October 25, 2002 
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Ajay Devgan
Ajay as Ed Norton? No way!
Deewangee is a faithful rip-off from Hollywood's Primal Fear

Deepa Gumaste

The director of Deewangee, Anees Bazmee, claims his film is not a rip-off from Primal Fear (just as his earlier film Pyaar To Houna Hi Tha was not a copy of French Kiss).

He is partly right. Deewangee is not just a faithful lift from the 1996 courtroom drama starring Richard Gere and Edward Norton in a memorable role. That is only one half of the story.

The other half is a newer version of Yash Chopra's Darr, which in turn had shades of Cape Fear and Sleeping With The Enemy.

Considering how much we are indebted to Hollywood for our plots, one wonders why people from the Hindi film industry find the term 'Bollywood' derogatory.

Anyway, coming back to the madness that is Deewangee, the plot is about Raj (Akshaye Khanna), a famous lawyer who has never lost a case and Sargam (Urmila Matondkar), a pretty dancer-cum-singer who hires him to defend her friend and guru Tarang (Ajay Devgan).

Tarang is caught red-handed running away from the site of music baron Ashwin Mehta's (Vijayendra Ghatge) murder, but claims he's very innocent and manages to convince Raj that he is being framed. So Raj takes up the challenge of defending a man who is most certainly headed for the gallows. In order to do so, he must now hunt down the real killer.

Those who have seen Primal Fear will know that the entire pre-interval portion is a pirated reprint. Barring, of course, the romance between Raj and Sargam and the mandatory song-and-dance sequences (which, as Bazmee rightly pointed out, make his film 'different' from the original).

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Akshaye Khanna-Urmila in DeewangeeFor the sake of those who have not seen the Hollywood thriller, let me not spoil the fun and spill the beans, especially because this is the better part of the film. Suffice to say Raj manages to keep his track record intact.

As already stated, the latter half degenerates into a pathetic duplicate of Darr with added doses of blood, gore and insanity. There is even an excruciatingly long chase sequence straight out of the Yash Chopra flick.

The film's climax is just as predictable and since everyone already knows what to expect, there are absolutely no surprises. Incidentally, the director has actually left a window open for the possibility of a sequel, and one shudders to think what it might be like if it ever gets made.

It is a difficult task trying to find an upside to a film like Deewangee. There is nothing exciting about either the situations or the dialogues --- at least not for someone who already knows the story. Sadly, Ismail Darbar's music too lacks lustre, barring the romantic number, Pyaar se pyaare and, to a lesser extent, Dholi O dholi. The background score, on the other hand, is quite effective.

As usual, the heroine has little to do apart from looking cute in the first half and scared in the second. It is another matter that she is supposed to be the object of the film's conflict. For what it is worth, Urmila Matondkar executes her part well. Poor Seema Biswas is wasted in a bit role as the psychiatrist hired to analyse Tarang.

The best lines (whatever there are) however are reserved for the two male adversaries, the clever lawyer and the incarcerated defendant. Akshaye Khanna continues with his fine form and puts up a spirited performance as the lawyer trying to keep his professional integrity and his love life intact.

Ajay Devgan does a good job of a complicated role, particularly in the Primal Fear portion of the film. While he does not measure up to Edward Norton's chilling portrayal of the young man accused of murder, for those who don't know about the twist in the tale, he could be full of surprises. Ajay Devgan in Deewangee

In the latter part though, his character loses its bite. Hence his act too fails to impress.

Finally, one must question Bazmee's decision to credit himself for the story of Deewangee. Wonder what it is with Hindi filmmakers.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali credited Saratchandra Chattopadhyay for a story that just wasn't Devdas, while Bazmee merrily puts his own name down as the writer of a plot that clearly is not his.

If you have not seen Primal Fear, you might want to watch Deewangee. But then, if you have to watch Deewangee, you may as well watch the original.

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