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Masand’s Verdict: Dostana | Dasvidaniya

 
Rajeev Masand Reviews
 

  Cast: Priyanka Chopra, Abhishek Bachchan, John Abraham, Kirron Kher, Bobby Deol

Direction: Tarun Mansukhani

Unapologetically irreverent, this week’s new Bollywood release Dostana is a barrel of non-stop laughs; a film that pulls out all stops in its shameless attempt to win you over.

Set in sunny Miami, Abhishek Bachchan and John Abraham play a pair of straight blokes who must pretend to be a gay couple so they’re allowed to rent rooms in a swanky condo occupied by single, young chick Priyanka Chopra. The trio strikes up a close friendship and all’s going well in their little world until both boys realise they’ve fallen for her. Wait, what’s more, she seems to be falling for her boss; that role played by Bobby Deol.

Stripped to its bone, the basic premise of Dostana is your fairly standard triangular romantic-comedy, but it’s the manner in which writer-director Tarun Mansukhani gives this ordinary plot a whole new spin by throwing in that ‘pretend-gay’ angle that turns it into a winning lottery.

Laugh-out-loud hilarious, the film’s first half comes packed with naughty lines and often risqué humour. That fake flashback which serves as Abhishek’s romantic back-story with John, concocted for the benefit of Priyanka and her aunt, is one of the funniest scenes I’ve seen in months.

Prepare to crack up also in that scene in which Kirron Kher playing Abhishek’s mum discovers to her horror that her son is gay; and that subsequent scene in which – having finally come to terms with this painful fact – she decides to accept John as her son’s chosen partner, and gives him a fitting bahu’s welcome.

Despite the stereotypical gay characters, it’s to the director’s credit that the film rarely comes across as mocking or insulting to gay sentiments. Even when reinforcing many gay clichés, Dostana has a naughty innocence to it that is hard to take offence to.

In a roundabout manner perhaps, but the film is even progressive when it comes to portraying same-sex relationships, as is evident from the Kirron Kher-character’s acceptance of her gay son’s relationship, her blessing of this union, and finally her expectation of commitment and fidelity from both boys towards each other.

Sure it wouldn’t hurt if all gays weren’t made to look like flaming queens, and if there was at least one gay character that wasn’t a caricature, but in all fairness to expect any more in terms of the portrayal of gay characters is perhaps unfair – after all, Dostana never promises to deliver the sensitivity of Brokeback Mountain.

After all the fun-n-games, it’s in the film’s second half that the energy dips. For one, the tone shifts abruptly from comedy to schmaltzy romance, prompting a string of sappy scenes, including a contrived one each in which Abhishek and John both go to great lengths to woo the girl. There’s also sadly no escape from those predictable misunderstandings and manipulations which only slacken the film’s pace.

Having said that, it’s still an immensely entertaining watch with producer Karan Johar’s light-and-frothy signature style stamped across every frame. From the eye-watering photography of Miami’s fabulous beaches, to the stars’ slinky designer costumes; from Vishal-Shekhar’s foot-tapping numbers to the carefully picked curvaceous blonde junior artistes in every scene – this is that cool-light-n-easy kind of film that you either have an appetite for, or no interest in.

Of the actors, Sushmita Mukherji as Priyanka’s aunt and the boys’ landlady is deliciously over-the-top and makes her every moment on screen memorable. Boman Irani as Priyanka’s gay boss making that Devil Wears Prada-inspired entry, is particularly likeable, especially in that scene in which he mistakes Priyanka’s aunt for the maid and declares her a fashion disaster.
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Kirron Kher playing Abhishek’s smothering Punjabi mum hams it up but does so very much in keeping with the film’s tone. She delivers some of the film’s funniest lines and leaves you hurting in the sides.

Of the leads, Bobby Deol is a smart casting choice, his simple, good-boy looks and understated performance a perfect foil to our ‘chaalu’ heroes.

Priyanka Chopra, is at complete ease, slipping effortlessly into the role of the hottie-with-a-heart-of-gold; she looks smashing in this film, better than she’s ever looked before.

It’s the boys who deserve to be singled out for praise, for confidently taking on such tricky roles. Both John Abraham and Abhishek Bachchan drop their inhibitions – in the case of John, most of his clothes too – and without any awkwardness embrace their characters sincerely. There is a comfort and confidence in John’s acting that one hasn’t seen before; and Abhishek bravely goes where few have gone before, sportingly putting himself in the spot, and turning in the best performance of the film.

Dostana isn’t great cinema, nothing close to it, but it puts the fun back into the movies. You laugh harder than you have in a long time, and for that reason alone, gather your friends and give it a watch.

I’m going with three out of five and a thumbs up for director Tarun Mansukhani’s Dostana, it’s a film with a one-point agenda – to entertain you while you’re in your seat. It achieves that, no two ways about it.

Rating: 3 / 5 (Good)

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