De De Pyaar De Review: A Predictable Love Story that Should Have Made Tabu its Hero


De De Pyaar De Review: A Predictable Love Story that Should Have Made Tabu its Hero

Illustration: Arati Gujar

The most implausible thing about debutante director Akiv Ali’s De De Pyaar De is that its two female leads, Manju (Tabu) and Ayesha (Rakulpreet Singh) spend most of the film fighting over Ajay Devgn’s affections. Especially when you consider the fact that Devgn registers as much emotions on his deadpan face as one would expect out of a log of wood. But given that the film is written by Luv Ranjan, whose cinematic universes are more male fantasy than logic, Devgn plays Ashish, the 50-year-old romantic lead.

De De Pyaar De revolves around Ashish, a wealthy divorcee falling in love with a 26-year old Ayesha at a bachelor party in London, where she pretends to be a stripper. According to the Luv Ranjan rulebook, a woman can’t be cool, modern, or attractive if she doesn’t drink like a man while also retaining her “femininity” by not being able to handle her alcohol. So naturally, Ayesha dances to “Badi sharaban main”, gets sloshed, and falls asleep on a bathtub. That’s enough to gain Ashish’s attention. Ayesha, on the other hand, is attracted to him because of the first rule of his one-night-stand club: He doesn’t sleep with drunk women. But, the duo really seal the deal when Ayesha ex’s mistakes Ashish as her “daddyji” and she kisses him just to prove the ex wrong. It’s really the stuff of listless love stories.

Ayesha and Ashish remain in love with each other for the duration of one romantic ballad and then break up because it’s time for the heartbreak ballad. Their differences predictably stem from their age gap – Ashish, a father of two, is reluctant to get married to Ayesha or have kids. But five minutes later, he not only forgets his apprehensions, but also insists that they fly to India to meet his estranged family. Although it invokes Michael Douglas-Catherine Zeta Jones and Saif-Kareena to make a case for Ayesha and Ashish, De De Pyaar De never quite addresses the peculiarities and consequences of being with someone from a different generation, the way R Balki’s Cheeni Kum attempts. It doesn’t help matters that Devgn, used to playing heroes who are half-his age, plays Ashish with the attitude of a 30-year-old from Delhi, rendering the central conduit of the film almost useless.

The proceedings become slightly engaging when De De Pyaar De shifts to India, where Manju, Ashish’s ex-wife comes into the picture and the equations tilt. Suddenly, Ashish goes from being the desirable older man to a nervous husband who secretly craves for his wife’s approval. Ashish introduces Ayesha to his family – his screechy daughter Ishita who is the same age as her, his nerdy son Ishan, and his parents (Alok Nath is back after the sexual assault allegantions, playing Devgn’s father) – as his secretary. A clash of egos ensues between Manju and Ayesha who compete with each other over a bowl of dal to prove that they know the 50-year-old manchild better.

De De Pyaar De, which has its rare moments, never holds up: It’s no different than innumerable Hindi films that lets its hero get what he wants over the course of two hours.

Tabu, probably the only person justifying her casting, brings irreverence to her character, play-acting for the gallery with abandon. A particular scene where the actress appears shocked and adjusts her clothes when Ayesha catches Ashish and her coming out of a locked room is especially rewarding.

Akiv Ali, also credited as the film’s editor, tries in vain to juggle the array of sub-plots that only exist to redeem Ashish as the misunderstood husband and caring father, even though he’s terrible at both responsibilities. These involve unnecessary passive-aggressive family drama, a case of mistaken identity, a broken engagement, a parental reunion, and Jimmy Shergill reprising his career-defining role as the guy who never ends up with the girl. Although Shergill is wasted in a thankless cameo, he is a hoot as the persistent suitor courting Manju, first with litchis and then with shayaris. Even in their brief scenes, Shergill and Tabu share a crackling chemistry that makes one wonder what the film could have been if Tabu had been the hero: the older woman falling in love with a younger man.

De De Pyaar De, which has its rare moments, never holds up: It’s no different than innumerable Hindi films that lets its hero get what he wants over the course of two hours. Devgn’s Ashish is never insecure about his age. He doesn’t get as jealous about his wife’s suitors the way she does. It’s a move that reinforces the stereotype that Ranjan is over familiar with: Jealousy is second nature to only women.

Throughout, Ashish is portrayed as a victim and eventually the hero, who is constantly afforded sympathy and redemption. And just when the film threatens to go into an interesting direction, Ranjan saves the day by sticking with the most predictable ending, riding on a simplistic understanding of interpersonal relationships that Imtiaz Ali could have guessed even in his sleep.