If I had a penny for every time I saw an older man romance a much younger woman on screen in India, I’d have enough money to produce a film and get the age difference right. De De Pyaar De just finds a way to legitimise that old ''been there, seen that' trope of casting younger women opposite older men, by simply telling us that the lead here — Ashish (Ajay) is 50 — and his love interest — Aisha (Rakul) is 26.
That’s all it does really.
For the entire first half, it is a typical boy-meets-girl Bollywood romance, with each wooing the other. The girl is a modern, independent woman, living in London and working a 9-to-5 job, but also doing bartending on the weekend for kicks. She isn’t coy either — which means she’s hitting on Ashish as much as Ashish is hitting on her
Just like any other love story, really. (Photo: YouTube screengrab)
And it doesn’t even look odd — because, for one, we’re so accustomed to seeing this kind of casting even when the boy is supposedly a college student! But more importantly, we’ve been told that age is just a number, especially in matters of the heart. The trailer itself bombards you with examples — “Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, George Clooney aur uski wife (Amal Amaluddin. That’s her name. Please don’t shy away from adding that info), Saif aur Kareena!”
So, you go in conditioned to challenge the older conditioning, knowing in your heart that if you are not okay with this, then you have a regressive mindset.
And that’s where the problem lies.
Ashish is not portrayed as a 50-year-old. He is portrayed as James Bond. Again, James Bond is a more international example of the same trope — that men age like fine wine and women, well, don’t. Or shouldn’t.
Ashish will also give you a serious Batman and Iron Man vide — a single man living alone with all this money but no one to love, with chauffeurs at his beck and call at all times. Cut to the second half when it’s time to meet the family of this charismatic man — and enter Manju (Tabu), the ex-wife.
It is at this point that the film ceases to be a comedy and becomes something that wants to be two things at a time — can we call it dram-com? Unimaginable stuff starts to happen — ladke wale are coming over to meet Ashish’s daughter, Ishika (who, by the way, is Aisha’s age) but Ishika had told them that her father is dead! Now, in order to justify the presence of this odd man in the house, Ashish is introduced as Manju’s brother — if that didn’t make you cringe, there’s a full-fledged rakhi scene to hammer the dysfunctional thought into your head.
In all this, Aisha is introduced by Ashish as his secretary — older successful man and younger hot secretary stereotype alert! People buy it — until daughter spots them coochie-cooing. But even before the big revelation actually came, ex-wife Manju cannot help but establish a claim over the father of her children that results in a comical portrayal of jealousy, unnecessary cattiness between the two women, some sexist and ageist jokes — stereotypes galore!
Fortunately, however, writer Luv Ranjan realised that he has Tabu and Ajay as actors — and towards the tail end of the film, he decides to give Tabu the scope to prove it.
Her monologue reminding the family that the divorce was not just his fault, rather a mutual decision, followed by a breakdown in tears scene, where she admits she’s tired of always being the responsible one and all she wants is a day to just be, is priceless, even as it may seem a misfit in Luv Ranjan universe.
Tabu FINALLY gets to show her acting prowess! (Photo: YouTube screengrab)
The music goes unnoticed in the entire film — that is not to say there were no songs, just they were so easily forgettable.
Yet, this movie is funny, thanks to all the actors and their good comic timing. And it will even find an audience and hit the 100-crore mark.
But let’s not let this trickery make us believe that this film stands for a changing perspective in Indian cinema.
I’m going with 2 stars out of 5.