MEIN PREM KI DIWANI HOON. Director: Sooraj Barjatya; Players: Kareena Kapoor, Hrithik Roshan, Abhishek Bachchan, Pankaj Kapur, Himani Shivpuri, Johnny Lever. Music: Anu Malik. English subtitles. Theatrical release.

Rajshri Films is one of India’s most presti-gious studios. Rajshri’s hits Maine Pyar Kiya and Hum Aapke Hain Koun? harvested both critical mass and blockbuster box offices. The impressive Hum Saath Saath Hain followed those films. Now comes Mein Prem Ki Diwani Hoon (MPKDH), an upper-tier romance. Lively and carefully made, it again breathes life into the gloss Rajshri has used to cement its reputation.

The plot is simple. Frequent fliers that arrive at airports are often greeted with placard-holding (usually) men in search of specific deplaning passengers. The placard-holders resemble (a) disheveled taxi drivers, (b) unshaven hired assassins, or (c) impeccable stretch limo-driver types who quickly whisk away arriving multinational biz execs and faux nobility.

Our story deals primarily with the subgroup (c), after faux-but-endearing princess Sanjana (Kapoor) sends an underling to greet Prem (Roshan), Sanjana’s would-be suitor, arriving from America. Prem and Sanjana frolic, lip-synch, and bat eyelashes at each other until her parents give Sanjana permission to marry Prem.

Director Barjatya is a connoisseur of layering detailed storytelling with premium stagecraft. As they jaunt from one attractively decorated set to another, Sanjana and Prem’s always-lively courtship plays well to both the teeny-bopper set for the first half and to more discriminating tastes for the second half.

Barjatya breaks with Rajshri tradition by shooting outside of India for the first time. The songs are all filmed in New Zealand or Mauritius. While they are captured flawlessly, staging only the songs—and not the story—overseas breaks the continuity. This minor transgression is magnified by the fact that
Roshan’s best-known film Kaho Naa Pyar Hai prominently featured New Zealand, and because New Zealand has become a hot destination for Indian filmmakers since KNPH paved the way, using it here appears like second-guessing.

Recall that MPKDH is a love triangle. So why is Bachchan’s character not named in the plot line? Recall also that the plot is sweetly shallow. Hence, giving away how Bachchan’s character fits into the story would be giving away a pleasant plot twist that is unusual but quite possible in jet-age living.

Kapoor, whose Sanjana the story centers on, looks ethereally beautiful. Kapoor’s chemistry with Roshan is still a raging hormonal inferno, something Barjatya taps into nicely. Even though MPKDH was four years in the making, all three principals appear fresh throughout.

While Malik’s soundtrack has no single anchor tune, the way that the songs are staged, especially the large-drum dance and a slick moonlit beach-crawl, express Barjatya’s mastery over the art of song-staging. The word prem (love) is woven into the songs and narrative with the same success that resulted from figuring the word “love” into Rajshri’s Maine Pyar Kiya. The Rajshri magic is still alive and more-or-less doing well.

Globe trekker, aesthete, photographer, ski bum, film buff, and commentator, Aniruddh Chawda writes from Milwaukee.