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EMERYVILLE, Calif. — Schooled by the films of Wes Anderson and Woody Allen, debutant Indian filmmaker Shakun Batra takes a bold step with Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu: protagonists Rahul and Riana (Imran Khan and Kareena Kapoor) spend more time walking and talking than dancing around trees.
The drawing power of Khan and Kapoor are likely to pull in audiences in India and the diaspora, but even if they don’t, producers Dharma Productions and UTV will still be comfortable thanks to some adroit satellite and music rights deals already in place.
Rahul is a fully-grown adult, though thoroughly browbeaten by his rich, overbearing parents. He is an architect (at his father’s prodding) who has left India for Las Vegas who has never really found out who Rahul is or what he wants. When he’s unceremoniously downsized from his job a few days shy of Christmas, he’s terrified to break the news.
Rahul meets Riana Braganza (Kapoor), an unemployed hair stylist, at a psychotherapist appointment. He’s annoyed at first; she’s loud, messy and disorganized, but somehow, she manages to pierce his stoic exterior and the two embark on a night of Vegas-style drunken revelry. The next morning, they wake up married (but since this is not a Hollywood film, their marriage is unconsummated) — and now, Rahul has another secret to hide from his parents.
Khan has become one of Hindi cinema’s most versatile and appealing actors, appearing in a series of roles (Jaane Tu … Ya Jaane Na, Delhi Belly, I Hate Luv Storys) that display his skill at light-hearted comedy. Kapoor, often shrill, is endearingly natural here; while Bollywood powerhouse character actor Boman Irani excels in his role of Rahul’s perfectionist father.
Batra, who also wrote the screenplay, has beautifully fine-tuned the early scenes showing Rahul’s family dynamic.
This is not to say that the film is original. Supplanting Bollywood film clichés with Hollywood ones — including a naughty granny and two montages too many — Batra falls into a formulaic trap on several occasions. But the way he depicts the growing closeness between Rahul and Riana is sincere, and the way their relationship ends up is definitely a stretch for a Hindi film: for Rahul and Riana, finding a real friend can be just as meaningful as finding Mr. Right.
Opened: Feb. 10, 2012 (UTV Motion Pictures)
Production companies: Dharma Productions, UTV Motion Pictures
Cast: Imran Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Boman Irani, Ratna Pathak, Ram Kapoor
Director: Shakun Batra
Screenwriter: Shakun Batra, Ayesha Devitre
Producers: Hiroo Yash Johar, Karan Johar and Ronnie Screwvala
Executive producer: Marijke D’Souza
Director of photography: David MacDonald
Production designer: Shashank Tere
Music: Amit Trivedi
Costume designers: Manish Malhotra, Shiraz Siddique
Editor: Asif Ali Shaikh
Unrated, 140 minutes
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