“Gori tere pyaar mein” (“Beauty in Your Love”) is a moderately well-executed romantic slapstick comedy, supposedly based on the actual experiences of its co-writer and director, Punit Malhotra (“I Hate Luv Stories”). If that’s the case, Malhotra deserves some credit for enthusiastically portraying himself as a self-serving shallow jerk, at least at the outset of the story; by the fadeout, a good woman has transformed him into a better man. In India, the pic opened to mixed reviews and underwhelming box office on its first day of release.
Malhotra’s alter ego, Sriram Venkat (Imran Khan), is a rich Tamil kid from Bangalore, still carrying a torch for a lost love, a dedicated “NGO type,” Dia Sharma (Kareena Kapoor Khan). Their quarrelsome relationship finally ended because, as he saw it, she never came down off her high horse. Now she has taken up residence as a do-gooder in the picturesque thatched village of Jumli in rural Gujurat. After a certain amount of dithering and philandering, and menaced by a marriage arranged by his parents, Sriram takes off after her.
The power of the pure and simple Indian-ness of village life to redeem callow young Hindi movie heroes is hardly a fresh idea. “Gori tere pyaar mein,” in fact, bears a more than passing resemblance to Ashutosh Gowarikar’s superior “Swades” (2004), in which expat engineer Shah Rukh Khan brought hydroelectric power to a dusty hamlet. In this case, Sriram is an architect who designs a bridge and persuades a self-serving local landowner (a cartoonishly villainous Anupam Kher) to pay for it. The sturdy wood-and-concrete structure replaces a wobbling rope bridge over a small river, easing the village’s traffic with the outside world. The local children, for example, will now be able to travel to attend school.
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This may sound like a winning combination — a love story plus uplift plus song and dance numbers — but the falseness of the exaggerated romantic comedy sequences here infect the aspects of the story that should be underplayed and gentle, as they were in “Swades.”
Imran Khan manages to be likable even when playing a jerk, but neither he nor his leading lady, Kapoor Khan (the double moniker is a nod to her new husband, actor Saif Ali Khan), is among Bollywood’s most accomplished terpsichoreans. Director Malhotra resorts to fast cutting and jittery quick zooms to disguise the mediocrity of the musical numbers, deplorable Hollywood tricks that the old masters of Bollywood rarely had to fall back on.