Bottom line: AVOID THIS FILM.
Hey Ram! We took a gaggle of Bollywood virgins to see this, and half of them fled the theatre before the film even ended. Yes, we are sorry to report it: Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (A Match Made by God) is bad. Actually, it's not bad - it's terrible. Director Aditya Chopra attempts to use the same formula which worked for Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge - that is, undermine modernism with some comfortingly vanilla traditionalism, and name your movie after a popular old Shashi Kapoor song - only this time, the results are disastrous. Even Shah Rukh Khan - superstar, blog favorite, everyone's favorite - misfired so badly he blew us off the train to Shahtown altogether. We'll be approaching work by these two with caution from now on.
The plot is simple: nerdy, aging Surinder Sahni (Shah Rukh Khan) is living his cubicled, monotonous existence in Amritsar, where he works for "Punjab Power - lighting up your life!" One day, he goes to the wedding of his former professor's daughter, the young, sunny Taani (newcomer Anushka Sharma), and - after a series of unfortunate, but typical filmi events - Surinder and Taani find themselves engaged, as per her father's dying wish.
The marriage is as forced as can be. While Surinder has a wee bit of a crush on Taani - she's so spunky! alive! dancing! laughing! - Taani is definitely not interested in her nerdy new husband (nerdband?). Also, she finds herself bored and restless in her new role as housewife, and so, when she hears news of a local dance-a-thon, she begs Surinder to let her compete. Not only does Surinder allow her, but he himself undergoes a radical, secret makeover, becoming Raj - a caricature of all past Shah Rukh Khan roles! - her new cheeky, flirtatious dance partner. As Surinder confides tearfully to his best buddy and confidante, Bobby (Vinay Pathak), Taani said she would never be able to fall in love with Surinder... so Surinder will just have to make her fall for Raj. You can pretty much foresee how this is all going to end: with traditional norms and the conservative ideal glorified, and with the "Your husband is your God!" idea bashed into your head repeatedly. Save us!
So much that could go wrong, did go wrong. First: the moral of the story. Surinder is self-admittedly boring, quiet and reserved. He's not really a heartbreaker, and he doesn't try to be. He knows that his wife won't love him as he is, so he dresses up as Raj in order to win her over. Once won over, he then insists that she... love him as he is. In other words: he dazzles her with a better option, but then insists that she settle for the lesser original. Why? Does he find it tiring to be Raj? He seems to enjoy it too. So... huh? When best buddy Bobby voices how hypocritical this is, Surinder is stubborn: no, Taani must love the boring husband, and he shouldn't have to change. Huh? Whatever happened to "marriage is compromise"? And what the hell are you talking about - you just changed and liked it!
There's also a whole load of stuff about God - seeing God in your beloved - and it all becomes very confused. Taani is angry at God about her father's death, and so she can't see God in anyone. Surinder sees God in Taani, and therefore loves Taani. When Taani finally wakes up and sees God in Surinder - mostly because he pulls a lamer version of Naseer the Perfect's nice husband routine, and she appreciates it - this instantly translates into loving Surinder! What? It was a little weird to watch Taani just flip from non-love to love for one guy, to love for another guy, all based on pretty tenuous emotional engagement.
Second problem, the performances. SRK, SRK, SRK. Why? WHYYYY? He seems to do everything in his power to mask his natural charisma and good looks. Normally we love SRK - he's fun, bouncy, lovable, sexy - and yet, in this film, whether he's hiding under pursed lips and a thankless haircut, or whether he's prancing around like a maniac with another thankless haircut, he was awful. Argh, we hate to write this, but he was! We spent most of the film crying on the inside: "Save us, Anil, save us!" We can understand what SRK was trying to go for - his nerdy avatar was wonderful in Main Hoon Na and Om Shanti Om - but here, it just didn't work. Perhaps he made his "cool" Raj avatar obnoxiously over-the-top in order to enhance the appeal of nerdy Surinder. Honestly, both were pretty unappealing!
Newcomer Anushka Sharma was fine in her role. In fact, it's a shame that her debut was in this film, as she seemed to have a natural charm and homey grace to her, a bit like a young Hema Malini, yet we were so distracted by the God-awfulness that we couldn't appreciate her talents. We look forward to more, Anushka! Anything's gonna be up and up after this!
Third major flaw: the songs. As we mentioned in our soundtrack review, the music was fine, but nothing great. We usually don't worry too much about mediocre songs, as sometimes a good picturization can really work wonders. The picturizations of Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, unfortunately, were uniformly uninspired and uninspiring. We're no big fans of the dancing genre - Dil To Pagal Hai was one of the few Hindi films we couldn't even finish, and we fear Taal too much to watch it - and this film unfortunately relies heavily on a sort of Dil To Pagal Hai hangover.
Fourth problem: the misjudged emotional pitch! Why did Aditya Chopra think that a "SRK fights a sumo wrestler" scene, dressed up as an Austin Powers-style gag, could then be milked for heart-warming melodrama? Either it's funny, or it's sad - it can't be both! (And, in this case, it was neither.) How many times does Surinder need to tearfully mention that he loves Taani an awful lot? And how many times does he have to do this - in the hair salon? We felt like the film was skipping like a scratched record - the same scenes just kept repeating themselves, with no crescendo, no climax, no movement of any kind.
Man, this always happens. We went into this film completely optimistic. We were thinking, "Gosh, can they even do any wrong in Bollywood? Clearly, no!" A friend of us had just lent us Ram Lakhan and, after randomly selecting a song, we landed on the spectacular My Name is Lakhan. We were pumped! We were like, "OMG YES to EVERYTHING HINDI!"
And then we saw this.
This is just like the time we went to see a bunch of really good plays, and we thought, "Gosh, can they ever do Shakespeare wrong? Clearly, no!" And then we saw the worst version of Macbeth ever made by man. We keep jinxing ourselves!
"After all this bad news, is there any good news?" you might ask. Well, sort of. For once (and only because we haven't seen Singh is Kinng yet), it was a film with a protagonist who isn't Hindu, but Sikh. The setting - Amritsar's bustling alleys and beautiful Golden Temple - was the best part of the show. And we enjoyed the token religious pluralism song. But that's about it.
So should you see it? We're usually willing to give everything a try once, but, honestly, spare yourself the trouble. We spent most of the film wishing for it to end. Time to go purify ourselves and watch something sublime to remind ourselves how, when Hindi films get it right, they really get it right. It's just a shame that sometimes they really get it wrong too.