From the moment he decided to cast Amy Jackson as Jessie, one of the most complex women characters ever written in Tamil cinema, Gautham Vasudev Menon's second outing was never going to be easy.
Menon reasoned that he wanted a fresh face for the role, someone who walks into their lives just like she did into the boy's. Unfortunately, with those foreign looks, Amy Jackson has been made up so much… just to look simple and native. A role Trisha simply turned into a career best.
And that the boy, Prateik looks too much of a kid doesn't make it any easy for us to relate to his childish obsession, however, endearing and less aggressive than Simbu.
But there is a certain honesty about characters that Menon creates. Traits that make these characters one of a kind. Flawed and human. Which is why I prefer a badly made film such as Ekk Deewana Tha for giving us real characters with modern Indian middle class issues — age, religion, race, career, etc. than a good looking Hollywood-derived elite film such as Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu with shallow characters (standing up for himself against his own family is the greatest personal triumph for the hero).
Though Ekk Deewana Tha discusses them, it was never about age, religion, race or career. It was always just about the girl. A girl as crazy as Jessie. “Of all the people in the world, why did I have to fall in love with Jessie,” as the opening lines of the film go. This is a “Why the hell did I fall in love with this girl” story, one that 500 Days of Summer milked for angst, one that's effectively justified with the original Tamil ending.
The Telugu crowd-pleaser was a commercial cop-out and the need to retain both endings for different theatres is an even greater one. It makes the makers seem as confused as the girl in the story.
But then, even the Tamil ending was a little contrived. Why would a girl who didn't walk eight steps towards him when she sees him in the U.S., travel 8,000 miles to come and watch his film, especially if she's not into films and more importantly, if she's not into him any more? How does a boy be friends with the girl he still loves? Is that the tragedy of his existence? That he has been friend-zoned? Interestingly, just last week, Ek Main… ended on a similarly messy note. How does this resolve or give the story its closure?
What works for this film is its ability to capture Jessie's mood-swings from ‘Yes, I want this relationship' to ‘No, it's too difficult', and in many ways, this is our definitive modern middle-class Indian girl of today. She can stand up for herself when she has to. She's free-spirited when she wants to. She decides if she wants the relationship or not. She wears the pants. And she's comfortable in her salwar suit.
This emotional tug of war between boy and girl is what makes the film slowly grow on you, the director choosing to play things out in a less contrived fashion. No more U.S. trips. Just a chance encounter at a place that serves as the metaphor for what he was making — that symbol of love.
The fresh parts of Rahman's score really work in these portions in the second half while the old ones used in the first half only underline the sensibility disconnect between the cinemas of the North and the South.
You are sucked into the turmoil of this turbulent romance by the end with solid support from Manu Rishi's lines (He also chips in with a fine performance). Prateik finally seems to be comfortable, and it is Chinmayi's voice that bails out Amy Jackson in that heavy-duty Taj Mahal scene.
It's a frustrating watch because of what it achieves despite this casting. We know she's not who she's supposed to be, this Amy Jackson. Why did WE fall in love with Jessie?
Ekk Deewana Tha
Director: Gautham Vasudev Menon
Cast: Prateik, Amy Jackson, Manu Rishi
Storyline: An aspiring filmmaker's on and off turbulent relationship with a confused girl is headed for… two endings. A popular one and a director's cut.
Bottomline: This miscast remake is surprisingly more emotional and may work for those who haven't seen the Tamil / Telugu versions