Review: Abhay Deol and Preeti Desai's rom-com One by Two

Deepa Deosthalee
In principle I have a problem empathising with a heroine whose sole aim in life is to win a dance reality show. It didn’t work even when Rani Mukerji displayed such chutzpah in Bunty Aur Babli running away from home for a modelling contest. Add to that, the girl in question (Preeti Desai) is neither a dancer nor an actress. She’s first and above all a London-bred model with a thick accent, dazzling hair and tall, thin legs.
Preeti Desai and Abhay Deol in Bollywood rom-com One by Two
Image: YouTube still

But I like Abhay Deol, or more accurately, his dimples. Till not so long ago, he also had an eye for quirky scripts. Having turned producer with this one, and notwithstanding the relative safety of the rom-com genre, one hoped he’d have picked something witty/intelligent. It was clearly needed—in case you’ve watched Desai in Shor in the City a couple of years ago, you’d know what I mean.

Sadly directorial debutante Devika Bhagat is trapped between following her heart and making a commercially viable film. So even though there isn’t a big fat wedding to offset the paucity of ideas (and kudos to that!) the entire middle portion is eaten up by the tacky dance competition and our hero’s perplexing efforts at trying to woo back his ex-girlfriend.

All around them are the possibilities of interesting characters, none of whom develop into anything worthwhile—Samara’s alcoholic mother (Lillete Dubey) and estranged father (Anish Trivedi), Amit’s ACP uncle (Darshan Jariwala) who writes and recites terrible poetry at a mushaira, his office colleagues and best friends trying to drill sense into him about letting go of the past and his nosey-yet-well-meaning-in-a-filmy-way parents (Rati Agnihotri and Jayant Kriplani) desperate to get their boy married, especially after the mother realises he watches pornography. Sigh…

Unarguably the most interesting person in this ensemble is the candidate mommy dearest picks for the arranged match—a girl (Yashika Dillon) who isn’t figure-conscious, speaks her mind and knows how to get her way. Ironically, she’s the one Amit won’t even talk to properly because his heart is still stuck on the loser. So you’re not wrong in endorsing popular opinion that he’s really just a very boring guy who can’t make up his mind about anything but wants to sulk pointlessly. Fortunately for him, his indulgent friends and ping-pong playing parents are willing to put up with it.

Both the music and the yuppie South Bombay setting are equally superficial—although one ditty, "I am pakaoed", does echo our sentiments quite accurately. Even the cuteness/cleverness is contrived—underwear jokes, washing powder jingles and scatological references.  

One By Two’s pacing problems arise from the ploy of neatly dividing the screenplay into ‘his life’ and ‘her life’ employing the split-screen technique to impose convergence on their still disconnected paths. The narrative keeps flitting from one to the other. Abhay’s segments, though not necessarily fun, are at least serviceable. But the other half is a royal mess of terrible acting (or over-acting in Ms. Dubey’s case). Together they add up to 2 hours and 19 minutes, by the end of which even those dimples have lost their charm. 

Deepa Deosthalee is a film critic and a regular contributor to Cinemascope column. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and does not reflect the views of More of Deepa's work can be found on her site Film Impressions.

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