Saturday, February 18, 2012


Release date:
February 17, 2012
Gautham Vasudev Menon
Prateik Babbar, Amy Jackson, Manu Rishi

Truth be told, I’m so tense about my book deadline that I was planning to skip reviewing Ekk Deewana Tha. But writer-director Gautham Vasudev Menon has created such a silly myth about Malayali Christians in this film, and in the past 24 hours I’ve read so many conversations on Twitter by authorities of half-baked knowledge, that I couldn’t resist.
Stereotyping apart, Ekk Deewana Tha is an excellent case study for the worst way to remake a lovely film. Quite literally, it is a carbon copy of Menon’s own hit 2010 Tamil film Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa (VTV / Will You Cross The Skies With Me). But you cannot Xerox a story, transport it to a completely different setting, and make no adjustments for the new milieu!
VTV was the story of the love between a Tamil Hindu boy and a Malayali Christian girl in Chennai, his unwavering feelings, her confusion and indecisiveness especially in the face of her family’s opposition, and an impetuous decision she takes in a fit of anger/irritation that changes their lives. It was a very poignant, very mellow film about two very real people whose longing for each other gave me an ache in my own heart. When Karthik is burning with desire for Jessie, you see it in the way his fingers surreptitiously brush against her feet as they sit chatting on a train. When he tells her their chemistry is undeniable, you see him seated across a table from her, locked in an argument, while in his mind’s eye he’s with her on her chair locked in a passionate embrace. Jessie was not a girl I entirely liked or respected, but of course such muddled-up, dithering women do exist. VTV was excellently acted by Silambarasan and Trisha Krishnan, impeccably written and directed by Gautham Menon, complemented by a top-class technical team, featured one of A.R. Rahman’s best ever soundtracks … and I loved every bit of it!
The Hindi remake Ekk Deewana Tha, on the other hand, works in places, but is filled with so many incongruities and strikes so many discordant notes that it is hard to get entirely drawn into the story.
The problems begin with the casting. British actress Amy Jackson plays Ekk Deewana Tha’s heroine Jessie, a Malayali Christian girl based in Mumbai. Is it just me or are there others out there who agree that Jackson does not look Indian? Dark hair doth not a desi beauty make! Her features are a tad too European to be convincing. While that may be debatable, what’s not debatable is that the poor girl has been bestowed with the worst make-up you’ve ever seen on a Bollywood heroine! Through parts of the film her face looks orange, elsewhere she has a light chin with dark cheeks and forehead, in one close-up it seems as though no effort was made to mask the dark circles around her eyes, and she looks oily faced almost throughout! It’s as if the entire technical team (make-up, lighting, camera) conspired against her in the film!
Prateik Babbar in Ekk Deewana Tha is Sachin, a Marathi Hindu unemployed engineer who wants to work in films. Playing a man who falls irrationally in love with Jessie, Babbar makes up somewhat for his shockingly bad performances in last year’s Aarakshan and My Friend Pinto. There’s a spark somewhere in there no doubt, so let’s not write him off just yet.
Those who’ve seen VTV may agree that Rahman’s lovely music is not used one-tenth as effectively here as it was in the original film. But the biggest issue with Ekk Deewana Tha is the writing. Menon is credited with the story and screenplay, while Manu Rishi has written the dialogues. Both of them seem strangely disconnected from the setting of their film, and that disconnect is exemplified by their portrayal of Jessie’s people. In VTV, the heroine’s Chennai-based family with their roots in Alappuzha seemed true-to-life … Malayali Christians tend to be conservative, and it’s quite believable that her family would frown upon love marriages and consider filmmaking a useless profession. Why just Malayali Christians? A large percentage of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs share these views too. But in the Hindi Ekk Deewana Tha, Messrs Menon and Rishi have a rather weird way of showcasing Jessie’s family’s orthodoxy. When she meets Sachin for the first time, Jessie explains that she was born and brought up in Mumbai. Since she’s 23, I guess I can safely assume that her entire family was based in Mumbai for at least 23 years? Yet an earlier conversation reveals that Jessie’s father does not know who Amitabh Bachchan is! And when Sachin asks Jessie about Malayalam megastar Mohanlal, she has not heard of him either! Her explanation: among us, watching films is considered “a sin”! She does not say “in my family”, she says “among us”. The implication being that Malayali Christians consider film-viewing a sinful pastime! Huh? That’s not true! Besides, how stupid and insular is this family that has lived in Mumbai for over two decades (in Juhu which is Bachchan’s neighbourhood) but is clueless about the Big B?!! And how lousy is this girl’s general knowledge that, despite being a Malayali, she is not aware of Mohanlal’s existence?!! Perhaps Gautham Menon would also like us to believe that Malayali Christians (even software firm employees like Jessie) don’t read newspapers, don’t watch TV, don’t notice hoardings, don’t talk to neighbours and colleagues, and in fact live in isolated settlements of the sort conceived by Manoj Night Shyamalan in The Village!
Sadly, because Menon is a south Indian himself and because he reportedly claims that Ekk Deewana Tha is his own story, there are Hindi film viewers out there who will assume that the picture he’s painted is correct. Sadder still, because south Indians (a.k.a. “Madrasis”) and Christians are still considered exotica by many people in the northern part of our country, this silliness too will be filed away in folklore. Though as @jojitjoseph wrote to me on Twitter, tongue firmly planted in cheek: “At least I am glad (that because of Ekk Deewana Tha) Bollywood now knows that there are Christians in Kerala. They believed that Christians are indigenous people only found in Goa.”
On the plus side, in Ekk Deewana Tha, Kerala as seen through cinematographer M.S. Prabhu’s lens is beautiful. And with all its flaws, the film does throw up scenes that tug at the heart strings, and others that are funny. I particularly enjoyed the one in which Sachin, seated in church during a wedding, guesses the bride’s next move based on the church weddings he’s seen in films. Some people may consider Jessie’s garrulous uncle in Alappuzha a stereotype, but I didn’t mind the bald little man’s enthusiasm for Hindi and “lenj” (lunch). Occasional caricatures can be amusing. Let’s focus our energies instead on ignorance, insidious stereotypes and disjointed film making.
Rating (out of five): **
CBFC Rating:                       U/A
Language:                              Hindi


