Baar Baar Dekho: 'Ken and Barbie ki Prem Kahaani'

What if you could go back in time and not watch a movie? What if you could get those two and a half hours back?

Nikhil Thiyyar Delhi  

Let’s start with the title. An apt title for Baar Baar Dekho would have been Ken and Barbie ki Prem Kahaani.

Reams have been written about Katrina Kaif’s acting ability, or lack thereof. Reams have also been written about how stunning her midriff is. So maybe the next time a director tries to con us into believing that Kaif is an actor, he or she could put an end to the charade and just keep the camera zoomed in on her midriff, which we all know is far more agile than her face. As a matter of fact, it is by now a foregone conclusion that if Kaif were asked to say nothing but “Hodor!” or “I am Groot!” in a film, it would not make an iota of a difference to the plot or box office returns. She would still have that fabulous midriff.

Cast opposite her midriff is Siddharth Malhotra, who was last seen unexpectedly underplaying his troubled writer-cum-son-cum-brother in Kapoor & Sons. This time around, he essays Jai, a maths professor who would rather pick work over everything else in his life. Herein lies the film’s biggest conceit: to ask us to believe that Malhotra’s puppy-eyed Jai is also a mathematical savant who has solved Fermat’s last theorem. Malhotra is no Russell Crowe. If anything, he comes across as a likely candidate for a hunky teacher in a Naughty America video.

Considering that the film is saddled with two actors who either can’t act or won’t act, the only remaining hope lies with the supposedly inventive premise. There is a long tradition of Bollywood copying from Hollywood and then adapting the material to suit Indian sensibilities. A little bit like McDonald’s launching an aloo tikki burger in India because beef burgers won’t sell: take a delicious and mouth-watering product and turn into a bland, tasteless snack.

Baar Baar Dekho belongs to this dreary tradition of ‘Indianisation’. Copied in part from Groundhog Day and in part from the good old Christmas Carol, it takes a mildly compelling idea and turns it into a stupid film rife with contradictions and liberal dollops of cardboard characters. The idea is but the somewhat-depleted core of the time-travel genre: what if you could travel back and forth in time to use your knowledge of how things will turn out to avoid making the inevitable mistakes that threaten to derail your life? In other words, what if you could have the benefit of hindsight in the present day?

So far, so good. But…what if the lead character is not really making any mistakes? What if there is nothing he should change? According to the film the cardinal sin Jai commits is that he prioritises his career as a make-believe mathematician over his relationship with Midriff. He is then forced to go back and forth in time until he realizes, ‘Career be damned, all that matters is keeping Midriff happy!’ 

You see, Midriff has dreams of her own, which include furthering her career as an artist who copies Raja Ravi Verma paintings and turns them into 3D holograms. Seemingly borrowing from the Robin Sharma masterpiece ‘Who Will Cry When You Die?’, the movie would have us believe that the only thing of any importance in the world is loving your spouse, never mind that said spouse might be screechy, shrill and someone you don’t have much in common with. Needless to say, the sort of syrupy saccharine emotional undertones that the script tries to pass off as emotional depth do not constitute a dramatic break from the Dharma productions of the past.

The supporting cast serves the same purpose that exotic locations do in the film, parts of the scenery rather than the ‘story’. The comedic talents of Rohan Joshi are wasted entirely. Sarika and Ram Kapoor play doting parents who dispense with sermons about love and life when the need arises. Blah. Blah.

The only feeling that the film will leave you with is deja vu. You have seen all of it before.