Tum: My Pledge of Love
is clearly a work of inspiration and passion. It is earnest work, the writer, director and star clearly speaking from the heart as he weaves a tale of forbidden love and religious tolerance in a foreign land. It’s hard to deny that those qualities are desirable in any art, but this film is an example of those qualities going too far. Tum: My Pledge of Love
is inspiration without restraint, passion speaking without the benefit of experience. While the film may have its heart in the right place, it isn’t quite enough to produce a worthy product.
Ravaan (Robin Padilla) is the prodigal son of a wealthy Indian Muslim. After years of traveling, he returns to India to take over his father's affairs in the town of Alipur. But his inheritance comes with a condition: he must marry Linda (Mariel Rodriguez), the strong willed teacher who runs a school that caters to children of all faiths. Despite hating each other at first, the two agree to wed, and Ravaan works hard to win her over. But just as the two are beginning to get along, religious extremists plot to overthrow Ravaan's leadership.
The film deserves to be commended for its good intentions, as well as the passion that clearly makes it on the screen. But that's about as far as it goes. In spite of the strong, worthy message, the story is pretty poorly conceived. The film talks about very real, important things, but it plays everything broadly. The villains are always angrily shouting out their plans, characters are constantly shifting allegiances, and all the conflict is resolved through action sequences. The romance between the two main characters is kind of insipid, literally going through a checklist in order to indicate progress.
The result is actually a bit cringeworthy. Imagine a wedding video that got really out of control, and that comes pretty close to what Tum
feels like. It’s certainly kind of sweet, but it’s also kind of embarrassing. It’s clear enough that Robin Padilla is proud of the project and feels connected to the material, but he doesn’t have nearly enough restraint or experience as a filmmaker to develop his ideas. Almost none of the footage matches up. The editing is downright incoherent. Combined with the film’s messy mise-en-scene, the story starts becoming incomprehensible. Padilla has the chops to deliver action, but the gimmicky camerawork takes away a lot of the impact.
Padilla is naturally charming as an actor, but he does have a tendency to play things too broadly. One could argue that since the film is an homage to Bollywood films, that tendency would serve him well here. But that tendency becomes a real disadvantage when his character starts talking about the film’s more serious themes. Mariel Rodriguez suffers from the same tendencies, but she has bigger trouble delivering exposition. Perhaps it’s a flaw of the script, but there are whole stretches where she’s made to explain things and it just feels terribly off.
It was actually uncomfortable to watch Tum: My Pledge of Love
. It’s one thing to sit through a bad film. It a much more difficult thing to watch a bad film that seems so sure of itself, that’s obvious a work of passion. As much as I’d like to just praise the film for those qualities, there’s no getting around how badly made it is. It’s easy enough to be happy for two people who find real inspiration in each other. That’s a rare thing that should probably be celebrated. But there’s also wisdom in restraint, especially in the creation of art. Tum
is truly a singular vision, and that might just be the problem.