January 31, 2014
Abhay Deol, Preeti Desai, Tahir Bhasin, Rati Agnihotri, Jayant Kriplani, Lilette Dubey, Anish Trivedi, Yudishtir Urs, Darshan Jariwala
I’ve no doubt there are many great existential profundities that writer-director Devika Bhagat believes she’s addressing with this film. As the teenagers I know would say: it’s deep. Very deep, indeed. So deep that I drowned in a sea of boredom and just managed to escape.
One By Two tells us the parallel stories of the love-lorn techie Amit (Abhay Deol) and aspiring dancer-choreographer Samara (Preeti Desai), both living in the city of Mumbai. That they will meet at some point in the film is an inevitability intrinsic to this format. Keeping us hooked until they get there is Bhagat & Co’s job. Sadly, they – and by that I mean the entire team, not just Bhagat – fail miserably in the attempt.
The worst of this film’s many failings is the long-winded screenplay with its inert storytelling style and tons of loopholes, Why, for instance, would a seemingly self-respecting woman assume that her long-estranged ex-lover’s dinner invitation to their daughter was in fact a joint invitation for her too? Why would that daughter lead her mother to believe so? Why would the woman set herself up for an insult, by getting ready for that dinner? Why would the daughter, who loves her mother dearly, seem completely unmoved when the father ticks off the lady for being presumptuous? And these are questions emerging from just one scene where careless writing and poor acting converge. Come to think of it, I have plenty of existential queries with which I could fill this page. Leading the pack is this: Why did Viacom 18 and Abhay Deol invest in a script that is as lifeless as the nondescript title bestowed on it?
This is not to say that Bhagat does not have a track record that would inspire hope in potential producers. She is, among other films, the writer/co-writer of Manorama Six Feet Under, Bachna Ae Haseeno, Aisha and Ladies vs Ricky Bahl. Whatever you may have thought about those films, you have to admit they came armed with enthusiasm and energy. One By Two completely lacks spark. And while much of that could be blamed on the director, the lead cast must share a large part of the blame.
Let’s talk about Abhay Deol, for instance. Sunny and Bobby’s cousin, who was so charming on debut in Imtiaz Ali’s Socha Na Tha, needs to step back and re-assess his work, his choice of roles in the last nine years and how much of himself he invests in the characters he plays. He has a likeable screen presence and a natural ease before the camera, but it’s time he upped his game. In One By Two he plays Amit with an unvarying tone from start to finish and fails to explode on screen even when the screenplay clearly requires him to do so, in that one scene in which the chap deliberately sets out to embarrass his family by appearing before a room full of guests dressed in his underwear and guitar, to sing I’m just pakaoed. Playback singer Siddharth Mahadevan brings on the fireworks with that song, but his zest is unsuited to Deol whose facial expression barely changes to match the words and tune emerging from his character’s lips. Highlighting the actor’s uninspired performance here is the repeated presence in the same frame of cute, talented and impactful young Tahir Bhasin playing Amit’s loyal friend.
And what were they thinking casting model-turned-actress and Deol's real-life girlfriend Preeti Desai as the female lead in this film? She’s an extremely good-looking former beauty queen and a graceful dancer, but on the acting front the best thing that can be said about her is that she has improved vastly since she stood out like a sore thumb in a small role in the midst of an otherwise-brilliant cast in Krishna DK and Raj Nidimoru’s wonderful Shor In The City in 2011. Comparing her to herself, she’s better here, which is saying little.
As for Shankar Ehsaan Loy’s music over which Deol fought a battle with T-Series that’s been well chronicled by the news media, well, it’s the high point of the film but certainly nowhere close to the high points of their career. The production design is eye-catching, as is Samara’s wardrobe. The dances are attractive, but there’s not a single move that took my breath away as you might expect in a film which features a heroine who is a professional dancer. Since there’s little else worth discussing in One By Two, I’d like to make a special mention of a commode-shaped ice bucket that has a starring role in a drinking session on the terrace with Amit and his friends.
In the end, One By Two is like the farts that Amit dispenses after over-eating his mother’s paneer dish: it’s just so much gas and thin air, but dissipates into the surrounding atmosphere as the memory of this film already has.
Rating (out of five): 1/2 (half star out of 5)
CBFC Rating (India):
Poster courtesy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_By_Two_(2013_film)