The premise of director Akiv Ali’s maiden feature De De Pyaar De is spelt out loud and clear in the trailer—50-year-old Ashish (Devgn) separated from his wife Manju (Tabu) finds himself a 26-year-old lover, Ayesha (Rakul Preet). Sparks fly, he likes her spunk and fortitude, she admires his cool, fighting-fit-at-50 form. Before they know it, a relationship is in place much against the warnings of Ashish’s friend-cum-therapist (Javed Jaffrey). So far, so good.
Most of the jokes are reserved for Ashish but much mirth is also generated courtesy the May-December romance. Things go swimmingly well until Ashish decides to introduce his young girlfriend to his Missus, the kids, and the family. And then, predictably enough, all hell breaks loose! The writing in typical Luv Ranjan style is sharp and pulls no punches. Except for one scene which has Manju take to the soapbox to defend her ex-husband and a few sentimental sappy moments, the rest of the film is breezy and fun. It can be called a piquant mash-up of ideas from the sitcom Modern Family (minus the deliciously witty asides) and the Great Indian melodramas from the eighties.
Akiv Ali sure seems to know his audience well. That Ali, also a film editor, has Chetan Solanki as a co-editor in the film works to the film's advantage. Scenes don’t linger on endlessly. The transition between certain undefined situations in the second half is swift, not allowing the story to meander meaninglessly.
De De Pyaar De, given its central premise, would probably score dismally in the Bechdel test—a test that requires that a film must showcase two women who must talk to each other about something other than a man. But, where it takes a leap forward is in the fact that neither of the two women—Manju or Ayesha—are wilting lilies. They spar with each other with a feistiness that makes the scenes come alive. For a change, it is the women who save the day.
Tabu’s mastery over the expressions flitting across her face- part wicked, part sensitive- is pure genius. We are once again reminded of her standout brilliance as an actor, even when she gets lesser screen time than others. Rakul Preet with her natural, uninhibited acting style is refreshing and is certainly an actor who I would watch out for. Ajay Devgn graciously allows the ladies to do the heavy lifting while he steps up in the goofball comic scenes as the hapless husband. Jimmy Sheirgill steps in yet again as a suitor-in-waiting with Kumud Mishra for company.
Given the borderline risqué premise, Ranjan serves it cleverly with the right amount of ‘family values’ to lend it greater acceptability among the family auds. The last time we saw a similar oddball romance was in Cheeni Kum starring Amitabh Bachchan and Tabu but De De Pyaar De goes a step further in weaving a comedic tale of unusual family ties which are a post-modern reality.
The film, packed with humour and competent performances is likely to get much love from the audiences who have had their fill of patriotic chronicles.