantic couple stealing away a precious private moment in an otherwise crowded household—all receive the camera’s undivided attention. The result is that the private onscreen moments have an air of exclusivity about them. Additionally, using Kapoor and Rao, two talented but lesser known names, forces the filmmakers to rely on stagecraft, setting, lighting, and camerawork instead of repeated close-ups (a.k.a. Madhuri Dixit’s face in Hum Aapke Hain Koun).

Ravinder Jain’s slower-paced score is a refreshing musical antidote to Himesh Reshammiya’s louder, hyper-paced and often repetitiously mono-tonal recent chart entries. Reminiscent of Jain’s best works from the 1970s (Chitchor, Dulhan Wohi Jo Piya Man Bhaye), Vivah is a keeper all the way around.

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