Sunday, April 21, 2024

Do Aur Do Pyaar: There are no villains in this gentle, thoughtful take on infidelity and love (Review 799)

Release date:

April 19, 2024

Director:

Shirsha Guha Thakurta 

Cast:

Vidya Balan, Pratik Gandhi, Ileana D’Cruz, Sendhil Ramamurthy, Thalaivasal Vijay, Rekha Kudlig

Language:

Hindi-English with a bit of Tamil 

 


“Who was at fault?” is usually the question asked when we hear stories of marital infidelity. While this black-and-white approach may work in cases where the power balance completely favours one partner, sometimes it makes more sense to ask: what went wrong? 

 

Debutant director Shirsha Guha Thakurta’s Do Aur Do Pyaar starring Vidya Balan and Pratik Gandhi is not in the business of finding villains. Instead it examines the circumstances that cause its protagonists to cheat on each other. 

 

Balan here plays Kavya Ganeshan, a Mumbai-based dentist whose husband Aniruddha Banerjee (Gandhi) runs his family enterprise. Kavya married Ani without the blessings of her conservative Tamilian parents. Over a decade later, her father (Thalaivasal Vijay) still disapproves of the man that the extended family continues to describe as his “Bengali son-in-law”. 

 

Unknown to Kavya’s folks in Ooty, the couple have drifted apart although they live in the same house. They have both been having long-term affairs with other people, except that the word “affair” sounds casual and sordid, whereas Kavya and Ani seem committed to their respective extra-marital partners: Vikram played by Sendhil Ramamurthy, who is a respected photographer, and Nora (Ileana D’Cruz), a talented artiste whose acting career is just taking off. 

 

A turn of events on a visit to Ooty takes the quartet in an unplanned direction. 

 

The Hindi film industry has so far favoured either maudlin hyperbole or ribald comedy while portraying unfaithful spouses. Comedy has been a route adopted for adulterous husbands (cases in point: No Entrythe Masti franchise) – adulterous wives, it seems, are serious business (Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna). Do Aur Do Pyaar is neither trivial and sexist like the former bunch, nor weepie like the latter. It is a slice-of-life exploration of infidelity and love, that is never heavy-handed in its approach to these themes and in considerable stretches, is light-hearted, even funny. 

 

Do Aur Do Pyaar is a remake of the American film The Lovers, written and directed by Azazel Jacobs. I do not understand why Bollywood requires inspiration from abroad when every nook and cranny of this massive, complex country is teeming with original stories, but given that a decision was taken to remake this ordinary (albeit domestically acclaimed) American film, I am happy to report that Do Aur Do Pyaar is a vastly superior work. The Lovers provides just a skeletal premise that writers Suprotim Sengupta and Eisha Chopra have expanded into a substantial script featuring dialogues co-written with Amrita Bagchi. 

 

The Lovers was solely focused on the excitement that subterfuge brings to relationships. The leads were dull characters. Their feelings changed abruptly and inexplicably. Their partners were poorly developed, charmless creatures. The husband’s lover in particular was hysterical, possessive and unlikeable. In contrast, Do Aur Do Pyaar is a wistful and layered study of the human psyche. There is a plausible progression in Kavya and Ani’s feelings for each other and their lovers. In fact, if it weren’t for the prominent acknowledgement of the original in the opening credits, I doubt I would have noticed the sole similarity between the two storylines. 

 

One point that gives me pause is that the Indian film has lowered the ages of its protagonists by at least a generation. The Lovers is about an elderly couple with a college-going son, whereas Kavya and Ani are young. Whatever the excuse may be for the edit, it is a sad reminder that the Hindi industry is by and large disinterested in seniors as leads. 

 

Do Aur Do Pyaar is defined by its non-judgemental attitude towards its four main characters. Each is loveable in their own way. The prevalent social stereotype of the evil doosri aurat is discarded here in favour of compassion. I wish Nora had been given as much maturity and calm as Vikram, but at least she is never viewed with anything but empathy through Guha Thakurta’s lens.

