He’s in the throes of an appropriately expansive love-song-accompanying gesture when he is interrupted by the arrival of his very Marathi, very middle class parents, who want to know what the hell he’s up to, dancing in the middle of the road. “Oh, romantic scene likh raha hoon,” says an embarrassed Sachin, following his parents in.
But Rahman’s song (and Brinda’s choreography) pauses for only a moment before carrying on into another stanza, another gesture. Before we know it, we’re soldiering our way through a film which takes the grand, expansive sort of love very seriously indeed: the possibility of self-reflexive laughter seems aeons away. (And when self-reflexivity about filmi-ness of this romance makes a reappearance in the film, it’s too much, too late. And not funny.)
Ekk Deewana Tha is Gautham Menon’s Hindi remake of his own 2010 Tamil superhit Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa (Will you Cross the Skies and Come?). Like its Tamil inspiration, Ekk Deewana… revolves around a Hindu boy who falls in love with his Malayali Christian tenant, and woos her with increasing desperation until she finally starts to reciprocate.
Or does she? Ostensibly at the heart of the film is the conceptualisation of Jessie as a woman who can’t make up her mind: first, if she’s in love or not, and later, whether she’s willing to give up her family and everything else about her stable and sorted – and as she actually says in one revealing moment, boring – life and make that love the sole basis of her future existence.
But halfway through the film, I began to think that the depiction of Jessie’s confusion, her seemingly inexplicable changes of mind and heart – through the brilliant device of her SMS-es to Sachin, for instance – does not reflect who Jessie is but how Sachin sees her. Gautham Menon’s film is so deeply embedded inside the mind of the angsty young male hero that Jessie’s actions can only appear as either completely unpredictable, exploitatively fickle, or just irrational.
Here’s a bigger question: Why do we never ever stop to reflect on the utter irrationality of the kind of love celebrated by Ekk Deewana Tha (and pretty much all of Indian filmi romances): the love that simply appears out of the blue and hits you on the head? Seen from Jessie’s perspective, how insane is it that someone you’ve barely met suddenly announces that his life is yours to do with as you will? And how perplexing to have the onus put on you to respond to this overpowering wellspring of emotion, and know your mind while you’re doing it? As Jessie says in what to me is her defining dialogue in the film: “Why did you fall in love with me? Maine toh kuchh kiya nahi tha.”
The limitations of perspective aside, the film simply fails to recreate the feeling of intoxication that falling in love can produce. There are some well-conceived moments that reveal the sensuous excitement of first love: the kiss in the train, the caressing of Jessie’s feet, all the watching and waiting and then pretending not to notice. But somehow Prateik – although less annoying here than in his abysmal Dum Maro Dum and Aarakshan performances – isn’t able to bring the requisite intensity to his role.
Jessie is played by the latest firang entrant to the Hindi film industry, British debutante and ex-Kingfisher calendar girl Amy Jackson. Jackson looks luminous when she isn’t being subjected to awful reddening make up to make her look more Indian. Her halting Hindi delivery, however, is unable to move us. In this respect, she is like another recent firang import, Giselli Monteiro, who was fine as the silent object of love in Love Aaj Kal, before she followed it up with an insufferably coy act in the godawful Always Kabhi Kabhi. Jackson does much better in silent sequences, like the moment when she sees Sachin in church after she’s made an important declaration to her parents.
The other character who gets the most screen space is Manu Rishi of Oye Lucky fame, playing an older cameraman who not only gets Sachin his first break assisting the great Ramesh Sippy but also – somewhat inexplicably – accompanies him on romantic missions to Jessie’s Alleppey home. Rishi’s character could have been an interesting one: a quasi-father figure who is young enough to offer romantic advice. But their interaction never rises above the most banal level of repetitive chitchat.
The film is nice enough to look at, and both the Mumbai and the Kerala sections attempt to establish a sense of place. But even in this area, there is neither consistency nor the detail required. The detailing remains mostly confined to the houses in which Sachin and Jessie live; we whizz through Alleppey’s canals in montages that seem quite unsuited to the pace of the backwaters life. The Mumbai song sequences in particular seem fake and jerky, entirely failing to add any depth to the shallow romance.
First Mausam, then Rockstar, and now Ekk Deewana Tha. This is the season for failed epic love stories.
(Published on Firstpost)