MERE BROTHER KI DULHAN. Director: Ali Abbas Zafar. Players: Imran Khan, Katrina Kaif, Ali Zafar, Parikshit Sahni, Kanwaljit Singh. Music: Sohail Sen. Theatrical Release (Yashraj).

films_mere-brother-ki-dulhanThe Yashraj brand has become synonymous with romance and romantic comedies. Their last offering Band Baja Baraat (2010) fit that formula hand-in-glove and also turned into a box office hit for the label. Even as the production house, headed by father-son team of Yash Chopra and Aditya Chopra, prepares for yet another installment of the surprisingly resilient Dhoom franchise (Dhoom 3 will break out in 2012), the label never strays far from the marketing model that has made it so successful in a history spanning five decades.

Their newest offering is Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, which even sounds like a Yashraj entry.

Purely romantic, never serious, and often hilarious, Dulhan proves again how sticking to a successful formula can lead to even more mid-tier success.

Set primarily in Delhi and the hill country in Dehradun, Dulhan ropes in Kush Agnihotri (Khan) who gets marching orders from his parents to find a suitable bride for his brother Luv Agnihotri (Ali Zafar, newbie Pakistani actor/singer, no relation to the director). When Kush zeroes in on the best match for his brother Luv, its only too late that Kush realizes that Luv’s would-be wife is none other than the free-spirited Dimple Dixit (Kaif), Kush’s former college party friend. As both camps prepare for Luv and Dimple’s nuptials in the foreground, everything goes haywire in the background as Kush and Dimple brush off their campus tiffs-gone-by and rekindle an unusual alliance.

While this is all predictable, formulaic Filmmaking-101 type stuff, Yashraj packages it with enough shine and airtight space to keep it from going stale. Kaif, whose Hindi diction requires her voice to be dubbed (and, in spots, the dubbing is painfully apparent) continues her charge up the hill after racking up some of the biggest box office hits in recent years (Singh is Kinng, Rajneeti, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, New York). Kaif is now the highest paid female actor in Hindi films. Wisconsin-born Khan, fresh from the box office success of Delhi Belly, easily essays the recent college grad routine. In support, in addition to Zafar as Luv, Sahni and Singh as parents from opposite families also bring a touch of egalitarian class. The lush country vistas of the Himalayan foothills and the charms of Delhi rooftop conversations add to a romantic and earthy grounding that director Zafar makes sure his vehicle does not stray from.

Recent arrival Sohail Sen, who earlier made a splash with What’s Your Rashee? (2009), here orchestrates some of the catchiest tunes this season. Any soundtrack that opens up with the words “Matrimonial si aankhen” (matrimonial eyes) has got to have playful mischief up its sleeve. Foremost is Neha Bhasin’s “Dhunki, ”which tosses up dance-worthy electric guitar work infused into an outdoor, put-your-hands-in-the-air mood true to its staging on the back of a moving truck and also on a train. Then there is Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s “Isq Risk.” Khan has a rep for rock-solid sufi-inspired vocals hailing from the same music clan as his legendary uncle Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. In this sleeper tune, Khan is both effortless and effervescent. With “Choomantar,” Benny Dayal, who moonlights into playback singing when he is not fronting for the pop group S5, gets help from what can only be described a chorus of chipmunks—which takes nothing away from this mid-tempo dance ditty. Accompanied by Irshad Kamil’s credible lyrics, Sen’s score sets itself up as an early contender for the most popular, if not the best, soundtrack of the year honors.

Another trait Yashraj banks on is better marketing. A 74-theater U.S. release netted $400,000 on opening weekend, roughly the same as Ajay Devgn’sSingham managed over its entire 5-week U.S. run, despite a blockbuster status in India. That easily added to Dulhan as a hit and net moneymaker for Yashraj, even before satellite TV and DVD/video sales come in. The studio smartly relies on the go-to formula of movies like Mere Brother Ki Dulhan even while they engage in full-throttle A-plus budget, action flicks like the Dhoom franchise. We don’t mind them as family friendly, musically inclined outings even though they add up to, as Dulhan does, little more than a case of sibling thievery.

EQ: B

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