The nation of Prozac and freedom gets enough homage in debut director Shakun Batra’s Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu. The exposition of the lead characters, in their own words, is on their respective shrinks’ couch—where, in true American spirit, they spell out life problems which perhaps wouldn’t even merit a breakdown in the city they’re from, Mumbai. There’s a Las Vegas chapel where marriages made out of inebriated courage are the stuff of lore. The American three-wheeler scooter is a cute prop. The lead pair, Riana Braganza and Rahul (Kareena Kapoor and Imran Khan, respectively), are jobless but immaculately turned out. They are in supermarkets often, and are generally unapologetically shallow. Batra’s film neatly fits into the template of the over-churned genre, the Hollywood romcom.
Riana is a freelance hairstylist, who lives in Las Vegas and breezes around on a scooter. Her family back home, her “madhouse”, is a jaunty bunch, supportive of every little decision of hers. Rahul is from a wealthy family. His parents control his every decision; he literally can’t talk in front of his father, and also has a mortal fear of sexually aggressive women. So chalk and cheese, black and white. With the stark contrasts, the lead pair is set up for easy conflict. Rahul considers himself “average” but Riana consoles him by saying that compared with all the other men she has dated, at least he is what he is—she likes that he is “perfectly average”. Within a week, the two become friends and the scene changes to Mumbai, until the film’s heart-warming, believable end.
Stark contrasts: Kareena Kapoor (left) and Imran Khan are set up for easy conflict in Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu.
There are some blatant loopholes in the script. The shrinks disappear the moment Riana and Rahul meet—and remain a banal ode to glorified American dysfunctionality. When Rahul is on a secret trip to Mumbai with Riana, he accidentally runs into the car his mother is travelling in, that too at a moment when this meeting makes it convenient for the story to move forward. But the writing really does not matter for the makers of Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu as much as the external packaging—the art direction, cinematography and styling.
But it has its way of warming up to you, entirely because of the lead performances. Khan’s character is overwritten. His being insecure, unexpressive and frozen overpowers everything else about him. Khan fits in well, although the character’s charm would have been more open and recognizable if he didn’t try so hard to be stiff. Kapoor has a role with some shades. She is impulsive and forthright, but also secretive. You know her deeper side is lurking right behind the external sparkle. Kapoor’s performance lifts this film many notches higher and makes it watchable. None from the supporting cast, including Boman Irani, Ratna Pathak Shah, Sonia Mehra and Ram Kapoor, has memorable cameos. The portrait of the entire Braganza family stays in memory—irreverent, witty and happy-go-lucky, the diametric opposite of Rahul’s family, the scary and pretentious Kapoors. But then this film thrives on stark contrasts.
Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu has an easy, comforting charm. It is more a buddy film than a romance, which works in its favour. There is no big Punjabi wedding, a gigantic plus in my book. You won’t be moved by it, and will probably forget it after a few smiles, but while it lasts, Kareena Kapoor will keep you engaged.
Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu released in theatres on Friday.
Film Review | War Horse
War and gloss
There is a long, breathless sequence towards the end of Steven Spielberg’s new film ‘War Horse’, when the horse, its protagonist, runs amok across a landscape torn by World War I. He gallops over remains of ammunition and dead soldiers. The skies bombard unsophisticated firearms. The sequences spans from twilight to night. The horse, Joey, is injured by wires and shards. But he keeps running until a mesh of barbed wire covers his body and immobilizes him. Besides the agony depicted in it, the sequence brings out very literally how war can coerce the innocent into its fold. The horse’s fall is a painful moment to watch.
It is difficult to imagine any other director but Spielberg making emotional manipulation look so grand and beautiful.
Soppy: The film is cinematic ambition without soul or mind.
There are some moments of vintage Spielberg in ‘War Horse’. A crimson sky in the English countryside, a woman in her garden and a galloping horse in the horizon. Despite the post-production hyper-colouration, this scene is again a 35mm delight.
Without the technical wizardry of the director and his cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, ‘War Horse’ would be a disaster. The story is sentimental, naive and mediocre. Layers of soppiness are lathered on to a raging war involving nations. War is shown in its panoramic, tragic scale, discordant with the scope of the film—a thoroughbred’s journey through war and the victims of war, and his climactic, miraculous union with his owner, Albert, the son of an English farmer.
The performances of Emily Watson, who plays Albert’s mother, Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays a military chief, and Jeremy Irvine, who plays Albert, match the film’s one-dimensional pitch. There are no performances that tower over the film’s scale. In the end, it is neither a war film nor a film about a man and his animal.
At 2 hours, 26 minutes, ‘War Horse’ is cinematic ambition without soul or mind. It can be tedious, if you don’t consider its digitally processed visual garnish a merit that can stand triumphantly on its own.
‘War Horse’ released in theatres on Friday.