Trust Bollywood to give a 25-year-old journalist mid-life crisis. If this is how men in their 50s wind up — as played by a dour and autumnal Ajay Devgn, matching Henley T-shirts with slacks, holding a whiskey glass like bidding farewell to a career of (some) artistic distinction — I don’t want to be told just yet. “This is boring, look at the clouds,” Ashish (Ajay) tells his girlfriend Ayesha (Rakul Preet Singh). I would have surely obliged on her behalf — if only movie theatres had windows. Or skylights.
Anything at all. Directed by Akiv Ali, De De Pyaar De is a romantic-comedy about the young and the old. Except they all look old, and the three Ds in the title — erect and assertive — bespeak of writer Luv Ranjan’s outrage against the female domestication of men (here, two heroines tussle over the best serving of ‘dal’).
After a bumpy courtship in London, Ashish, Ashu, brings Ayesha to meet his family in India. He is separated from Manju (Tabu), who has since lived with her husband’s parents and raised two kids. Upon learning that his daughter is getting married, Ashish is embarrassed into introducing Ayesha as his ‘secretary’, setting off a quasi-incestuous tragedy-of-errors begrimed by the presence of #MeToo accused Alok Nath.
The script is an incel goldmine. Will the son sleep with Ayesha? Will Ashish get a rakhee tied by Manju, pretending to be her brother? Some of the gags don’t even make sense (the aggrieved daughter starts dancing with her estranged father) and some are outright creepy (the father won’t kiss his girlfriend because she’s wearing his daughter’s pyjamas). Fittingly, the Puck in the story is played by Jimmy Sheirgill, an actor with a terrible screen record with women (“Tu jeb mein rakhee leke ghumta hai?” wonders Madhumalti Kapoor as the grandmother, despite knowing better).
Ajay’s screen presence melts faster than ice-cubes. Throughout the film, he looks happy to cut off people mid-sentence and stand by a riverside, swigging away in self-pity. There’s a stretch where Rakul explains the proposition of their relationship (“we’ll have to do everything twice”) and the frown on Ajay’s face captures his dread of having to do this take twice. Tabu, who just had to offset her Andhadhun glory by appearing in this film, still manages to class up one scene: a by-the-fireplace breakdown that belongs in some other, impossible world.
De De Pyaar De is the sort of nightmare you want to unleash on a disgruntled gender studies professor; the film is bookended by two women rationalizing male infidelity as a mild derision. Predictably, there’s the ‘old car-vs-new car’ scene. And the ‘live-in is legal’ scene. And the scene where a man - or to be precise, a fading Bollywood hero trying to bhangra his way into millennial hearts — saves the nuptial day. As rightly summed by Tabu in the film, “Yeh sab bekar ki bate hai...” (All this is stupid talk).
Director: Akiv Ali