De De Pyaar De review: Modern family mockery!

De De Pyaar De

Did I just hear ‘misogynist’ in a Hindi film? The irony is not lost when its co-producer and writer happens to be Luv Ranjan in whose context it’s often used. Though not as explicit in its sexism as his best-known works (Pyaar Ka Punchnama series, Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety), the Akiv Ali edited and directed De De Pyaar De is hardly an improvement.

Though the rom-com is eager to seem like this progressive film encouraging the prospect of a 50-year-old guy in a relationship with a 26 year old and then taking her to meet the parents, ex-wife and kids, it neither has the confidence to own the premise nor the nuance to not judge them for it.

Propelled by hypocrisy and deceit at every turn, De De Pyaar De resorts to the age-old pretext of cold feet and lies to slump into a modern family mockery.

Earlier in London, a mister moneybags Ashish (Ajay Devgn) bumps into a stripper at his friend’s bachelor party. Turns out she’s not really a stripper but just a good friend testing the latter’s commitment to her pal and his fiancée.

A round of innuendo about ‘feeling’ nothing follow and amused onlooker Ashish gets sweet on the not-a-stripper-but-engineer-cum-part-time bartender Aisha (Rakul Preet Singh). Lines like ‘you could do me but you didn’t?’ or constantly harping about how ‘hot’ she looks must surely help.

Ashish’s therapist buddy, a crackling Javed Jaffrey, is skeptical about their May-December romance. Aisha’s jilted boyfriend (Sunny Singh) is not quite out of the picture either. Regular ‘uncle’ digs guarantee we grasp the age difference between the two.

Equally adamant allusions to Devgn’s ‘Singham‘ machismo insist we pay no heed. The tonal tug-of-war continues as Ashish wistfully admits, ‘Tumhara kal mere kal se bahut zyada hai‘, during a rare moment of reason.

But if Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, Saif Ali Khan-Kareena Kapoor can do it, so can Ashish-Aisha?

The scene promptly shifts from London’s plush pad to a swanky property in Kullu and Manali’s picturesque hills where Ashish plans to introduce Aisha to his estranged family. It’s hard to tell what’s louder — the background score or his hyper, high-pitched clan?

Amidst the cacophony and confusion, Aisha finally realises what we’ve known all along — Ashish is a wimp and De De Pyaar De gets busy manufacturing contrived catfights between Aisha and his wife, Manju (Tabu). Rivalry of the old and new ensues and two perfectly capable, independent women take potshots at each other over car and music analogies. The humour is dated and distasteful.

Add to this, unresolved issues between Ashish and his bitter daughter (someone who hams like a demon), her old-school in-laws, a buffoon son besotted by his girlfriend, Manju’s organic food obsessed suitor (Jimmy Shergill doing his luckless lover gig yet again) — Ali tries to squeeze in too many angles in an already overloaded hodgepodge. It’s still not as odd as watching them discuss doing the right thing around a surly Alok Nath.

De De Pyaar De is full of recycled imagery. It’s not a copy, but a lot of its thoughts are dumbed down versions of what you enjoy about similarly themed It’s Complicated. Or even Friends.

There’s a hint of Monica and Richard’s conversation about being too old to do the same things again. Or Rachel persuading Ross’s young girlfriends into reconciliation with absolutely no need to feel insecure about her presence.

If De De Pyaar De still feels watchable, it’s because it has an ace in Tabu. Everything about her feels right. Her styling is great. Her timing is perfect. She makes the most sense and has the best scenes. One where she has a meltdown is especially poignant. Until De De Pyaar De insists on offering a explanation in the most moronic manner possible.

Her chemistry with Devgn is easy. But the movie doesn’t really build on it as much as exploit it to. What comes through is less of a broken marriage and more like a reunion between friends where one’s got another’s back. As comfortable Devgn is around her, he is entirely unsuitable for the part. His hangdog expression lacks the charm or adorability that would make his cannot-help-himself, self-serving schmuck work. Rakul Preet Singh is chirpy in a role that could do with some bite.

In a better-written movie where a woman’s worth wasn’t likened to a car’s engine and design, where she wasn’t doing all the apologising and making up but the man mutters one line and all is forgiven, there’d be some potential for insight.

Here, everybody gives a few speeches and the complexities of such arrangements are conveniently resolved, forgotten or slipped under the carpet. You’ll find more wit and wisdom on such matters in a Sara Ali Khan interview.

This review was first published on rediff.com.

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Student of the Year 2 Review: Stupidity of the year!

A still from Student of the Year 2

College was never about receiving education in Bollywood movies. If anything, they urged us to play along and lap up the ensuing frivolity.

With Student of the Year, which came out some seven years ago, Director Karan Johar waved his fancy schmancy wand on the campus caper and transformed it into an extravagant scene for all-you-can-consume romance, rivalry and fashion around gourmet cafeterias, state-of-art classrooms and academic tournaments involving disco dancing and treasure hunts.

Despite its over-the-top disposition, Student of the Year revelled in its shallow pageantry and the charm of Alia Bhatt, Varun Dhawan and Sidharth Malhotra’s eager-to-please fresh faces. Dharma’s brand-new batch, directed by Punit Malhotra is decidedly in lesser hands. Student of the Year 2 has no spunk, no plot and zero charisma.

What it has is the nerve to impersonate the snobs versus dorks enmity driving Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar‘s class politics. Except it’s too moronic to merit any comparison.

