The English-translated title of the new Indian import "Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi" -- about an act of deception that stirs passions in a cordial but loveless marriage -- is "A Match Made by God." In most respects, though, this agreeably amusing comedy/romance/musical is Another Mash-Up Made by Bollywood. Writer-director Aditya Chopra's film suggests a star-powered Billy Wilder love farce, "Grease" and "Shall We Dance." I'm not saying that's a bad thing, just a consistently diverting thing.
Indian superstar Shahrukh Khan plays Surinder, a meek, bespectacled, khaki-clad cubicle worker who agrees to marry the beautiful, vivacious Taani (newcomer Anushka Sharma) after her one true love is tragically killed before their wedding. (There's nothing like a deathbed pity plea from a grieving bride's father.) Needless to say, it's a union of grim respect and little else, even though Surinder is hopelessly in love with his wife. When a visiting Bombay dance company's flier spurs Taani to sign up for classes, Surinder decides the only way to get her attention is if he joins too, but disguised as a hair-gel-teased, muscle-shirted, aggressively macho flirt named Raj (a nod and a wink to Indian acting legend Raj Kapoor).
The magnetic Khan is a skilled enough comic actor with his physical transformation -- like a Peter Sellers-ish recessive turning into a Jerry Lewis extrovert -- that believing Taani wouldn't notice isn't difficult. And Sharma is a fresh-faced talent with her own dual powers, conveying beautiful melancholy with her mopey husband and a magnetic feistiness in dance tights fending off Raj. The pair's solid chemistry ensures that the musical bits aren't the de facto highlights.
The only dreamy flourish is a welcome one, a joyous number that springs from Taani's mind during a moviegoing reverie, featuring homages to Bollywood classics past and guest appearances by the industry's current female stars. Whether you know the references or not, movie love is a language that needs no translation.
'Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi' (A Match Made by God)
MPAA rating: Unrated; in Hindi with English subtitles
Running time: 2 hours, 47 minutes
Playing: At Phoenix Adlabs Norwalk 8, 13917 Pioneer Blvd., Norwalk, (562) 804-5615; Laemmle Fallbrook 7, 6731 Fallbrook Ave., West Hills, (818) 340-8710; AMC Theatres Covina 30, 1414 N. Azusa Ave., Covina, (626) 974-8600