De De Pyaar De is Luv Ranjan’s most mature film.
Ranjan is a filmmaker who’s often criticised for the misogynistic themes in his films like both Pyaar Ka Punchnaama’s and more recently Sonu Ki Titu Ki Sweety. Controversial gender politics aside, Ranjan has undeniably brought a fresh, much-needed energy to the modern Bollywood comedy and this film is no exception.
Granted De De Pyaar De is a film he produced and wrote rather than directed, but it is nonetheless, in spirit, a Luv Ranjan film. The film almost feels like a direct response to those criticisms. As if he wanted to silence his detractors and prove he is capable of a more sensitive, tender story. And De De Pyaar De is just that – at once hilarious, touching and unexpectedly affecting.
Between the well-conceived plot, crackling dialogue and well-defined characters, you really get a sense of the effort that’s gone into the writing – not something you can often say about comedies in Hindi cinema. The film is also a steadfast reminder not to judge a movie by its appearance. It’s easy to write it off at face value – a love triangle about a 50-year-old divorce Ashish (Ajay Devgn) falling in love with a girl half his age (a memorable Rakul Preet Singh). The film’s first half covers their London-based romance and is surprisingly mature in how it deals with the age-gap issue. The two characters, and by extension the film, don’t just confront their age difference but entirely lean into it, both comically and dramatically.
Post interval we are transported to Manali where Ashish takes Ayesha to meet his family – ex-wife Manju (a fantastic Tabu) and grown-up kids who are almost the same age as Ayesha. Here playful rom-com turns to comedy of errors to poignant romantic drama.
The film works in how it carves out two distinct, self-contained films and stitches them together. Writer Ranjan and director Akiv Ali weave a narrative that keeps you guessing. As it neared its final act, I found myself not entirely sure where it was going and which way the love triangle would turn. But above all, it’s their evolved treatment of the tricky situation of weighing a lifelong marriage and the bond that forms between two people as against the new exciting romance of Ayesha and Ashish. So much so that it doesn’t just feel satisfying, it makes you think.
Ajay Devgn is an actor we just don’t think enough about and I can’t remember the last time I had this much fun watching him. As the cocky flirt in the first half to the patient, hurting family man in the second Devgn is in fine form. As always, as Manju, Tabu uplifts the film with her tender portrayal of the resentful wife burdened to be the caretaker of the family.
Aside from the fittingly enjoyable soundtrack, the film is also a rare example of background score done right, to heighten feeling rather than drown it out. With this sparkling success, at this rate, Ranjan could well be the next Anand L Rai -a filmmaker who becomes an industry unto himself. De De Pyaar De is entertaining, emotionally engaging and most unexpectedly – enriching. I’d call that a win.