In this preening, plastic attempt to keep going the Student franchise, St Teresa’s upscale lot finds a challenger in an acrobatic undergrad of Pishorilal Chamandas. Monkeys and mannequins inhabit its strikingly unnatural world. You’ll spot more spandex than schoolbooks. Between frames swarmed by sports jocks and cheerleaders, the college dress code seems to be divided between Florida Barbie and Beach Ken.

Teachers and principals, hard to tell who’s who considering its pure tokenism, of both institutions (Sameer Soni, Manoj Pahwa) behave like stand-up comics and radio jockeys of rejected auditions. One might occasionally spot a parent doling out gyaan or grumpy looks in scenes that seem as contrived as the reasons to squeeze in banal song after another.

Student of the Year 2 may have a decent budget, but it sure wasn’t spent on creativity. The pace is wobbly. The plot is trite. The humour — The Flying Jatt, Krrish jokes show some fleeting potential — falls flat. And the opulence is clumsily conveyed.

One kid acts all swish and pricey, but her dad is written like a man on the streets growling, ‘Abbe tu?‘ at her classmate.

Even more jarring than its caricaturing is its phony attempt to represent sexuality. Gul Panag (wasted) plays a lesbian college coach whose companion puts an end to a student’s inappropriate brawn show saying, ‘Ma’am ki Ma’am.’

Blame it all on Rohan (Tiger Shroff) who seeks an admission in Dehradhun’s most posh college to woo his school-wala love, Mridula aka Mia (Tara Sutaria). She hails from the modest side of town, but her father has a couple of petrol pumps to afford Teresa’s astronomical fee.

Mia shares a ‘kind of pyaar‘ for her puppy-eyed childhood pal who flips and leaps atop roofs and across stairs, gets her name inked on his wrist and attends superhero-themed parties thrown by rich brats as Spiderman.

After this wealthy highbrow (Aditya Seal) and his less Dennis more menace sister (Ananya Pandey) create mandatory hurdles for our hero follows a bit of lacklustre forgive-and-fight back leading up to a inter-school kabbadi tournament that will decide who wins the Dignity cup and Student of the Year title.

One fourths of the movie is the most tedious depiction of kabaddi and watching two dozen boys, their bulging biceps and inflated torsos in super tight sportswear.

Newcomer Ananya Panday has a zappy energy, although she looks like she’s stepped straight out of la la land. Her Hindi sounds like it was lying on the shelf all these years and gathering dust. But at least her ineptitude is worth noting.

Fellow newbie Tara Sutaria’s gold-digger act is the most vapid, manipulation has ever looked on big screen. Aditya Seal smirks so much, I wont be surprised if he had to place ice packs on his cheek post shoot.

Tiger Shroff seems a tad jaded for the part, but is better off than his lacklustre co-stars when his performance isn’t screaming ‘I work out.’

Alia Bhatt’s senseless song appearance in the end credits and Will Smith unimaginatively popping up to shake a leg in the Jawani remix is what waste of resources looks like.

Knowledge is wealth goes St Teresa’s motto. Disregarding it seems to be Student of the Year 2‘s dharma.

This review was first published on rediff.com.

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Setters review: Shoddy take on education mafia

Setters

Close on the heels of Why Cheat India comes another movie set around the education mafia. And just like the Emraan Hashmi starrer, it’s not very good.

Director Ashwini Chaudhary’s Setters adopts a heist thriller’s tone to depict the practice of paid proxies and leaked question papers facilitated by a scamming service in Varanasi whose network extends all across India as Apurva (Shreyas Talpade), right hand man to the ill-tempered creep (Pavan Malhotra) running the business, travels between Mumbai and Delhi to get the job done.

Hot on their trail is local cop Aditya Singh (Aftab Shivdasani) instructed by his superior to end the racket.

Apurva and Aditya, we are informed, are old friends who appeared for their IAS exams together until they had a falling out over a common love interest. It’s a worthless bit of information considering the conflict is completely synthetic and the duo shares zero emotional connection.

Both assemble a ragtag team of able actors (Vijay Raaz, Manu Rishi, Neeraj Sood, Anil Mange) in throwaway parts and a tedious game of cat and mouse ensues against the mandatory cacophony of blaring guitar and ticking clock.

It’s all rather Special 26 but only because characters walk, walk, walk and vanish within the backstreets and corridors of crowded markets and private lanes. The scenario repeats itself so frequently in the narrative; two hours turn into monotonous slog.

Setters‘s biggest undoing is its sloppy, simplistic and full-of-loopholes writing. While the motivations and disenchantment of its characters remains vague till its abrupt end, the ease with which the break-ins and deception happen is shoddy to say the least.

Out of nowhere, a gizmo-peddling chap arrives with gadgets straight out of a 007 movie, mobile rings, scanner glasses, what not.

Even if Setters shows no inclination to understand the dark desperation that drives parents to buy marks for undeserving children, it could’ve made a little more effort to be sly or suspenseful.

Also, for a U-rating, Setters is oddly gruesome. A finger is chopped off and smacked on another man’s palm; a lady cop grabs a man’s crotch and gives it the third degree.

Most unpleasant though is Pavan Malhotra’s hamming, hysterical performance as a kurta and lungi-clad goon juggling religious devoutness and implicit kinky tendencies. Wearing a kurta two sizes too small, it’s hard to decide what’s flaring more — his chest or his nostrils.

Shreyas Talpade and Aftab Shivdasani fare better, but not enough to salvage this dubious looking tripe.

Whatever restraint or spark Setters demonstrated in its initial stages is tossed out of the window to crash into an untidy mess of snarling evil and tame virtue.

This review was first published on rediff.com.

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