This orthopaedist loves female company. And he makes no bones about it.
Off-screen image be damned. Salman Khan rocks and rolls in his new David Dhawan comedy. As an orthopaedist caught in a series of amorous crises, Salman reveals a ferocious flair for the funnies.
He is no stranger to playing the bewildered and frazzled rake. In the irrepressible David Dhawan's "Biwi No 1", Salman was trapped between the luscious Sushmita Sen and Karisma Kapoor. Here it's the still-luscious Sen and the new Lolita in town, Katrina Kaif. The threesome makes terrific eye-candy for the soul.
Not that Dhawan ever aims for any other part of you except the funny bone. Throughout he sustains a feverish comic pitch, thanks to the almost flawless comic timing of the actors and Sanjay Chel's witty wham-liners, which are blessedly free of vulgarity except when Rajpal Yadav walks in with his raunchy references.
The minor aberrations apart, Dhawan's remake of Gene Saks' 1960s comedy "Cactus Flower" leaves you with a big smile. It's sassy and savvy, quick on the uptake and always trotting on the fast track. Sure, a bland patch occurs after intermission when the rollicking ramble slackens a bit.
But then again, Dhawan catches his breath for a final sprint across a climactic canvas that leaves the audiences gasping for breath.
Portions of the film are appropriated from various sources, including "Cactus Flower". The sequence in the aircraft at the end where Arbaaz Khan - making a fleeting brotherly appearance - persuades all the passengers to disembark is ripped off from an episode of the American TV serial "Friends".
And then there's Sohail Khan... the surprise packet in this slick-and-span comedy of mix 'n' matched couples. His prankish puckish presence replicates Akshay Kumar's antics in Dhawan's previous comic outing "Mujhse Shaadi Karogi".
The quality of laughter is seldom diluted. Portions of the film are almost theatrical in their thundering display of exaggerated emotions. The opening sequence where Naina (Katrina Kaif) switches on the gas burner after a lovers' tiff with her supposedly married lover Samir (Salman) and is rescued by her new bratty neighbour Pyare (Sohail), could be straight out of a Broadway play...or an episode of "Friends".
Cool, smooth and sassy and yet as desi as the ghee in which grandma makes her parantha, "Maine Pyar Kyun Kiya" is actually a very smart satire on characters who insist on behaving dumbly due to circumstances.
Who would believe that the cerebrally sensuous Sushmita would actually get into the role of a nurse who gets into her boss' wife's role to appease the man's girlfriend and then his steamroller of a mother (Bina Kak), who incidentally rolls in the laughs just when the narrative shows signs of sagging.
Once again, Sushmita steals the thunder and lightning. Watch her swift-and-svelte moves in the rain song "Lagaa lagaa re" (composer Himesh Reshammiya getting the film's mood into his melodies bang-on). Then watch her do the frazzled nurse who turns into the coy wife and then the harridan pretending to be like the evil filmy bahu with a relish that makes the parody appear enormously frothy and delicious.
Sushmita goes through the gamut and comes up with a performance that very few mainstream commercial actors can equal. Katrina, pretty as a picture and fortunately not deadpan, is a like a kid learning the ropes of play-acting. She suits the role.
Salman is no stranger to the philandering guy's role. Here he shows unexpectedly inventive qualities (for example the way he uses his eyes to convey deception, confusion and childlike anguish) and comes up with his best performance in recent times.
But it's his brother Sohail who surprises you. He comes up with the kind of performance that has no reference points in Hindi films.
You wish there was more of the super-gifted Arshad Warsi, who as Sushmita's not-so-secret admirer leers and sighs at the lady with a gourmet's relish. Surprisingly the songs, dances and other emblems of courtship don't get in the way of the narrative.
The art direction and cinematography capture the film's bright, bubbly spirit without tripping over in giddy excitement.
The over-the-top mood, the exaggerated bonhomie and the broad bravura of characters caught in a cute and corny five-sided romantic musical chairs involving five characters who breathe fire and vice is infectious.
You may think of the film as a no-brainer with laughs borrowed from extraneous sources. But that's a mistake. A lot of brains go into making intelligent actors look spaced-out on the screen.