Just Chaste Kisses

Ek Deewana Tha

DIRECTOR: Gautham Vasudev Menon

CAST: Prateik, Amy Jackson, Manu Rishi, Sachin Khedekar

Rating: **

Ek Deewana Tha brings back that hoary tradition of love-at-first-sight in a film that exasperates you more than making you sigh: I'm happy to note that it can still be done, this business of losing your heart to a beautiful stranger at one glance, but not in this stuttering, near-obvious way.

Sachin (Prateik) watches Jessie (Jackson) walk down the path, her pallu fluttering, her hair blowing. Next thing, he's free floating. This, he mutters aloud, is love. Why? Prateik's poleaxed look is enough. We don't need to be told. And this is one of the problems with Ek Deewana Tha, which comes to us in Hindi via its smash-hit Tamil-Telegu origins (Vinnaithandi Varuvaayaa) from a director trying to translate his work from his own language, to a language (and culture) not his own: this film needed more of a palpable connect between its characters.

The other problem, of course, is the old North Indian Hindu boy versus the South Indian Christian girl pole vault. It makes the movie feel mothballed. Whatever happened to the equally hoary Bollywood tradition of rebellion and elopement? Twenty five years back, this was a believable divide, with snarling patriarchs and a disapproving samaaj guarding the posts. The movies made much of it, getting their lovers to leap off cliffs when there was no other way out. But to do this now?

The fact that talented Delhi boy Manu Rishi, who also plays a supporting role in the film, has written the dialogues, makes some of it palatable. But Rishi's acting skills, which come to the fore occasionally as he goes about playing supportive companion to the hero, are at variance with the various awkward angles of the film. Here's the Konkan-Maharashtrian Sachin, intent upon getting into film-making despite his engineering degree. And there's the Malayali Jessie, whose strict father never let her watch any movies.

Opposites attract, hallelujah, except there's only one of them in this game. Sachin goes after her, Jessie runs away. First because she herself is not sure, which is okay. She's allowed a few doubts. Then she's being her father's daughter, which is also, up to a point, all right. He'll get over it. But then she gets into being so inexplicably unsure for so much longer than she needs to, that you are left only with annoyance, which deepens as the film's length increases, and the possibility of A R Rahman's music getting any better decreases. Not one note stands out.

Debutant Amy Jackson is an oomphy, if badly-made up presence, especially from the back, which we see a lot of. Prateik veers between floundering and not being able to speak his lines properly, and finding the occasional light, right touch. I waited for them to spark beyond the stray moment but had to make do with chaste kisses, making me wish for the sizzle that was evident between the lead pair Simbu and Trisha in the Tamil version: Simbu's stubbly guy-next-door, helplessly in love with the feckless Trisha was the highlight, apart from its lovely songs, of VTV: where did all the passion go in Ek Deewana Tha? Two hours and some, and not one sparkly moment? The end came after a long wait.

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