 

Most conversations in Do Aur Do Pyaar sound natural, barring one crucial lengthy exchange between Kavya and her Dad in which he dispenses simplistic wisdom and she psycho-analyses her relationships in a vocabulary that borrows American cinema’s pop psychology clich├ęs. That discussion disregards some of what went before and what follows. While I understand that the writers felt the need to resolve Kavya’s stormy ties with her father, it does not make logical sense that this feisty woman who had accused him of being cold and expressed the belief that her mother was scared of him, would in the climax turn to him for relationship advice. 

 

Kavya in that scene asks how he and her Mum have lasted so long. You just keep showing up every day, he replies glibly. Really? Did the frightened Mrs Ganeshan have a choice to not show up? Was she financially secure enough to leave him? If she had done so, would the family have supported her? The Kavya we have known until then would have challenged him on these points, would not have deemed the longevity of a joyless marriage an achievement, and is more likely to have asked Mom (Rekha Kudlig), “Why on earth did you not dump him?” – the response would, in all probability, have been far more illuminating. 

 

The scene as it stands feels like a cop-out, and a bid to reassure conservatives in the audience that although the hero and heroine strayed, the film itself favours socially prescribed territory. Do Aur Do Pyaar challenges traditionalism and many patriarchal norms until then and thereafter, but disappoints in this incongruous passage by batting for marriage over happiness. 

 

(No spoilers ahead, but some people may disagree) 

 

If this had been the finale, the film would have been ruined. Thankfully there is more to come. 

 

Romantic dramas across the world have stereotypical notions of “happily ever after”. Guha Thakurta and team skip that trap, leaving us with a rare – and rewarding – open-ended climax. 

 

A lot is said without being said in Do Aur Do Pyaar. Kavya’s adaptable food habits, for instance are as much an instrument of flirtation as a comment on the person she is below the feisty demeanour. Ani’s begun poshto is a metaphor both for affection and for the mundanity that replaces the early sparks in a romance. Beneath the quiet surface are roiling sentiments and resentments. And anything, yes everything, in Do Aur Do Pyaar can transform into fuel for a sense of humour when you least expect it. 

 

Guha Thakurta and her editor, Bardroy Barretto, keep the shifts in mood flowing smoothly. 

 

DoP Kartik Vijay’s pale palette lends a coldness to his frames irrespective of the habitat in which the couples wander. His camera miraculously manages to make grimy Mumbai come off as a sister locale of stunning Ooty, with both places reflecting the moods of their inhabitants as much as the beauty that nature has bestowed on at least one of them. 

 

Subhajit Mukherjee’s background score reminded me a teensy bit of Brokeback Mountain’s music – and I’m not complaining. I don’t see myself seeking out the soundtrack outside the four walls of this film, but within the span of the narrative they serve their purpose well. 

 

The Hindi industry is a long way away from acknowledging India’s language diversity in a script that truly reflects reality, but considering how insular Hindi filmmakers tend to be, Do Aur Do Pyaar is a baby step forward. The mere smattering of Tamil dialogues while the leads are in Ooty is not enough, but is still better than Hindi films set outside the Hindi belt that feature characters speaking in Hindi alone. For shining recent samples of the language authenticity found in scripts from the country’s other film industries, watch Thankam and Ariyippu.

 

Balan is delightful in Do Aur Do Pyaar, mutating from flirtatious to fiery to pained and conflicted in a matter of seconds. Her fluid expressions power the fluidity of the plot. 

 

Gandhi does hesitation and diffidence to perfection. He is so adorable that it’s easy to imagine why a distant wife may still reflexively reach out to fix the glasses sliding down Ani’s nose. 

 

D’Cruz and Ramamurthy never allow their gorgeousness to distract from Nora and Vikram’s vulnerability. When they hurt in Do Aur Do Pyaar, I did too. 

 

The title of this film translates to Two Plus Two Equals Love. Now don’t be a wet blanket and go looking for mathematical precision in that equation, because Do Aur Do Pyaar does add up. This is a consistently engaging, often amusing, always thoughtful, low-noise account of the ebbing tide in a waning marriage.

 

Rating (out of 5 stars): 3   

 

Running time:

139 minutes

 

Visual courtesy: IMDB