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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 



De De Pyaar De, Review: Differential calculus

De De Pyaar De, Review: Differential calculus

Some films begin on a positive note, start developing into potential winners, and then squander it all away, with inane, inept, insane, insipid, inchoate, infeasible, indifferent, inexcusable, incongruous and inconsequential writing. Most likely inspired by a play, American or Indianised, or a Hollywood romantic comedy, De De Pyaar De (Give Me, Give Me Your Love) begins with a newish take on the age-old plank of Daddy Long Legs (1955) and Lamhe (1991)—old man and young woman in love—and proceeds at a charming, disarming pace, thanks largely to the sparkling presence of its lead actress. Running out of steam about halfway, it then proceeds to shift into reverse gear, erasing all the peppy and pleasurable moments, in a phase of sustained self-destruction.

In Luv Ranjan (Pyaar Ka Punchnama, Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety)’s story and Ranjan, Tarun Jain and Surabhi Bhatnagar’s screenplay, every character has sine qua non two diametrically opposed traits that cancel off each other, often leaving the overall personality a non-entity. Usually, one of these traits is an alluring, positive attribute, while the other is a quirky, weird feature. A 50 year-old Indian investment banker Ashish settled in London is a gentleman to the core, but he is separated from his wife and kids and has not maintained contact for over a decade. Ayesha, a 26 year-old student, works her way out of expenses by taking on a regular job Monday-to Saturday and working as a bar-girl on weekends. This very ‘girl’(woman?) is actually an alcoholic who agrees to do a strip-tease at a last day of bachelorhood party of her friend’s fiancé the day before the two are to get married, and then flirts openly with the banker, who was the host of the party, while being in a serious relationship herself. Those are the leads. Now for the support.

Manju is an Indian housewife who takes all the blame for her separation from Ashish, and yet, she ties a raakhee (thread-band that symbolises a brother’s love for his sister) around Ashish’s wrist just so she can fool her daughter Ishika’s would-be in-laws into believing that he is her brother, Ishika’s uncle, not the “philandering husband who ‘died’ a decade ago.” Ashish and Manju’s daughter Ishika hates her father for deserting them and conveys that she is upright and honest about everything. Oh yeah? She wants to have a live-in relationship! Ishaan, Ishika’s younger brother, is loving and endearing, but guess what does he think about his father’s companion, Ayesha? A gift from his Dad from London, and has dreams about her from which sexual content cannot be ruled out. Ashish’s parents are crank-pots too. Mother is thrilled on Ashish’s return and plays the stereotypical Grandma, however, she changes her lines and views as fast as the proverbial chameleon changes his colours. Her husband, Veerendra alternates between being softly perturbed to openly belligerent, with or without provocation.

Suresh, the tenant, is all prim and proper, with an acclaimed poet’s appropriate Urdu couplet ready for every occasion. Till you discover that he secretly nurses passionate desire for his landlady, none other than Manju herself. There is a doctor on call too, Samir, a friend of the banker—a psychiatrist plus neurologist. You can never tell whether he is serious or joking, whether he is qualified or a quack, broke or moneyed, well-wisher or sadist. In an extremely far-fetched attempt at comedy, he is made to say at least four times in the film that he will tear-up his degree and throw it away. Who will benefit by this outburst of anger, nobody knows. Ishika’s would be father-in-law grins foolishly all the time, taking a stand on the north pole on one occasion and traversing half the globe at the next meeting to dig in down south. Ayesha’s boy-friend, Akash, waits patiently outside her home for hours, with flowers, to apologise for his one-off infidelity, then chases Ashish and Ayesha barefoot as they speed through London roads to his house. He catches-up, barges in and wants to have his baby back, but it takes Ashish just so much demotivating talk for him to leave, and forget Ayesha forever, albeit a bit unwillingly.

So this is what debutant Akiv Ali, an erstwhile editor, has assembled together in 135 minutes of his directorial debut. Of course, there are de rigueur insider jokes about Ajay Devgn, his hit film Singham and a couple of other songs/films. Innuendo and subtlety go for a toss, what with numerous beeps replacing the ‘f’ word, cleavages to ogle at, revelation ranging from 10-49%; a statement by Ayesha that a woman sitting in the lap of a man can tell whether he is sexually aroused or not; plenty of references to whether a couple did it or not, or should have done it or not; provocative sequences relating to Raakhee and an ambivalent attitude to unmarried couples living together.

