She is fun, feisty and ...well, full-on. He needs to loosen up. Urgently!! Son of two stuffed-up high-society mannequins Rahul Kapoor is a repressed child going into depressive manhood. Since this is a rom-com, and one sparkling with vigour with warmth and what-have-youth, you know Rahul will meet Ms Fun-Feisty-Full-On before Reel 1 is done.
'Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu'(EMAET) comprises a series of elegantly-written, confident but never in-your-face scenes about what happens when two opposites meet in a city as all-embracing as Las Vegas. Of course, sparks fly.
But neither Kareena Kapoor nor Imran Khan is in a hurry to set off a combustive fire. There is a whole lot of tranquility in the way the relationship between the firebrand and the nerd is built. The rough edges are largely sacrificed on the editing table. The progression of the relationship is seamless and smooth.
Unlike, say, Siddharth Anand's 'Anjaana Anjaani' where the on-screen rapport between the protagonists suffered because one of the actors was constantly trying to steal scenes from the other, here neither Kareena nor Imran is in a hurry to hijack a single moment from one another. This is one of the most immaculately cast romantic comedies in recent times.
Sure, Kareena has an edge. Her character is less passive than Imran's and she has some of the film's best lines. The actress, back in form after two marginalized mammoth odes to machismo ('Bodyguard', 'Ra.One') turns in a perfectly-modulated performance. Her character is not so much a portrait of warmth and radiance as it is an illustration of perfect asymmetry. Here's a woman who enjoys the chaos that she creates in her universe. She lives by her own rules. And before the film is done she teaches Imran Khan's character how to tell your parents to buzz off before it's too late. Rules be stuffed down the toilet.
Imran is good at playing the attentive, obedient, faithful boyfriend. He did the invisible-halo act effectively in 'Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na', 'Break ke Baad' and 'Mere Brother Ki Dulhan'. He does it even better here, probably because of the company he keeps in this film.
There are episodes in this boy-meets-girl, girl-tweaks-boy's-life saga that leave you smiling for a very long time. Indeed EMAET is a high-concept ever-grin mellow-drama. You just can't stop grinning at the sparkling warmth and the cute quips shared by the lead pair.
Curiously, debutant director Shakun Batra opts for an open ending. Finally we only know that some day Rahul might win the feisty Rihana over. But here's the glimmer of hope. Even if he doesn't win her over he gets to keep her company for as long as they share a common ground.
Here is a film that doesn't score high on ground-breaking ideas on romantic relationships. Instead it weaves itself into commonplace ideas on love romance and commitment and comes up with vignettes of terrific sincerity. A lot of the film's gently persuasive energy comes from the discernible respect that the lead pair has for each other's space as actors. No one-upmanship here, thank you. Boman Irani and Ratna Pathak Shah too are delightful as Imran's la-di-dah parents. They reminded me of Pran and Sonia Sahni in Raj Kapoor's 'Bobby'. In comparison Kareena's Catholic family comes across as too casual to be real.
Within two weeks Dharma Productions has given us two diametrically opposite genres of cinema from two debutant directors. If Karan Malhotra's 'Agneepath(2012)' took us back to the grand formulistic revenge drama of the 1970s EMAET takes us into the future of Bollywood where actors don't have to sing. They don't have to act. They just have to be as normal as people in love tend to be.
This is a perceptibly urbane love story, told in a style shorn of gimmicks. There is no attempt to capture our attention. The narrative gets us watching without getting sweaty with anxiety.
A very chilled-out romcom indeed.
Rating: *** 1/2