Farhad Samji's Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan is the story of four brothers. Three of them are named Moh, Ishq and Love. The fourth brother is played by Salman Khan, and he does not have a name in the film – but we figure it out in our heads. The others are Moh, Ishq and Love – so Salman has to be Prem, his best-loved character on screen. Early on, we learn that Prem-who's-not-called-Prem hates the idea of marriage because he thinks the bride who enters the household will cause a rift between the brothers. But the other brothers are already in love, and a match is quickly found for Prem-who's-not-called-Prem. She's Bhagya, and she's played superbly by Pooja Hegde. For this kind of hero-worship movie, it's surprising to see very convincing scenes like the one where Bhagya acts out a dilemma she's in, between love and family – but perhaps the trick is to "believe" the make-believe. Pooja sells Bhagya with a sweetness that goes a long way towards making the film bearable.
Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan is a remake of the Tamil hit Veeram, and it tinkers around with that story with two crucial changes. The first is the winking at the star at the centre. It's not just that name. It's also the fact that his former co-stars are now married with grown-up children, and he is still a "kunwara", prancing around with the likes of Pooja Hegde. (An encounter with a former costar results in a nice, silly-sweet sequence.) It's also about the fact that the title contains his nickname: Bhaijaan. It's also about his limited acting range, something I didn't see coming. The second change from the original is the giving the heroine an active brother instead of a passive father, and having this brother being played by another big star, Venkatesh. This may well be a calculated commercial decision to appeal to the southern markets. Still, you can't see many southern heroes doing this.
Prem-who's-not-called-Prem and his brothers live in Delhi, and Bhagya is from Hyderabad. So there is a lot of visual variety in the background. Cinematographer Manikandan captures the largeness of scale beautifully, and a slo-mo shootout is especially gorgeous. Having Venkatesh in the narrative helps in giving the drama more spice (though the Asuran-like arc of his role is nothing you cannot guess). It always helps to have another hero with another dimension – he prefers non-violence to the violence unleashed by Prem-who's-not-called-Prem. A better set of writers may have moulded all of this into more than just a generically watchable movie, but given that Salman has given us Race 3, Radhe and Antim, Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan is a bit of a relief. It's a ton of clichés, sure, but it merely keeps you glancing at your phone during the boring bits, as opposed to making you want to gouge your eyes out.
The boring bits are the many, many songs and the many, many unimaginatively choreographed fights. The advantage of remaking something is that you can fix the flaws, and no one seems interested in that. But one aspect of the writing is that it keeps things moving and relatively painless. For instance, Prem-who's-not-called-Prem already knows something about the Venkatesh character. Bhagya's mother dispenses advice almost immediately after hearing about a dilemma. These bits are not prolonged into "reveals" or high drama. If you watch hero-worship movies in Tamil and Telugu and Hindi, you may find Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan fairly endurable, given the fun little love scenes between Bhagya and Prem-who's-not-called-Prem, and the not-bad chemistry between Salman Khan and Venkatesh. And if you are a true-blue Salman fan, I'm happy to report that, yes, the shirt does come off. "Given the general nature of the mass-hero movie, this is okay" may not be the highest compliment, but you take what you get.