Ek deewana, duh!
Film: Ek Deewana Tha
Director: Gautham Menon
Actors: Prateik Babbar, Amy Johnson
The boy, an obsessive, relentless roadside Romeo, having chased the girl from the streets of Mumbai to Mallu-land, finally holds her, jolts her up, pops the winning question: “Kamaal ki chemistry hai hamare beech mein (there’s huge chemistry between us). Can't you see it?" No, she says. He obviously can. That’s a matter between them. Audiences couldn’t care less. We’re beyond midway through the movie: chuck chemistry, all you’re wondering is what the hell’s the story.
The hero (Prateik Babbar, with eyes that look strangely uncomfortable before a camera) is a Maharashtrian brahmin, a film-buff, and an aspiring filmmaker. He wants to intern under director Anurag Kashyap, but his mentor wants him to assist Ramesh Sippy instead, so he can work on films like Sholay and Shaan. Umm, wasn’t that in the ‘70s? Never mind.
The girl (Amy Johnson; stilted, coy) is a Malayali Christian, a year older than him, living in a conservative home, with a dad who wouldn’t allow her to talk to any guy (any guy, ever). Or watch movies, because it’s against their religion (she’s only seen four films!). Hero shadows her all over the place. The brother follows her around like a personal security guard. She’s a working girl. Both the boy and her have evidently been raised in upper middle-class Mumbai. So, go figure.
Romantic Bollywood movies, as you’d know, get their titles from old Hindi film songs (Ek Deewana Tha of course was a beautiful number, like Ek Mein Aur Ek Tu, Bachna Ae Haseeno, or Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham etc). This urban romance gets its subject from old Hindi pictures too. Which would be okay, I guess, except a wee bit similar to setting a village zamindar, wily moneylender and Thakur type picture in south Bombay.
From here, the leading man follows his girl to Kerala. Her extended family talks to him in Malayalam (with subtitles). He talks back in Hindi. This is supposed to be funny. Clearly, there must be a reason why this fable got filmed in the first place. There are plenty.
One, while the conflict for an urban romance is hard to come by – rich boy, poor girl, strict parents, rarely matter anymore – an acceptable poster lover-boy still spells big bucks in Bollywood, will always do. Once in a while, relatively unknown, untested low-budget lead couple, riding on fine writing and direction alone can produce magic of sorts. There is excitement in that unexpectedness. Socha Na Tha, Imtiaz Ali’s debut with Abhay Deol, did that for me, as did Yashraj’s Band Baaja Baraat for many others. This oddly picturised, amateurishly edited, mediocre Mani Ratnam stuff probably won’t cut it for anyone.
But there’s still hope. There is, after all, always an old AR Rahman Tamil soundtrack, waiting to be re-sung in Hindi, with lyrics by Javed Akhtar and the lot! You’ve ‘heard’ these films before. This is one of those.
Song starts, music video plays, hero broods, heroine pouts, both dance. And then we go back to the baffling questions again: Will the couple get together? Won't they? He stalks; she disappears, then reappears, she likes him, but maybe not, gets married, or perhaps doesn’t…. Oh, just get a room, and get it over with.