If you watch films solely on the basis of who’s in them, then Main Aurr Mrs. Khanna, by novice director Prem Soni - might be your choice this Diwali. Touted as a romantic comedy, it is neither romantic nor particularly comedic - a grab-bag of high points thrown up in the air then assembled any-old-how. I’ve watched enough Bollywood comedies and masala films to know that they don’t always require a sequential, logical narrative flow. Their prime purpose is to entertain but to do so they must be quite outrageous, over-the-top and fun. The problem is that Main Aurr Mrs. Khanna is painfully earnest through its entire first half, moving into some light comedy far too late. The laughs are few and the fun element - the feeling of being entertained - is sorely missing.
When we first see him in flashback Samir Khanna (Salman Khan) looks like an elderly guy clinging to his youth or a caricature where parody wasn’t intended. Haggard face, bags under his eyes, sallow complexion suggestive of far too many tequila sunrises and an eccentric hairstyle to hide loss of hair - are features that should have been airbrushed away. But no - we are expected to believe that the innocent straight-out-of an orphanage Raina (Kareena Kapoor) would instantly fall for the guy just because he has been hanging around a church. Hadn’t she been taught not to talk to strange men? The far-fetchedness of their lightning courtship is bizarre enough when zap - they are married and living in Melbourne, Australia. Samir has morphed into a businessman who is reeling from the effects of the global economic crisis and their marriage is on the rocks because of it. Melt-downs ensue with lots of soulful staring out of the windows at bleak urban vistas.
We move tiresomely but purposefully towards the airport - stock symbol of meetings and partings - renewal and loss. One can almost hear the filmmakers saying - ‘Let’s have a decisive scene at an airport but we won’t go down the usual track - the touching reunion- climax - instead we’ll insert our more original airport scene early in the film and surprise viewers with its outcome.’ Yep. The outcome is mildly surprising but mainly for its weirdness and incongruity (to say more would be to spoil).
The high points of the film stand out like the dots on a puzzle for children while the spaces in between are inconsequential - a mindless, joyless slog. It presents as laborious plotting without the understanding of how to craft a proper, cohesive screenplay.
The biggest mistake in the construction of this screenplay appears to be that Soni has chosen to tell the story from Mrs. Khanna’s perspective when really - the character he most enjoyed creating was Aakash (Sohail Khan) - Mrs. Khanna’s confidante and companion. Aakash owns a café at Melbourne Airport where he meets Mrs. Khanna on that life-altering day. Sohail Khan adds value to Mr. Nice Guy and viewers readily warm to his goofiness, total ease and innate timing. The morning after a drunken club scene we see him in hang-over mode - defensive, funny, interesting unlike the moribund characters of Samir and Raina.
In a less than engaging film, one has time to ponder the settings, costumes and make-up in much the same way as one is often forced to read ads when waiting for a train. So I noticed how painfully thin Kareena was and how bones were accentuated in her back by some of the more revealing frocks. I observed a line of what looked like adhesive on one of Salman’s sideburns and studied the zits on Kareena’s face with some interest. There was make-up caked onto the faces of several peripheral female characters which was so thick that it seemed to have been applied with a palette knife. In terms of settings - the homes in some of the Melbourne settings looked unconvincingly bare as if no one could be living in them while others gave the impression of being hotel rooms. In better Bollywood films scenes are set up with a lovely eye for detail and aesthetics. Unfortunately this film appeared hasty and tacky in the visual department.
Both Kareena Kapoor and Salman Khan are great dancers but there wasn’t much comment-worthy choreography. While the songs by Sajid-Wajid are pleasant listening, picturisation did nothing to enhance them with more bare rooms and people staring into the distance and an overly dark ‘Kajra Re’ wannabe item number in ‘Happening’ . The song ‘Mrs. Khanna’ with some silliness from Sohail, Kareena and a Bappi Lahiri (in cameo) is a bit more flamboyant and interesting.
With a first half that takes itself too seriously and a mismatched second half that doesn’t seem to know where it’s going Main Aurr Mrs. Khanna is neither drama nor a ‘roller coaster romp‘. Watch an old favourite this Diwali - chances are you will be more entertained.