De De Pyaar De movie review: Ajay Devgn delivers his sincerest performance, Tabu steals the show
De De Pyaar De
Director: Akiv Ali
Cast: Ajay Devgn, Tabu, Rakul Preet Singh
Ajay Devgn has no spine in De De Pyaar De. As a 50-year-old intensely aware of his age, the usually alpha actor plays uncharacteristically calm, handing over valuables to muggers and unable even to push an old car without strong women helping him. Only women, in fact, wear the pants in this film, particularly around Devgn’s Ashish: His estranged wife Manju intimidates him nearly two decades after their separation, and a young woman named Aisha drains his whiskey and leaves him standing around clueless, rattling his ice-cubes.
Watch: De De Pyaar De | Public Review
The plot is simple: Londoner Ashish brings the much-younger Aisha back to India to meet his wife and kids, but chickens out of telling them she’s his girlfriend. Hi-jinks predictably ensue. The situation is ripe for comedy, but debutant director Akiv Ali can’t strike the balance between clever humour and broad farce, creating something that wants to be intelligent but looks (and sounds) like a Priyadarshan slapstick mess.
The primary problem is the girl. Aisha, a confident and hard-drinking bartender-on-weekends, is played by Rakul Preet Singh, an unbelievably vacant actress entrusted with too much screentime. It’s not only the actress — the character is incredibly problematic, a girl who passes out drunk in a man’s house and wonders why he didn’t take advantage of her. “You could do me and you didn’t?” she laughs, incredulous that he would pass up rape.
Ali, a longtime Hindi film editor, ought to have clipped the Aisha-heavy first half and swapped it for two bearable minutes taking us straight to the girl meeting her boyfriend’s family. The mortification on Ashish’s face is priceless when Aisha shakes hands with Manju: presumably akin to the embarrassment of introducing Singh to this particular actress as a fellow performer.
This is because Manju is played by Tabu, in supreme form as the wife who outgrew Ashish. There is some genuine sharpness here, with some nifty touches: a son telling a father he’s falling for the father’s girlfriend, a father befuddled by his girlfriend wearing his daughter’s nightclothes, and a husband letting his wife tie him a rakhi and, later, leaving that rakhi on during the film’s only great scene.
Most of the good stuff comes from Tabu, naturally, who even wields the word ‘dal’ like a loaded gun. She riffs joyfully with reliable actors Kumud Mishra and Jimmy Sheirgill, and conjures up tender chemistry with Devgn. Ashish and Manju met in college, married soon after, and this fits these actors we know well: Ali didn’t need to actually spell it out with a strain of music from Vijaypath. As evidenced by Devgn’s solid performance, a bit of restraint goes a long way.
This is a film that pretends to be brave. We have seen May-December romances before — Balki’s Cheeni Kum rushes to mind, another film held in place by an exquisite Tabu turn — though here’s the thing: the attempted radical concepts here lie not in the humdrum idea of an older man romancing a younger woman, but instead in a star like Devgn admitting he may be too old for the films he usually makes, and the heroines he stars with. Spoiler: we know this. We also know this is a one-off, and a police uniform will stretch taut over his pecs again soon enough. There is nothing new here. It is interesting, however, that Ajay Devgn is so good at playing someone who couldn’t possibly be an Ajay Devgn fan. Is this a confession?
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