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PREM RETURNS TO CONQUER THE BOX OFFICE

By P Shukla - Eye TV India Bureau

Critic's I-view

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Prem, the erstwhile hero of Sooraj Barjatya, has returned to Indian screen after a long hiatus and this time with a new face. Salman Khan played this character under Sooraj's banner in his last three consecutive films - 'Maine Pyar Kiya', 'Hum Aapke Hain Kaun' and 'Hum Saath Saath Hain'. But, in his 'Vivah', Sooraj hands over this character to newcomer Shaahid Kapoor, probably because Shaahid is tough on face and soft in looks as Salman had been when he did the character for the first time.

This time, Prem has Poonam on his side as his fiancée and not Suman. There is no hype for the film and no expectation either from it because in his last two films Sonora followed a path that went overboard and was too glamorous. There was a plethora of films that were meant to attract the Indian Diaspora and each looked like 'A Great Indian Wedding', be it 'Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Ghum' or his own 'Hum Saath Saath Hain'.

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But, when Karan Johar went wrong by taking a flight and made 'Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna' just to please overseas community, Sooraj left the same and decided to travel on road again. Yes, 'Vivah' is targeted not at the NRIs but the people living in Kanpur, Bareilly, Nashik, Bhopal and Patna! Its one more time journey to your roots and it is very emotional. A new pair is on the roll and those who thought that Kareena was just blushing when she said Shaahid and Amrita look very cute as pair; one needs to see to believe it. They do look made for each other kind of pair and 'Vivah' is a film that will make many (especially women) cry a lot while watching this film.

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To begin with 'Vivah' can be an eye opener for many in Hindi film industry. It's a lesson for those who believe that only fast music, stylish packaging and aggressive promotion can sell a film. Sooraj has done nothing of this sort in his latest offering. It has music by a composer who has been out of the limelight for years. He is Ravindra Jain. It relies on simple story telling that's miles away from films like 'Don' and 'Umrao Jaan' and it is not a film that is promoted in each and every channel.

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The end result is that one goes to watch the film with least expectations and comes out doing mouth of word publicity. The film starts with Krishna Kant (Alok Nath) telling the stories of his niece Poonam (Amrita Rao) as to how she lost her parents and became part of his family in childhood. He also tells us that his wife Rama (Seema Biswas) doesn't like Poonam at all because she is fair in color while her own daughter Chhoti is not so.

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One day, Krishan Kant's family friend Bhagat (Manoj Joshi) visits him and takes Poonam's picture to show it to a big businessman (Anupam Kher) who is looking for a girl for his second son Prem (Shaahid Kapoor). Poonam is approved in the first chance and the family comes to see her. Everything goes fine and Poonam gets engaged to Prem on the same day. The story takes turn when it travels from engagement to marriage. And, it is there that Sooraj Barjatya shows his talent. The luck, the destiny, the jealousy and the good soul -- everything is roped in the second half of the film.

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Sooraj has got some very impressive and heart-touching dialogues written by Aash Karan Atal. Sooraj gets full support from his technical team. Harish Joshi does a wonderful job as a cinematographer. He has bridged the gap between outdoor and indoor shooting. Sanjay Dhabade in spite of being a Maharashtrian manages to make sets that look like those in a North Indian house. Anna Singh, who failed miserably in decorating 'Umrao Jaan' with her costumes, is perfect in 'Vivah'.

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Rajshri has a great tradition of grand music, and veteran Ravindra Jain too hums some lines during the marriage song. Only he and Sooraj can use famous lines of Ram Charit Manas "Jai Jai Girivar Raaj Kishori, Jai Mahesh Mukhchandra Kishori" while Poonam visits Devi temple for prayer. Unlike his earlier too films, Sooraj has stayed away from dance numbers in the film and has relied on subtle moments of lover birds.

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Among actors, both Saahid Kapoor and Amrita Rao can heave a sigh of relief as they have got a solo hit. Sooraj has made Shaahid look like a lovable boy and it has worked in Shahid's favor. With his mellowed down acting and soft approach he has won hearts of millions and these include mothers and sisters who come to see the film with family. He is a lover boy here but not a boy on whom girls will go gaga.

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Amrita Rao too finds a role of lifetime to play a girl who is hated by her aunt and loved deeply by her uncle. Many ultra-modern girls may laugh at her acting, but most of them in cultured India are like Poonam only.The scenes where she comes to meet Prem on the roof during the night and when she breaks down and asks her uncle to cancel the marriage are high points of the film. Anupam Kher and Alok Nath match each other perfectly.

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Seema Biswas as a jealous mother does a good job. Sameer Soni does well as Prem's elder brother and even the girl playing his wife (Lata Sabharwal) looks very natural. And last but not the least, the girl (Amita Prakash) who plays Poonam's cousin has much potential. She plays a character that required a lot of maturity and she has done it too well. Though the film has good competition from 'Apna Sapna Money Money' and it may fall behind in metros, but in single screen theatres and other cities, 'Vivah' is a clear winner. Well done, Sooraj!

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