While watching Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani, at one point I felt that I was watching a gigantic python swallowing itself tail first and enjoying the meal. It struck me then that the reason Ajab is on its way to becoming one of the top 3 hits of the year is not the movie itself but the timing of it.
Bollywood has numerous gag movies - which actors like Akshay Kumar and Paresh Rawal have made careers out of. It also has an ever-increasing trickle of self aware movies - those made by people who grew up watching Bollywood and who know make innumerable references to it in comic homage.
Director Raj Kumar Santoshi has combined both these genres - to deliver a lite movie that is dumb, smart and everything in between. It's about a happy go lucky bonehead (Ranbir Kapoor) who falls in love with a girl who shamelessly uses him (Katrina Kaif). That plot pretty much propels the movie.
But the cool thing about Ajab is that Santoshi decides, rather cleverly, when to make fun of a cliche and when to consume it in service of his movie.
He packs his movie with numerous cliches. Anaath lead? Check. Nasty stepmom? Check. Boy in search of manhood? Check. Heart of Gold? Check. Crazy, loyal friends? Check. Gruff, but loving father? Check. Doting mom? Check. That's the first ten minutes. More follow in such rapid succession.
Santoshi carefully wraps his movie around these...characters, alternating between exploiting tried and test Bollywood scenarios and making fun of them. One of the most entertaining things he does in the movie is that he turns the mood of a scene on a dime. A scene will have some zingy comedy motoring along and all of a sudden the whole scene will change to one of heart-wrenching emotion and in-between is just ONE beat! In order to accomplish this considerable feat without appearing entirely hokey, Santoshi instructs Ranbir to show wispy, longing looks to the camera. Additionally, he uses a violin. Simple, effective, not much effort needed to understand.
Santoshi has considerable slapstick in his movie. He counters this roughness with some fine basic filmmaking. The production design is great, the costumes work most of the times (Katrina Kaif is dressed brilliantly in the movie), the set designs - barring one song in a sports bar - show the fruits of labor.
In a market saturated with movies that are either too low brow or entirely too clever, here is a director who tried to bring Clever to Low-brow and made it work. It's not entirely surprising that audiences - who miss old Bollywood but are too tired of its cliches to waste three hours on it - responded to that.
Ajab has made over Rs 55 crores at the box office so far.
The Ajab preview