  1. Look at this shameless self hating racism by Indians. The casting of the heroine Amy Jackson is blatant racism white supremacy. It is a mental illness when white foreigners are treated better in your own country and your own women are cast out of your own films for being Indian- Gautam searched all over Kerala and he found a British Caucasian foreigner was the best to play the role? Give me a break! All Indian women should be incredibly insulted. This is the colonial slave mentality. It is not glamor, it is not beauty, it is racism white supremacy. And that is very very ugly.

    This video explains the secret as to exactly how Indian people are creating their own doom starting with movies: search on YouTube for "EXCLUSIVE! REAL Secret Leaked Behind the Bollywood Movie Ek Deewana Tha!"

  2. Just an FYI for readers of this blog post, Anna is a Malayali Christian too (Correct Anna?)..and very clearly she's an antithesis of Amy Jackson's portrayal of the Malayali Christians.:D? But for academic argument purpose, Maybe Gautham Menon has in mind Jessie as the orthodox pentecoastal kerala christians ..i think the Pentecostal Christians of Kerala are quite orthodox in their views..? What say Anna?

  3. I dont completely agree wid u Anna...Being a christian malayali I know that such stereotypes do or may exist...May b he knows Big B..but he is not much concerned abt him...N thats just a point on a light note to convey that she belongs to a conservative family...
    N another point regarding Amy's appearance..She appeared nothing less than a godess in those appealing saris... We were a youth gang n loved evry luk of her...
    Movie was a brilliant Prateik effort...his dance moves to his acting...N kudos to Menon for pulling the quintessential romancing nuances so well...

  4. Loved your review and I feel it is not worth watching. Hence it would be a waste of time and money.

  5. Dear Anup,

    I’m afraid I’ve been neglecting the comments section of my blog so far this year. My apologies.

