You know what the worst thing about Shaadi Se Pehle is? The sound effects - they're cartoony: slide whistles, crashing noises, overly loud footsteps, that sort of thing. Even Akshaye gets in on the act and resorts to talking like Scooby Doo a few times. It's ridiculous, and it adds to the wackadoo feeling of the movie, which in my book is veeeeery dangerous, because most versions of wackadoo leave me completely cold. (Hungama is my Bollywood wackadoo yardstick, even if no one ever agrees.)
Other than that admittedly minor complaint, this really wasn't so bad. Although as Totally Basmatic wisely reminded me in the context of Chori Chori, that's the kind of compliment that's the kiss of death. Here it's not quite death - if you stumble across Shaadi Se Pehle you'll quite possibly enjoy it just fine, timepass, perfeclty pleasant few hours, but don't go out of your way.
Which brings me to the real question at hand: why is someone with the talents of Akshaye Khanna making movies I shouldn't go out of my way to see? Of course my hopes are high for Salaam-E-Ishq, but his lack of compelling chemistry with Ayesha Takia has me a little daunted. They weren't awful together; more like "serviceable." Again, the kiss of death. But at least in that there will be lots of other people to rely on. You have to believe that he really loves her in Shaadi Se Pehle, loves her enough to try a Really Stupid Idea to protect her feelings. Let's voluntarily overlook the hope that when you truly love someone, you communicate with them about big life decisions. I haven't decided whether my lack of investment in their love is due to dull and limited writing - in which they try to tongue-in-cheek-Hindi-film-jokingly gloss over the development of the relationship, substituting for dialogue and character development a wink-wink joke that the apperance of a duet means that the heroine and hero are in love - or to a simple lack of "chemistry," whatever that means. She in particular is given very little to work with. In some ways this lack of emphasis on the start of their relationship makes sense, as the story is really about the set-up and effects of his shenanigans, but, as a general rule,* caring about the leads is a big chunk of what's needed to carry us through the rest of the movie.
Akshaye generally handles said shenanigans with lightness and level-headedness - very much like he did in Hulchul. He rarely indulges in wackadoo, and he does a nice job balancing his careful, businesss-world, hypochondriac lover-boy with someone who has only a year left to live and has gotten himself into a Malaysian mobster sexpot soup. There are definitely funny moments, mostly at his hands (although I can see how Mallika is funny; although her switch from devil-may-care playgirl to puppy-love is a little lurchy [and probably not entirely her fault]), though I don't remember what most of them are. One is here, where, at his engagement party, Akshaye is demanded by guests to dance like Govinda and then Hrithik;
after protesting he gives it a go (sadly the scene cuts to something else right here, so we only see the start of the wiggle, and the grocery store didn't include the features disk with this rental, so my dreams of seeing it on the blooper reel are unfulfilled).
Sunil Shetty has some funny scenes, but his schtick quickly gets repetetive. It's as though he's playing Main Hoon Na's Raghavan for laughs instead of seriously. (Now there's an interesting question: how do you decide when to play an essentially funny role seriously instead of full-on jokingly?) I wonder why Anupam Kher bothered to be in this - talk about being given little to do. And I do hope Rajpal Yadav is not on his way to becoming the next Johnny Lever - he's capable of much better.
Before I go, here's a sample of Akshaye's many looks in this movie (if you want more, I already wrote a long piece in Bollywood Fugly on the fashion foibles, not because everything was awful but because a lot of it's just funny. That, and my FPMBF looks mighty good in a tie):
- urban cowboy
- fake-pretend drunken seducer of fiancee's mother
- advertising executive frightened by Gulshan Grover-led mob
- and, my personal favorite, yummy.
* Exceptions apply. Some movies escape this rule by having lots of other aspects to delight or engage the viewer, like disco dancing or ninjas.