Halfway through One By Two, one minor character, a poetry-spouting police officer, mentions “inspiration ki hawa”. This little film certainly could have done with much more of that rare commodity.
There is no dearth of perspiration in screenwriter Devika Bhagat’s directorial debut. She packs quite a lot into the film. Yet it feels wafer-thin.
One By Two is a quirkily off-kilter romantic comedy that turns many a norm of the genre on its head.
Unfortunately, it never quite manages to find the plot or the characters to keep pace with its carelessly strewn ideas about life, love and loafing.
One By Two isn’t particularly romantic and, notwithstanding its laboured attempts at toilet humour, it certainly isn’t comedic either.
To borrow an analogy from the narrative itself, this film is a bit like a dancer without muscles in the right places.
While some of its pirouettes are pretty nimble, the overall act lacks the requisite vitality.
The split-screen sequences that One By Two predictably resorts to reflect more than just the confused states of the two protagonists’ minds.
The film, on its part, is caught in a mélange of Jane Austen-ish solemnity, half-baked New Age philosophizing, chick-lit garnishing and unconvincing soap opera-like twists.
So, this is a film in which you will hear lines that go “when life throws shit at you, throw it right back” or “I don’t own you and you don’t own me”. Tut, tut!
The boy, Amit Sharma (Abhay Deol), is a software geek who also happens to be a struggling songwriter desperate to break free from his desk job.
The girl, Samara Patel (Preeti Desai), is the daughter of a doting but dotty single mom who has seen life from close quarters and has hit the bottle with all her might.
One By Two, true to the title, proffers two stories for the price of one, and therefore the lives of Amit and Samara run parallel to each other, intersecting only amid the stink of public washrooms.
Around them is an array of characters and contrivances that are hobbled by loose ends.
The most obvious undoing of the film is the characterization. The friends, colleagues and family members, played rather competently by an enthusiastic cast of supporting actors, are never allowed to acquire lives of their own.
Especially dreary is the male protagonist, a crabby, cussed guy who has severe potty trouble.
The adjective ‘boring’ is repeatedly hurled at him and with good reason. He is numbingly boring.
His friends push him around, his girl dumps him, and his nagging mom is forever looking for “perfect bahu material” for him. It is no coincidence that his stockings are more colourful than his life.
At different points in the film, he nurses a broken heart, a fractured arm or a gassed-out tummy.
No wonder he eventually ends up with a bloodied nose.
A pal calls Amit “a big fat Pahadi aloo”. Soon enough, we catch him in a pair of boxers, strumming a guitar and belting out “I am just pakaoed”. So are we!
Is the female protagonist more interesting by any chance? When she goes kaboom kaboom in the voice of Anushka Manchanda early in the film, she does raise hopes of full-on rebellion.
But it turns out that all that Ms Samara Patel really wants is recognition as a dancer. What a waste!
So, apart from the sundry friends and family that surround the two, One By Two has more than its legitimate share of convenient plot devices, many of which are difficult to fathom.
There are, among other things, a stolen DVD, a dance reality show, a voting process rendered topsy-turvy by hackers, a forgotten ditty that goes viral thanks to the efforts of a group of street dancers, and a fortuitous second chance that allows the heroine another shot at glory.
The film does have its moments, but they are too few and far between to make a difference.
Abhay Deol is saddled with a role that has no room for progression. So he sounds like a record stuck in a groove.
The statuesque Preeti Desai gives the London-returned Samara her best shot and makes the most of a bad deal.
At one end of the spectrum are veterans Darshan Jariwala, Rati Agnihotri and Jayant Kripalani. At the other are the likes of Preetika Chawla (delightfully and aptly bubbly), Tahir Bhasin and Yudisthir Urs. They are all left grappling with sketchily etched characters.
The street-smart lyrics (Amitabh Bhattacharya), which draw power from a string of catchphrases (Kaboom kaboom, Khushfahmiyan, Pakaoed, and Khuda na khasta khudaya khair karein), and the lively music (Shankar Ehsaan Loy) lend the songs a certain youth anthem-like energy.
Alas, they cannot reduce the tedium of the tale for One By Two does not add up to much.