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A shallow Bangalore boy falls for a dedicated Delhi do-gooder in Gori Tere Pyaar Mein, a charming and socially plugged-in romantic comedy that will appeal to families and romance-seekers alike. Even its formulaic elements are as comforting as a hot, steaming cup of masala tea.
Imran Khan and Kareena Kapoor make a charismatic modern couple in a project that may seem like two separate movies pre- and post-intermission but which nevertheless gels to create an amiable result. Box office success will be well deserved both in India and overseas.
GTPM marks Khan and Kapoor’s second onscreen pairing since Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu (One Me and One You, 2012), another big city rom-com that showed off their witty rapport.
Khan’s charm is, as always, effortless. At first glance, the glamorous Kapoor wouldn’t seem to be the best choice for this scrubbed, earnest role (Kapoor’s long, manicured nails are a dead giveaway, even when her character is volunteering in a remote Gujarati village, but heck, too much realism is anathema to this genre anyway). Yet she warms to the character and conveys a fiery dedication in the role of an activist dubbed jokingly as “Mother India” and, once, “Shabana Azmi.”
In this squeaky-clean, wholesome film, Khan and Kapoor spar and flirt over the course of a two-year relationship whose steamier elements are coyly kept offscreen. South Indian Sriram Venkat (Khan) and North Indian Dia Sharma (Kapoor) are as culturally mismatched as Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone were in this year’s other big romantic comedy, Chennai Express, but here, the clash isn’t about language but instead between Venkat’s selfish yuppie ways and Dia’s devotion to the downtrodden.
Bollywood films so often reference other Bollywood films that it’s just about expected these days, and the filmi references in GTPM are no exception.
The screenplay (Malhotra with Arshad Sayed) and its pastoral setting recall two of Ashutosh Gowariker’s best-known films: the Oscar-nominated Lagaan (its star, Aamir Khan, happens to be Imran’s uncle and is the subject of some playful parody here), and Swades, a wonderful but overlooked film about an Americanized Indian who comes home to help a village.
Director Punit Malhotra is a veteran of Karan Johar’s production house — he served as assistant director on two of Johar’s biggest hits (Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham and Kal Ho Naa Ho) — and directed the 2010 Khan vehicle I Hate Luv Storys.
All the lead performances are praiseworthy: Anupam Kher (Silver Linings Playbook) brings his skillful brand of realism to a comic role of a corrupt local tax collector; while ethereal beauty Shraddha Kapoor (Teen Patti) is effective as a forward-thinking woman pressured into an arranged marriage to Venkat.
This film deftly hints at some of India’s hot-button social topics, without pandering or offering a too-easy solution — in one scene, a village woman gives birth to a girl, and the community’s disappointment is clear. In another scene, Dia works with HIV-positive children and teases Venkat for being afraid of them. A taboo against a Punjabi/Tamil cross-cultural marriage gets its comeuppance, and Malhotra gets a joke in about the illegal-but-still-widespread issue of dowry.
The film’s only weak links are in its slapdash sound design and its outdated and uninteresting music score. That’s a surprise, since background composers Salim and Sulaiman Merchant and songwriters Vishal Dadlani and Shekhar Ravjiani usually craft memorable music.
But overall, Gori Tere Pyaar Mein’s characters are so engaging, and the stars complement each other so well, that it’s easy to overlook the film’s faults and wish the best for them. In fact, at the end of its two-and-a-half hours, one actually wonders what adventure these two will find next.
Opened: Nov. 22, 2013 (Reliance Entertainment)
Production company: Dharma Productions
Cast: Imran Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Anupam Kher, Shraddha Kapoor
Director: Punit Malhotra
Screenwriters: Punit Malhotra, Arshad Sayed
Producers: Hiroo Yash Johar, Karan Johar
Co-producer: Apoorva Mehta
Director of photography: Mahesh Limaye
Costume designers: Manish Malhotra and Megha Tandon
Choreographer: Remo D’Souza
Production Designer: Shashank Tere
Music: Vishal Dadlani and Shekhar Ravjiani, Salim Merchant and Sulaiman Merchant
Sound Designer: Ali Merchant
Editor: Akiv Ali
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