Mumbai, 17 May 2019 13:51 IST
Updated: 20 May 2019 15:46 IST
Akiv Ali's directorial debut has the right balance of an 'aged' romance and entertainment.
If this is the start of actors feeling comfortable playing their age on screen, Ajay Devgn's role in De De Pyaar De (2019) might be remembered again. The actor plays the role of a 50-ish man, who is separated from his wife and in love with a 26-year-old woman, in Akiv Ali's entertaining romance.
While the film is built on the comic moments around the family and the age gap, it, surprisingly, focuses more on the concept of moving on from relationships and on love as a form of discovering life.
Ashish (Devgn), a 50-ish investor in London, meets Aisha (Rakul Preet Singh), the hot, confident engineer working her way through a bar. The two are opposites in terms of attitude, but are irrevocably drawn to each other.
Romance ensues, resulting in songs, prancing around London city and dimly lit bedrooms. When a short breakup convinces them that this is not a fling, Ashish decides to head home to India to introduce his new girlfriend to his estranged wife (Tabu), daughter and son. Then begins the drama.
The film walks the thin line of the age gap with faltering steps. While it is refreshing to see the issue addressed from multiple sides, there are elements like infidelity that slip off in the casualness. But the focus remains on the age gap.
"She is just a gold-digger," quips a snarky counsellor/friend (Jaaved Jaaferi in a funny cameo). Even Aisha admits they will always have differences. "My first experiences will be your second," she says.
But as they move forward, the story grows around their genuine liking for each other despite the differences. The film also treats the characters' apprehensions about the relationship, their physical attraction, and consequences well, if not always with a practical outlook.
The portrayal of the two different romances, between the separated husband and wife, and the new couple, also makes for an interesting contrast.
Producer-writer Luv Ranjan has deservedly suffered some flak for his Pyaar Ka Punchnama franchise and Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety (2018), which bordered on sexism. However, his story offers a fairly improved take on romance and heartbreak this time, without the overt melodrama that defined his earlier films. For that, he deserves some praise.
Tabu delivers fantastically as the woman left behind. Her portrayal of the independently successful woman who brings up her children unflinchingly, knowing the truth of the separation, is as real as it gets. The actress joins Devgn in bringing a sense of maturity and balance to the film, a refreshing change from the first-half exuberance and chirpiness of Rakul Preet Singh.
The moment of Tabu's emotional outburst towards the latter half of the film captures in a snippet that serious actress from Haider (2014) and Andhadhun (2018). It feels like a tangy sauce on the sides of a dessert binge.
Rakul Preet Singh does a good job as the young woman who is caught in a 'situation'. While she still lacks the depth for the dramatic moments, her enthusiasm does make up for it. Her snarky battles with Tabu are a highlight.
Devgn brings in his wry-faced expressions to make the most of the jokes but seems to have compressed all his emotions into four expressions.
The humour in the film is good, with Devgn and Tabu joined by Jimmy Sheirgill in the act. Sheirgill has a nice cameo that reminds us of his underrated comic skills. The many strings of relationships that are entangled and the confusion that ensues makes for some hilarity.
Yet, there are moments when the film makes you grimace. The sight of Alok Nath, accused of rape in real life, making a snarky remark to Devgn's Ashish of being an 'uncle' to Aisha is one such cringe-inducing moment. But that would be another matter entirely.
Then there is the issue of Aisha's treatment. Left outside the family, hit on by her boyfriend's son, and the target of his wife's snark, any other woman would have dropped her boyfriend then and there. But then she is introduced to his family as his 'secretary'. Tough luck!
Also, there are few 50-year-olds who box in their free time and have the physique of Devgn. But then, the reality is not always cinematic or entertaining.
By the end, Akiv Ali wraps up every relationship with a neat bow that feels a little absurd. But as the philosopher Albert Camus observed, just because something is absurd does not mean it cannot be enjoyable.
Correction, 20 May 2019: The review earlier mentioned that Ajay Devgn and Tabu's characters in the film are divorced.
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