    Tks for writing in. I know you mean well, but I’d be very uncomfortable if this were to be a discussion about me personally. That’s my point ... We can’t take our personal experiences and assume that we as individuals are representative of what our entire community does / is / believes. Nor can we assume that the few people we’ve encountered from another community are representative of what that entire community does / is / believes. Someone from the team of Ekk Deewana Tha wrote to me on Twitter saying Gautham Menon told her that his wife comes from a family like Jessie’s in this film. How does this become a reason to make a film that suggests that all Malayali Christians are like her?

    That’s precisely what Ekk Deewana Tha does … Jessie says, “among us” watching films is considered a sin. Considering that a vast majority of Hindi film-goers know little about south Indians or about Christians in our country, it would be natural for them to conclude that all Christians or at best, all Malayali Christians, consider it a sin to watch films.

    Besides, Ekk Deewana Tha does not specify that Jessie is a Pentecostal Christian from Kerala. Even if she is, I know enough Pentecostal Christians – from Kerala and elsewhere – and I’ve done enough research for this review to know that Pentecostals are not a homogeneous community with uniform customs either worldwide or even across Kerala. For instance, does Jessie belong to the Indian Pentecostal Church of God headquartered in Kumbanad, Kerala, or the Assemblies of God church or a smaller Pentecostal denomination in the state? In short, there’s no excuse for the generalisation by this film.

    You may point out that Ekk Deewana Tha is not meant to be a documentary about Indian Christians. I agree. These issues become important only because of the widespread ignorance about Indian Christians among a majority of Hindi film-goers, most of who are not even aware of the numerous denominations that exist within Christianity across India and the world. I’ve already met several people who’ve seen Ekk Deewana Tha and assumed that all Christians / all Malayali Christians consider it a sin to watch films.

    One Malayali Christian reader wrote to me saying he’s grateful to Gautham Menon because at least his misleading portrayal of Christians in Ekk Deewana Tha is a departure from the portrayal of Christians as quasi-foreigners by Bollywood so far. I suppose you could look at it that way. Ekk Deewana Tha has not perpetuated a stereotype as harmful as the earlier portrayal of Christians as gangsters, gangsters’ molls and drunkards in Hindi films. It has simply created a silly myth about Indian Christans which, sadly, will further exoticise the community among those who know little about them.

  6. Dear itsMJhere,

    Tks for contributing to this discussion. Do remember though that you may be a Malayali Christian, but this is not about who you are or what your personal experiences have been. Please understand, I am not merely drawing on my personal experiences in this review. I did research, spoke to Keralite preachers and priests, and read up on Christianity in Kerala before posting this article.

    Another point: Every stereotype is based on some degree of reality. Remember the days when all south Indians in Hindi films were portrayed as oily-haired creatures who said aiyyaiyyo at the drop of a hat? It’s a ridiculous stereotype. Does this mean that there are no oily-haired south Indians who say aiyyaiyyo at the drop of a hat? No, such people do exist. Though such people do exist, does this mean that all south Indians or a majority of south Indians are like that? No. So then, does it qualify to be slammed as a stereotype? Yes. QED.



  7. Thnxx a tonne Anna for your considerate reply...Yess, I agree n respect your perspective on this..
    To add my few cents...
    Personal Experiences leads to good articles.... we musst use this weapon n juss not ignore it...Can it be ignored, anyways...? :D
    Again.. love to know that you opt for the generic view as you cater to a larger audience...
    We both are on the same page that such reserved families may/do exist in all sections of society where traditions,culture n religion is still maintained to some extent... A Syrian Christian family has a long history of 2K yrss as we say...n its beauty of traditions is still untouched from many influences...I dont like those viewers who want to generalise such scenes...Come on ...It could just be taken like ..such Malayali Christian families do exist...Whats the big deal...Not to such a great extent to not know Amitabh though ...:D Right? Different people...Different views...
    Liked your view in second para... We have been portrayed many times incorrectly n insanely ...very generically in a bad taste ...LOL...Keep writing :)