YOU’VE GOT E-MALE
A bland but inoffensive fairy tale where the computer nerd gets the girl. Plus, a dreary romantic melodrama.
JAN 10, 2010 – I WAS SURPRISED THAT DINO MOREA, that descendant of ebonies and elms, was able to summon up such a relaxed performance in Jugal Hansraj’s Pyaar Impossible – but looking back, there’s no surprise. The Italianate actor was the worst possible fit for roles (and films) with a desi sensibility, and here, in a film so American in mood and tone that you’d expect the concession stands to serve apple pie instead of samosas, he’s just perfect. (Call it the Neha Dhupia syndrome, after the actress who has blossomed after straying from traditional Bollywood cinema.) Morea slips right in with characters who breakfast on cereal, who entertain children with lightsabres, and who refer to their young ones as “pumpkin” and “munchkin.” Even Alisha (Priyanka Chopra, overdoing the perkiness) comes off like an over-caffeinated American schoolgirl, her every gesticulation bouncing off the walls.
This isn’t an indictment of non-Indianness. In fact, these Americanisms are the very things that make Pyaar Impossible possible to endure. Scenes that would have descended into heavy-handed thunder-and-lightning melodrama under the stewardship of a director more Indian in sensibility – the hero’s confrontation with the villain in a swank restaurant; the heroine’s realisation that the world is indeed shallow, fixated on form as opposed to content – are allowed to scamper across screen with minimal fuss. The price of this lightness is a marked lack of tension – if you’ve listened to Salim-Sulaiman’s score, that’s the feel of the film as well, pleasant but bland (or rather, bland yet pleasant). There’s nothing at stake except the moment where boy and girl get together by the end – but then again, the rom-com is possibly the one genre where predictability isn’t so much a sin as a specialty.
If Pyaar Impossible doesn’t attempt to rock the boat, it’s at least familiar with the rhythms of rowing. Hansraj (working from a script from Uday Chopra, who plays Abhay) is content to tweak the archetypal frog-prince fairy tale that has lasted through retellings as recent as Notting Hill. (The “I’m just a girl” speech and the reunion in front of cameras are replicated here.) The twist is that the frog doesn’t transform into a prince. Abhay – who’s even referred to as “froggie” – is a bespectacled nerd when we first see him and he exits the film as a bespectacled nerd, still smiling a little too widely, still a tad too gauche for anyone to take seriously. It’s easy to see why Alisha falls for the debonair Varun – he may be slime, but at least he has a presence. Abhay is so invisible, so emasculated, that Alisha doesn’t think twice before moisturising her naked legs in his vicinity. He’s the ideal man-friend for a certain kind of career woman – he’s straight, and he’s safe. (It’s a nice touch that Alisha begins to fall for Abhay only after looking at life through his eyes.)
And he’s weak. He cries to his father (Anupam Kher) for help. He gets romantic tips from a six-year-old (Advika Yadav, a charming newcomer). Even when he sets out with a purpose, to track down the villain who stole the software he created, he allows himself to be easily sidetracked by his love for Alisha. With Abhay, Uday Chopra has the right idea – a fairy tale for our age, where a computer nerd with zero social skills wins the girl! – and he looks the part, but he does the film no favours by playing the part. Abhay needed the shambling, self-deprecatory goofiness of Hugh Grant, and Uday is too tentative, too dull. In the film’s most apposite moment, he gazes at Alisha through a telescope – and Priyanka looks so fantastic, she’s really a distant star, light years away from the likes of Abhay. That such a mating is possible is the fiction we need these films to feed us – why else would we watch rom-coms? – and yet you can’t help wishing that the fantasy weren’t so many light years removed from reality.
A TYPICALLY LISTLESS FARDEEN KHAN (as Donsai) is the nominal hero of Dulha Mil Gaya, but it’s Shah Rukh Khan (guest-starring as Pawan) who’s handed the film’s show-stopping moment. While lounging by the rails on a Caribbean cruise, Pawan’s fashion-plate girlfriend (Sushmita Sen, called Shimmer, and desperately channeling Archana Puran Singh) flails about a delicate wrist, and as a result, her keychain flies overboard. Shimmer is distraught, for the trinket is a reminder of her beloved poodle, Bozo, who, thanks to heartless cruise coordinators, was unable to accompany his mistress on vacation. Unwilling to stand by simply as his woman weeps, Pawan dives into the deep and retrieves the object, thus shattering to smithereens that old bit of pessimism about needles and haystacks. And the slack-jawed audience wonders: How, short of being dispatched to earth from an imploding Krypton, can someone perform a feat so patently impossible?
Why, because his heart brims over with love, of course! In Mudassar Aziz’s tired melodrama, love conquers everything, even fathomless waters. The plot has to do with West Indian billionaire Donsai marrying Samarpreet (Ishita Sharma), a lassi-sipping lass from the Punjabi heartland, because clause 7(a) of his father’s will hitched those billions to his non-singleton status. It’s a union of shameless convenience, and Donsai thinks a generous monthly cheque is all that’s needed to keep Samarpreet away as he reverts to life as a debauched bachelor – but he clearly hasn’t seen Naseeb Apna Apna (or the Tamil original, Gopurangal Saaivadhillai), where spurned women, instead of suing the pants off their sorry spouses, take it upon themselves to ennoble their men, showing them the error of their ways. (Why, because their hearts brim over with love, of course!) The only thing sadder is that these dubious “Indian values” are still being peddled under the guise of wholesome entertainment.
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