It's not hard to reason this one but you migh...
Karan Anshuman (Filmmaker/movie critic),
Karan Anshuman is a film critic for Mumbai Mirror. He's worked on a bunch of movie projects, none of which you've ever seen...yet! He's a history, photography, squash, web 2.0, food, and gaming enthusiast who would trade his soul to travel the world.
EKK DEEWANA THA: Shove at First Sight
Director: Gautham Menon; Cast: Prateik Babbar, Amy Jackson, Sachin Khedekar
Rated U/A; Runtime: 2 hours 30 minutes
Sachin (Prateik) is Hindi cinema’s hackneyed idea of a ‘deewana’: Flaky at first, can dance and throw a punch, falls in love at first sight, and acts creepily enough to be deemed a borderline stalker. Why, he says it himself: “uske front se zyaada uske back ko dekha hai.”
Jessi (Amy Jackson) is the girl he stalks woos. Overwhelmingly Malayalee Christian with an overwhelming husky voice (dubbed by someone else?) her frequent change of heart and mind (and saris) can only lead her to be diagnosed as clinically insane. Sachin has early signals but as we well know a deewana won’t stop stalking until the ice maiden turns into a, er, deewani.
The plot--boy with single-point agenda chases U-turn girl who has a crazy, tall father and bulky, angry brother--has every ingredient you’ve seen before from inter-religious love trouble to the loser realizing his dream after a breakup crisis with key turning points dependent on providence such as no cellphone signal (for days!). The film keeps slipping into meta territory as Sachin is a filmmaker who can only take inspiration from his own life when he turns writer and director. You’re only left wondering about Menon’s own story and how much of an inspiration his own life is here.
Technically, the film is well below par and has a South Indian mainstream movie feel (and not only because of the copious amounts of subtitled Malayalam), something that pan-Indian audiences are not always comfortable with, especially the dubbed dialogue which is often not in sync. Several scenes start off with a long take that splinters into shorter shots as they end; an indication of lethargic filmmaking (well, it can get boring if you’re making the same film thrice!) Once in a while you’ll see a good shot, but such stray instances are lost in a deluge of mediocrity. Dialogue exchanges and old-school physical fight set-ups resemble student film exercises. The story meaninglessly traverses travels multiple cities and only Jessi’s hometown in Kerala, where her back yard faces the backwaters is visually interesting and relevant.
Ek Deewana Tha is pitched as an AR Rahman and Javed Akhtar “musical” (you’ll see their names above the director’s in the end credits, if you make it that far) but the only words that may be used to describe the music in the film are inharmonious and cacophonous. While lip-sync songs sound awkward, translated as they are from Tamil (where the lyrics must’ve come before the music), the background music is another level of tunes and genres stir-fried. Just because it’s a musical, you will hear everything from rap to techno to what is meant to sound like western classical.
Prateik and debutant Amy Jackson are – to put it bluntly – awful. They fail to transmit any of their angst and emotion to the viewer. Manu Rishi is the only solace with his wit, and without a doubt most of it has been improvised.
Gautham Menon shows a dismaying lack of range when it comes to his take on love. Whether it’s Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein, Khakha Khakha (Force in Hindi), or Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa, the original version of this movie, it’s almost always a similar set up: love at first sight, dilly dallying/playing hard to get on the other side, and eventually all izz well. Ek Deewana Tha is no different and far less interesting than the others. Lazy filmmaking, repetitive endless conversations, arbitrary songs, and weak protagonists are its undoing.
?: The Blair Witch Project. Again.
Director: Yash Dave and Allison Patell; Cast: Varun Thakur, Vicky Chatwal, Maanvi Gagroo, Chirag Jain, Sonam Mukhurjee
Rated A; Runtime: 1 hour 30 minutes
Found footage. Newbie filmmakers are still flogging this genre popularized in 1999 by The Blair Witch Project as a budget concept for their first films. “?” is so shamelessly plagiarized from BWP, that even the opening text about disappearing student filmmakers is nearly identical. Why only BWP? Obviously Paranormal Activity, the other American indie sleeper hit, also finds homage in the way the ten odd thrill moments are presented. Needless to say, “?” is nowhere near as good as either of its inspirations and is yet another amateur attempt in this heavily exploited genre.
A group of six kids reach in a house in a forest (not entirely dissimilar to the setting in Ragini MMS) to shoot a short. Sure enough inexplicable events start coming to light. The set up is tedious and it takes a while to get into the mood. But once the fun starts the frequency of incidents begins to shorten, ramping up towards a hectic climax where the kids are dragged, possessed or attacked, and eventually killed one by one (this is not a spoiler – remember, footage has been found – obviously no one made it out of there).
“?” is better than Ragini MMS, if you’re one of possibly three people who hasn’t seen any similar American indies mentioned and are a connoisseur of Indian versions of BWP (remember Chhodon Naa Yaar starring Jimmy Shergill?), then you will probably enjoy this movie. Quite a few viewers around me jumped in their seats at intended moments. Also, it stays true to the format. There is little “cheating” with sound and images, though of course much liberty has been taken in terms of framing and why the camera should be on at certain times. It must be mentioned that even though a third of the film has been shot in “night mode” (essentially shades of green and black), it is not distracting and doesn’t take away from the experience. A minor victory that earns the movie an extra star.
If this were an original film, I’d have rated it significantly higher. But “?” is a blatant rip-off, badly acted, devoid of new ideas and gets the rating it deserves. Debutant filmmakers have the tools now to tell their own tales at low costs and all they need to go with their Canon 5Ds, singular locations, and willing talent is some imagination.
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