I had some qualms going in to see Ekk Deewana Tha (How would Prateik do? How would they explain the presence of the young English rose, Amy Jackson? How would AR Rahman’s gorgeous, dreamy title song fare in its Hindi reincarnation?) but I put them aside when the lights went down in the theater, and tried to push the memories of the Tamil version to the back of mind.
The good news (sort of) is that I found Prateik more convincing as a young, head-over-heels romantic lead than his Tamil counterpart (Simbu just looked too spaced out as he clung to that front gate and kept fussing with his hair), though I can’t imagine who in urban, middle class India wants to get married in their early 20s nowadays.
But, oh my, the main problem I had with the Tamil Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa came back to me as EDT progressed: how and why is it that this guy becomes so obsessively smitten with Jessie (Amy Jackson) ? Yes, yes, I know, love at first sight, coup de foudre and all that, but we’re never shown anything beyond their physical attraction to each other (and don’t get me wrong, both are beautiful) to justify any faith in these two making a go of it as husband and wife in the long term, especially after clambering over all the parental obstacles in front of them. We never see any meaningful glimpses of the personalities of Sachin and Jessie (beyond the fact the he wants to make films and she likes maths) to endear them to each other, never mind us.
This important missing core of the story is the crippling flaw of the film. I just didn’t see why I should care if these two good-looking kids end up together. Again, they are good-looking….Prateik oozes doe-eyed innocence and vulnerability, but after being the ingénue in Dhobi Ghat and Dum Maaro Dum, and now here too, one can only hope that he plays a cold-hearted killer in his next release, or he’s going to be typecast well into his 30s as a swooning college boy, which would be a pity, because his performance in Dhobi Ghat showed he’s capable of so much more.
Amy Jackson’s Jessie is revealed early on as a Malayali Christian girl, but I don’t understand director Gautham Menon’s thinking behind that casting choice (as opposed to giving her one non-Indian parent), but of course that then would torpedo the central premise as to what’s keeping them apart (her father is strict, orthodox and has already “lost” one daughter to a mixed marriage). It seems like a lot to expect of a young foreign girl who is still just getting her feet wet as an actor and that, in an industry whose language and conventions are not her own. I do give her credit for spending a good chunk of the film gamboling about in saris, which I would imagine takes some getting used to for a newbie who’s never worn one before.
But the story is as weak as a premature kitten with the flu lost in blizzard…. Boy sees girl, boy falls in love, boy pursues girl to the point of stalking, girl shows no interest then turns on a dime and is supposedly suddenly in love too (though we don’t really see or feel it)…and on and on. The ending of the Tamil film was certainly not one that I had expected, and I’d read that the Hindi version would not repeat it, so I was curious to see how Menon would resolve the will-they-or-won’t-they question, and all I’ll say here is “Meh.” Well, that and I think the film might have been more tolerable had it been some 30 or 40 minutes shorter. The conclusion just dragged on way too long.
Oh, and a few words about the music. First, the rap number was awkward to the point of painful. Poor Prateik made to wear a silly fedora and second to have to mouth those lyrics AND hoof it up at the same time. My toes curl just recalling it. And second, how, how, HOW did Gautham Menon arrive at the decision to lop off the most beautiful song of his Tamil version (the airy title number) and just relegate it to mere background music right before the interval? What a shame and a big mistake.
See it or skip it?
Unless you’re obsessed with Prateik, or Amy Jackson, then walk on. There are some lovely Kerala locations, which should do quite a bit toward inspiring people to head south for a visit, but I don’t think that alone is worth the price of admission. It’s a pity – I was hoping for more.