De De Pyaar De is an unfunny fantasy peddled by Luv Ranjan to his male viewers
By Gaurav Jain
In the land of unrepentant bachelors like Rahul Gandhi and self-proclaimed bachelors like Narendra Modi, Luv Ranjan makes the kind of films that makes lads cheer. Half-eager and half-cynical young men are pitted against scheming shrews, scheming parents, scheming bosses – where bros gotta stick together if they’re gonna stick it out. By the end of Ranjan’s stories, the men have wised up some more to this scheming world, but mostly they’ve convinced themselves afresh that womenfolk are unreliable, and their only sahara is going to be each other (and maybe mom).
Some of Ranjan’s films of the last decade, Pyaar Ka Punchnama (PKP), Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2 and last year’s Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, have become classics of the genre (all three star Kartik Aaryan and Nushrat Bharucha). On first glimpse his latest offering, De De Pyaar De, which he co-wrote and co-produced, seemed to have broken the mould. There are no sniveling young men (barring one irrelevant cameo) and there are no wily young huntresses. Instead, we get 50-year-old Ashish (Ajay Devgn) falling for 26-year-old Ayesha (Rakul Preet Singh), alongside Ashish’s separated wife Manju (Tabu) and some extended family. But fear not – Ranjan has just replaced his persecuted young men with a persecuted older man.
This romcom might have a 'modern' configuration of a major age gap, but it's actually an unfunny fantasy peddled by Ranjan to his male viewers. It’s as if Kartik Aaryan grew up to be Ajay Devgn and is finally living his long-cherished dream life – the elder Ashish meets the young Ayesha who has arrived to do a striptease and lap dance at a bachelor party. Ayesha proceeds to drink and party as hard as the boys. When she passes out in his bathtub, for some reason Ashish undresses her completely before depositing her in his spare bedroom, and scores points with her for this the next morning – she’s shown as being surprised and almost disappointed that he didn’t take the opportunity to rape her when she was unconscious. “Mauka chhod diya tumne,” she says to him cheerfully as he butters some toast. “Hosh mein to milne wali hoon nahi mein.”
Despite herself, she proceeds to hang out with this expressionless guy who is double her age, swoons over him while he looks mostly disinterested, so then he has sex with her. He breaks up with her when she demands some commitment from him, but she can’t take the separation and begs him to take her back. Then he has more sex with her. She cooks for him unasked, and he says to her petulantly, “Mein dal nahin khata (I don’t eat dal).” She plays video games with him. She massages his head. He’s rich and she’s not, and he shows no interest in her ambitions or dreams. He meets no other friend or family of hers. They have more sex.
He takes her to Kullu Manali to meet his parents, his separated wife and kids (who are the same age as her), but he loses his nerve and introduces her as his secretary. Ayesha and ex-wife Manju promptly compete with each other on who’s sexier and more deserving of him. He looks uncomfortable.
Somewhere along the way there are subplots of Ashish’s difficult relationships with his daughter and father, his daughter’s engagement to her spineless boyfriend, and Tabu’s justifiably dogged paramour. But Ranjan’s story is quick to revert to his main point – men’s accountability and cultural differences are just mythical things. Ashish and Ayesha never have any trouble of generational differences. London-based Ashish never has any parenting differences with Himachal-based Manju.
Ranjan’s earlier films deftly celebrated young men and their blameless sex-led brains, their ugly suspicions about young women, and the genuinely warm bromance that sprouts among them if women give them the space. His new film continues to celebrate men’s blamelessness, even if this time it’s clumsier. Ashish cheats on Ayesha by sleeping with Manju, but according to the latter he did it for her sake so he’s not to blame. Their separation and the hurt it caused their kids and his parents were also not his fault, Manju intones.
This is the ultimate male fantasy—to remain blameless while being led by your groin—how a beautiful young woman is into you, how your beautiful and confident ex wife is also into you, you 'grant' sex as an act of generosity to women, how the young woman appreciates your age but demeans the older woman's age, etc. And if someone accuses you of being a “bloody tharki budhau” as Ashish’s friend Ronak (Jaaved Jaaferi) does, you can always use Ashish’s classic retort: “Zyada intellectualize mat kar!”
Both Ranjan and his actor of many films Alok Nath were accused in the industry’s #MeToo revelations last year, with the latter accused of sexual violence and rape. And according to Wikipedia, Nath’s last two films have been with Ranjan, including De De Pyaar De. Ranjan has been called a misogynist so many times now he’s prepared for it. He shot back at one interviewer, “If 50 percent of the world is women, is it any way possible that all of them are nice? Who is a misogynist? In television, they show sari-wearing coy women who are getting tortured and tormented. Are they misogynist or am I one, where my women are as strong as men and they have the power to torment men just like that? Of course, women will have a certain amount of power in a relationship. Why should I show them as weak?” Ranjan, too, is blameless.
Ranjan has claimed that guys like to watch his films “together as a gang.” De De Pyaar De doesn’t have the famous anti-women rants of PKP and PKP 2, but it will still please the mards in the audience. Its male fantasy made by men for men, and the chauvinism and sexism is so ingrained and matter of fact you almost start going along with it, till you have to shake yourself out of Luv's grip.
Or you could blame it on Devgn's expressionless face, which turns out to be a most effective mask for a blameless dude, a blank surface for every guy to project his fantasies on. After all, the man shows more passion for elaichi.
Gaurav Jain is the co-founder of The Ladies Finger (TLF), India’s leading online feminist magazine.
Updated Date: May 20, 2019 13:35:47 IST