Ali uses Ajay Devgn carefully, only indulging in one sort of fist-fight in the entire film. You would think that a man with such eyes would be of spotless bearing. No, Ashish has grey spots too. Tabu’s character , Manju, makes an entry pre-intermission in the beaten-to-death boots angle to face tilt, but then she is neither a vamp nor a tyrant; it is simply Ali’s way of paying tribute. Her graceful presence in the disgraceful goings-on imparts a modicum of balance, till she too is made to toe the line. It is Rakul Preet Singh who Ali short-changes, losing her in the plethora of personalities that crowd the second half.

Ajay Devgn returns to the rom-com form of the game after eight years, and seems to be at least slightly involved in the proceedings. Strangely, though, the grainy voice and the glazed eyes end-up making his serious scenes more effective. De De Pyaar De was scheduled to release on 15 March, but was delayed to avoid competition with Devgn's other comic caper, Total Dhamaal, which was released in February. Rakul Preet Singh (Aiyaary; was to do M.S. Dhoni biopic) looks like a cross between Manisha Koirala, Divya Dutta and Panineeti Chopra, possessing the best of all three. Her spontaneity is palpable and contagious, and not once does she show any qualms about being in the august company of players like Ajay and Tabu. Attention, parade, Rakul Preet Singh has arrived.

How rarely has Tabu gone wrong? Who else can carry off a line like “Rub lower; there is nothing there that you have not touched before,” to an estranged husband who has returned after ten long years for a visit and is reluctantly giving her a back massage. Half caricature, half medicature, Javed Jaffrey as Dr. Samir is burdened with the onerous task that our comedians have had to bear, almost like Atlas lifting the world, that of manufacturing scenes, replete with dialogue and movements, that would make the viewers laugh. Not half his lines seem to be from a script, and he can only improvise so much on location. By contrast, Jimmy Shergill as Suresh, has a better written role, but one that goes round in circles like a circular trolley/dolly. One more time the actor is wasted. You did not need Jimmy for this.

A first for me in terms of a name of a woman, Inayat Sood (Delhi; theatre) either has the amazing ability to paste a 100% natural, permanent, disdainful look on her eyes and face, or that is all she can do. Jokes apart, we’ll have to see more of her. Sunny Singh (Dil Toh Baccha Hai Jee, Akash Vani, Pyaar Ka Punchnama-2, Sonu Ke Titu Ke Sweety, son of action director JaiSingh Nijjar) as Akash (cameo appearance, like Jaaved and Jimmy) impresses in a small role, but his part gets the wrong end of the stick. Bhavin Bhanushali as Ishaan, Ishika’s brother is part goody-goody, part moronic. In a key sequence, he is talking to his father when they are about to go to sleep on the same double-bed. The camera chooses to stay on Ashish’s face. Madhumalti Kapoor hams like most grandmothers do these days, very unlike the Durga Khotes and Zohra Sehgals of yesteryear. I did not know what to make of Alok Nath. 62 in real-life, he played the healthy and garrulous father of a 50 year-old man and his wife appeared to be 70, with trade-mark stooping of eyebrows and cheek-muscles, and sardonic laughter. If you were wondering where Kumud Mishra (the would-be father-in-law) picked up this manifestation, you would only have to watch both Alok and Kumud in the same frame. Kumud is no newcomer, so this is not a discovery, merely a belated observation.

The film's soundtrack was composed by Amaal Mallik, Rochak Kohli, Tanishk Bagchi, Vipin Patwa and Manj Musik, with lyrics written by Kumaar, Kunaal Vermaa, Garry Sandhu, Mellow D and Tanishk Bagchi. A dozen singers have been used to render the seven songs. Songs have a place in the narrative, and would have helped the film’s overall impact, had they not been sandwiched between loud, loopy, repetitive background score that saturates 90% of the scenes. Considering that the director was an editor first, he should have known better that to choke the speakers. Thank God it is avoided in two of the most crucial sequences. Likewise, the dialogue is meaningful and inspired in several places, only to be killed by repetition.

During the proceedings, surnames are hardly mentioned. In fact, I think even first names are sometimes given the go by. Nobody bothers that Ayesha’s name is Ayesha, a pristine Muslim name, and you might even be pardoned for missing out the Khurana part of her full moniker. To wit names like Ayesha, Ishika, Ashish, Akash, Suresh, Ishan…note something? All of them have an ashiteration. Glib-talking Ayesha tells Ashish in one scene that the age of your dating partner must be less than the x-7x2, where x is your age. Since she is 26, she should date men aged 26-7=19x2=38 years old, or less. Problem is, he is 50! So, you gotta choose. What is it going to be? Differential calculus or a calculated risk? Same goes for the film. Watching it is a calculated risk.

Rating: **


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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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