तेरे नाल लव हो गया
Dir. Mandeep Kumar
Most of the time, one's impressions of a movie aren't formed in a sterile vacuum. Your frame of mind on the day you watch it, who you see it with, the circumstances of the viewing all can affect your overall impressions of the film. Good films can be harshly judged if watched in a dour or testy mood. And likewise, mediocre films can swell in estimation if other stars align just right. Tere naal love ho gaya ("I fell in love with you") is a mostly harmless teen romance with an uncharismatic male lead and a female lead who is at best unpolished. It is cute and enjoyable enough, but nothing that really sticks once the curtains go down and the lights come up. And yet, since I saw it at the famous Raj Mandir cinema hall in Jaipur on my very first trip to India, it will always be very close to my heart.
Viren (Ritesh Deshmukh) is an earnest, hardworking rickshaw driver with dreams of opening his own tourism company. One day, to Viren's horror, his boss Bhatti (Tinnu Anand) sells off Viren's rickshaw, and Viren loses not only his vehicle but his life savings of Rs. 60,000 he had stashed inside. In a drunken furor, Viren crashes the engagement of Bhatti's daughter Mini (Genelia D'Souza) to a doltish rich boy. Mini has no interest in the marriage, and sees her chance for escape, engineering her own kidnapping at the hands of the confused Viren. Mini's plan is simple: hit up Bhatti for ransom. Viren will recover his savings back, and Mini will keep the rest, using it to go free and find the adventures she craves. But a sinister character (Diljit Dosanjh) has his eye on the pair. And just as romance begins to blossom between them, the kidnappers find themselves kidnapped in turn - at the hands of the region's notorious abductor-for-bounty, Chowdhary (Om Puri), who has his own reasons for taking an interest in Viren.
Watching Tere naal love ho gaya in a theater in India, without my usual subtitle crutch, stretched my Hindi comprehension abilities to the limit. After settling in, I found myself quite comfortable during the film's first half. After the interval, though, the movie's setting moves from urban Patiala to the Punjabi countryside, and I had a much harder time keeping up. The second-half dialogue is dominated by Om Puri, who lays on such a thick Punjabi accent that I couldn't understand a word he said. The movie's plot twists, as well as its messages about love and family - to the extent it had any - were thus embedded in dialog that was mostly incomprehensible to me. And so I don't have much to say about the movie's substance, such as it was, which neither enhanced nor detracted from the experience of watching a Hindi movie in an Indian cinema hall.
With that caveat, Tere naal love ho gaya is a light, fun, reasonably well-crafted romantic comedy. The performances are hardly revelatory, but are more than adequate. Genelia D'Souza, especially, shows a tremendous amount of promise in the comic aspects of the role, even if she falls somewhat flat in tender moments. She seems to have grown up on a steady diet of Rani Mukherjee films, and approaches Rani's ability to project effervescent energy without being cloying. D'Souza's comic control and timing are excellent for such a young actor. In one standout scene, she washes a car with exaggerated sensuousness - her aim is to gobsmack (and ultimately con) nearby young men, and the movie conveys the success of this gambit with hilarious explicitness, as gas pumps explode out of their hands in sprays of fluid. Genelia herself perfects the scene with a physicality that, while obviously seductive to those fellows, is just funny - not sexy - to the movie audience.
Ritesh Deshmukh is, to me, not the most engaging of leading men. It's hard not to imagine how the movie could have been better with someone of the same general type but with more appeal and more talent, like Shreyas Talpade. Of course Talpade would probably have eclipsed Genelia D'Souza, and there's nothing wrong with a casting that allows her to shine. And to be fair to Deshmukh, he holds his own in the film's pleasing songs, such as "Jeene de" (which plays over the opening credits), and "Pee pa pee pa", the obligatory wedding bhangra that is a strict requirement for any film with Punjabi characters. He, like his new wife D'Souza, doesn't bring much to the table in tender and romantic scenes. Like its stars, Tere naal love ho gaya is at its best when it's trying to be funny, and it does that well enough to be entertaining.