If God lies in the details then "Ek Deewana Tha", Tamil-Telugu director Gautham Menon's first Hindi film in 11 years, makes it all the way to the church.
But hang on with those bells.
Indeed courtship is treated as a religion in this intense take on that thing called love. The romantic situations though weather-beaten and seen in scores of films, exudes a sincerity and a freshness, thanks to the locations. And we don't mean just the mesmeric backwaters of Kerala and the leafy bylanes of suburban Mumbai.
A master storyteller, Gautham Menon locates his story right in his leading man Prateik's heart. The gentle actor carries off the role of the love-struck adamant Romeo with a more than a fair amount of earnest passion, bringing to his character a landscape of longing desire bitterness and finally satisfaction in love.
The initial scenes where the modern-day Romeo Sachin (Prateik Babbar) tails his landlord's daughter (stilted newcomer Amy Jackson) radiate an ambrosial amour. The mo'bike, the furtive glances, the movie sneaked together…it's all done with a warm splendour that covers a range from the sly to the tender.
A.R. Rahman's music is used for a number of dance pieces where Prateik Babbar uses his newly-enhanced body language to show us what love can do to an ordinary regular guy aspiring to be a filmmaker under the tutelage of, ahem, Ramesh Sippy who at some point spews this wisdom on the lovelorn Sachin: "First solve your heart problem then get back to work."
The trouble with this elegantly-packaged but somewhat selfidulgently-edited love story is that it takes a very long to get to the point. Like many notable love stories directed by South Indian directors the aaj ka Romeo must prove his love by traveling through various cities and emotional levels before…well, getting there.
The journey in "Ek Deewana Tha" is not as bracing as in K. Balachander's "Ek Duuje Ke Liye" or Mani Ratnam's "Saathiya". But there are many nerve-points in the storytelling that pinches the pulse of the core emotion.
It's the detailing that both nourishes and diminishes the film's impact. Menon takes us through the various levels in the love relationship in excruciating detail leaving nothing and everything to chance. While delineating every step in the courtship, the screenplay also makes room for plenty of those quirky coincidences that make for a star-crossed love affair.
Interestingly like last week's "Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu", the couple's love reaches a point of no denouement. And then Menon pulls back. In a lengthy monologue (well written and enacted by Prateik, but far too long and self-indulgent specially since it comes at the fag-end of the story) the entire relationship unravels and comes undone in a twirl and torrent of emotions.
And there you know, Gautham Menon has got a hang of the romance. Like Prateik's courtship this film is labour of love. Problem is, the going gets laborious after a point. But for the diehard romantic "Ek Deewana Tha" lets us into a world where love is not only a means to salvation, it is also a helluva pain in a place where it hurts the most.