I’m a big fan of Abhay Deol so I was very disappointed when January 31 rolled around and there was no sign of his new movie One By Two at any of the usual movie theatres in Toronto. Then, on Saturday morning, I was checking my Facebook and came across an interesting and exciting message from Abhay Deol’s page – that One By Two was available to stream for those outside India and Nepal via Facebook. So on Saturday night I hunkered down with my laptop and paid my $4.99 USD ($5.66 CAD :P) for what was technically a 48-hour rental of the film. I wasn’t feeling very optimistic that the film would come with English subtitles – but it actually did!
One By Two might be the first Indian movie to be distributed via Facebook, but it’s not the first time an Indian movie has been available to stream online for overseas viewers. A few years ago I remember Siddharth’s movie Striker was made available to rent via YouTube, also with English subtitles, and more recently Anand Gandhi’s excellent Ship of Theseus was made available online for free (although I don’t know if it comes with English subtitles). Anyway, I hope this distribution model really catches on, especially for smaller films that could not otherwise afford a conventional overseas release.
And now about the movie. In One By Two Abhay Deol plays Amit Sharma, whose long-time girlfriend Radhika has recently broken up with him, and he just can’t get over it. Meanwhile his mother is after him to get married, and he’s feeling bored and frustrated at his IT job. Abhay’s real-life girlfriend, Preeti Desai, plays Samara Patel, a dancer who has been dating the director of her dance company. When he passes her over for the lead in their next production she quits and auditions for a reality show dance competition instead. Samara lives with her mother (played by Lillete Dubey) who is suffering from untreated alcoholism.
The official synopsis says the movie is about “how the universe conspires to bring them together… but only when their individual lives are ready for each other.” I think that’s a very interesting central conceit for a movie, but also one that is very hard to pull off. Sadly, One By Two doesn’t manage it. A movie like that has to make the audience feel that the two characters really are meant for each other, we should feel frustrated when they keep missing each other or only meeting briefly, and when they finally get together at the end of the film it should feel very satisfying and like a huge relief. But One By Two never made me feel like Amit and Samara were meant to be together, and when they finally meet at the end of the film I didn’t feel like I was witnessing the beginning of a great love. In fact, at one point Amit does something to get back at his ex-girlfriend Radhika, which directly affects Samara, and which I thought would be used as an obstacle to them getting together once she found out about it. But Samara never learns what Amit did over the course of the film, nor does Amit ever express regret about doing it once he comes to know about Samara.
I think one of the USPs of this movie was that it’s a romantic comedy starring Abhay Deol and his real-life girlfriend. However, Abhay and Preeti share almost no screen time. They have one interaction about an hour and a half into the movie while in adjoining bathroom stalls. And that’s it until they finally meet at the end of the movie. So it’s impossible to tell whether they have any chemistry whatsoever, which is not a great base on which to build a romantic comedy.
And even as a “coming of age film” (which is how the official synopsis describes it) the movie doesn’t really succeed, especially when it comes to Abhay’s character. I found Amit’s inability or unwillingness to get over Radhika really pathetic and it made it hard for me to sympathize with him. We see that he’s bored and frustrated at his IT job, and that he likes to play guitar and write songs, but he never actually articulates that song writing is what he’d rather be doing, so when he does achieve success in that area it’s purely by chance and it’s hard to get too excited for him.
Samara fares a little better. I certainly found her personal life more sympathetic, with her mother’s untreated alcoholism and her fraught relationship with her father (and I liked how information about her family situation was doled out a little bit at a time). But again, in terms of her dance career, I felt like the success she ultimately achieves occurs mostly by chance and not due to any hard work/sacrifice on her part or any important lessons she might have learned along the way.
I mean, I don’t want to be that girl who hates her celebrity crush’s real-life girlfriend as a matter of course. But I also didn’t expect to watch an Abhay Deol movie and find myself preferring Preeti Desai’s character. I still think Abhay is the cutest, though. And it’s a good thing too, because otherwise One By Two is basically just boring.