‘De De Pyaar De’ review: Love in the time of Luv Ranjan

With sitcom aesthetics, De De Pyaar De is a two-hour rigmarole about a man’s suzerainty over women

May 17, 2019 03:20 pm | Updated 03:20 pm IST

Tabu and Ajay Devgn in ‘De De Pyaar De’

Tabu and Ajay Devgn in ‘De De Pyaar De’

The latest film in the Luv Ranjan produced-universe, directed by debut filmmaker Akiv Ali, wants you to believe that it is progressive. It advocates various “modern-day” aspects of relationships that have traditionally been frowned upon: live-in, divorce and a sizeable age gap. Through didactic monologues, the film tries to convince you that the makers are trying. After Ranjan receiving consistent flak for being sexist and derogatory towards women, there is a momentary attempt at pretending like they care. When Aashish Mehra (Ajay Devgn) falls in love with a girl half his age, Ayesha Khurana (Rakul Preet Singh), he goes to his therapist friend (Javed Jaffrey), who tries to convince him that she is a gold digger. “Don’t be misogynistic,” rebukes Devgn, almost expecting audience applause. He tried. The moment then quickly into a joke and what follows is a two-hour rigmarole about a man’s suzerainty over women.

Is De De Pyaar De a demand? A request? An instruction? Or a warning to women that she has no self-worth until she fights other women and gets the (spineless) man? The answers lie particularly in Ayesha’s character. Pyaar is her armour, for she has no agency otherwise. She pleads Aashish to make her his “ na chootne waali aadat [an incorrigible habit],” if nothing else. He throws her a marriage bait instead and takes her to India from London. There she meets his ex-wife Manju (Tabu), who is oddly envious of Ayesha, despite being introduced to her as his secretary. Ayesha in retaliation throws age-related insults at Tabu, while the filmmaker simultaneously shows us how Ayesha’s youth and “hot kamar [waist]” are her true assets. Even in a saree, there’s more skin than cloth. The first time Aashish and Ayesha have sex, he wakes up in a turtle neck T-shirt, while she is bare-shouldered in satin sheets. Her “youthfulness” is all about being silly and plain obnoxious, while Aashish “maturity” is in looking absolutely disinterested.

The age gap of 24 years is at the crux of this film but that’s not too radical either. Despite Devgn embracing his real age, his character is that of a successful, rich and muscular man -- not an extreme departure from an archetype of a Bollywood hero, whose age you can only speculate. There’s seldom any age-related friction, in fact, there’s some (facile) tension concerning their differing economic privileges. The first half of the film -- their generational gap love story -- could be a ten-minute montage and it would still serve the same purpose. At least then one would not have to endure macho dialogues like “I don’t sleep with drunk women. Main behoshi ka mauka nahi deta, jo milay hosh main milay [I don’t want her to have the excuse of being drunk, I would rather get sex in full consciousness].”

Speaking of consent, Alok Nath (who has been accused of sexual harassment) is reduced to the background and has an inconsequential presence. So is the case with Jimmy Shergill and Madhumalti Kapoor, who could have added actual humour to the film (and not what the makers believe to be humorous a.k.a sexism). Devgn is excruciatingly bland and Singh is always OTT (Over the Top). Tabu manages to maintain a middle ground and her meltdown moment in the climax doesn’t deserve a superficial film like this.

If you look beyond the film’s messaging and twisted sexual politics, its aesthetics is meant for television viewing. Constant close-ups, sitcom-y film score and blurred background shots of London make you feel trapped, with very little movement happening. The film’s craft adds to its staleness and anachronistic feel. As much as the film wants to be an iconoclast, it reinstates the same conservatism it pretends to take down.

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