Directed by: Taran Mansukhani
Starring: Abhishek Bachchan, John Abraham, Priyanka Chopra, Sushmita Mukherjee, Kiron Kher, Bobby Deol, Boman Irani
The trailer alone caused many to sit up in their seats to see if they had just heard correctly and as the film releases, there are bans being slapped on the film, screenings disrupted and all those protectors of Indian values who are nowhere to be seen usually, come out of the woodwork to protest against a film that supposedly promotes gay culture (which goes against Indian values apparently – no, I didn’t see that one coming either). Yes, ladies and gents, Dostana is on a screen near you and whilst those in the cities and metros are lapping it up, as usual it is those who haven’t seen the film that are making the loudest noise.
A shame really as the kind of people that go on hearsay and blindly badmouth a film without seeing it are probably the ones who would enjoy it the most, loving the way the film almost pushes their buttons and has them shaking their fists at the screen (careful…) on unsuspecting public forums. Anyway, I digress! Getting over a nasty bout of cold, when the Vitamin C doesn’t do the trick, you know its the Vitamin B (aka Bollywood) that will do the trick and what better than a glossy dose of a Dharma Production distributed by Yashraj to stave off my cold? So armed with tissues (for my nose) and a ridiculously oversized scarf (K Jo would approve), it was off to the cinema to see Dostana!
Dostana is the story of two guys; Sameer (Bachchan) a male nurse, and Kunal (Abraham) a photographer, two womanizing individuals who both find themselves looking for a place to live in Miami. They both come across the perfect apartment – only it is guarded by a ferocious Gujarati aunt (Mukherjee) who will not allow two male bachelors anywhere near her gorgeous niece Neha (Chopra), leave alone live with her. Dejected, Sameer and Kunal go out, only to be mistaken for a gay couple – and then decide to pose as a gay couple to get the apartment. Fooling Neha and her aunt proves easy but of course, maintaining the front proves a challenge, especially when both Sameer and Kunal fall in love with Neha and have to compete with Abhimanyu (Deol) for Neha’s affections – as well as dealing with Sameer’s overbearing mother (Kher) (who is not pleased her son is gay) and other realities that puts Sameer, Kunal and Neha’s dostana [friendship] to the test….
With Dostana, the worry was always the USP of the film -its gay storyline – was going to be Achilles Heel, and at first it seems like that, as homophobic jokes are reeled out and the characters become caricatures. However, once the film becomes confident and believes in its premise, it relaxes and that’s when it becomes fun. The film doesn’t go into any dark territory and papers over any cracks in logic with a dose of gloss, humour or skin show (more on that later) – or all three at once. What’s nice about the film is that the characters sexuality is accepted and rather than become a constant source of low brow humour or ridicule, it becomes a plot device that helps move the story along without taking over proceedings.
Dostana also deserves credit for moving straight into the story, dispensing the need for an unnecessary buildup/subplots and being quite a clean, tight storyline that largely keeps it focus and allows the characters to drive the story forward. I also liked the idea of the mother not being able to contemplate her son’s sexuality but then eventually accepting he was gay without ever knowing he isn’t; this is a nice touch and an example of how the film begins to meet the unique premise it promised. Also the idea of the friendship between Sameer, Kunal and Neha is portrayed very well and will no doubt connect with the audiences.
However, Dostana doesn’t escape with a clean chit – elements of Meet The Parents, I Now Pronounce You Larry and Chuck, ,Friends The Devil Wears Prada and a few other American films/TV sitcoms find their way into the film which feels a bit of a cheat (Though the references to Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Kabhie Khushi Kabhie Gham plus the discussion on Gabbar Singh being gay made me smile). Also, the film does have guts with its gay premise, doing what many makers could not even dream of doing but at times holds back which is a shame as the screenplay certainly would have allowed for the envelope to be pushed further. Also, I wasn’t too keen on some of the English dialogue in the script – not that it is out of place or badly delivered – but personally I want my Hindi films to be 90% Hindi! (And I am prepared to overlook the immigration official who understood Hindi and Punjabi!)
The cinematography and editing deserve mention and of course, with any Dharma Production, the styling and sets warrant a paragraph of their own. Abhishek and John look good in their Miami style clothes, with John wearing the male equivalents of figure hugging deep V necks, shorts and erm boxers, whilst Abi is more modest in cotton shirts and cargoes. Bobby also looks sharp, with extra points awarded for the mod haircut. Priyanka is a joy in baby doll dresses and hot pant suits,pulling off videshi and desi looks off with aplomb. Though the Verve offices in the film have a bit of the KANK hangover (Preity’s character Rhea’s office in the film anyone?) the sets allow the gorgeous backdrop of Miami to come through and the apartment our three characters reside in is more property porn in these times of the credit crunch. However, apart from Farah Khan’s Desi Girl, I didn’t really like the choreography in the songs – just see Shilpa in Shut Up And Bounce where abut 25% of Shilpa’s dance potential is used. It felt like a wasted opportunity with such a kick ass soundtrack by Vishal-Shekhar.
As for performances, Abhishek is relaxed in his role, making it appear effortless and even a little lazy, though this adds to the charm. Abi also underplays in comic scenes not going too overboard but holding back which makes for a solid performance. John plays the male himbo well, at times a little too well, flashing more flesh than a butcher’s shop (though for those who complained about Kareena’s bikini show and tell all in Tashan, well, like a YouTube video response, here is John’s show and tell all as we get to see more than expected so if you complained last time, time to bring out those arguments again, if you enjoyed the view, well sit back and promise yourself the gym routine starts tomorrow). John’s comic timing is not as good as Abi’s but one does feel John is a good old egg in his role and it certainly does him no harm. Bobby Deol is decent in his cameo (thank god they didn’t go for Arjun Rampal again who sleepwalked his way through KANK cameo – not that Arjun is a bad actor but…you know what I mean!) playing the cool cucumber and erm, the straight man to the others jokes in a good account of himself. Boman Irani is funny as the camp editor and Kiron Kher adds another one to her file as Punjabi mother, though this time, she strikes the right note and provides the film with some its depth with the mother trying to accept her son is gay. I felt Shilpa looked bored in her item number and looked jet lagged as she went through the choreography. She could have done a lot more and its a shame more wasn’t made of the song (the clue was in the title – Shut up and bounce!)
For me, the film belonged to Priyanka Chopra, right from her entry to the end. A very subtle, yet realistic performance, I felt Priyanka became as one with her character and apart from Fashion (which I have yet to see), this was her best performance of the year. She has excellent chemistry with Abi, John and Bobby, projects the character of Neha as three dimensional and is refreshingly non filmi in her role. More lines must be given to how amazing Priyanka looked, whether it was the metallic swimsuit, the sari or the dresses, Priyanka really has evolved and it must be said, has evolved as surprise contended for the number one slot. With a strong author backed role and good direction, like Kajol, Rani, Kareena and Preity in Dharma Productions previous hits, Priyanka proves she can hold a film together and be a competent actress in her own right.
So what to say of Dostana? Well, firstly ignore all those banning and complaining against the film – it really isn’t a bad film first of all, and the so-called promotion of a gay lifestyle -if there is one – isn’t a bad thing at all, maybe its time these cultural traditionalists tried getting over themselves? For the rest of us, Dostana is a fun film to watch, easy on the eyes, and even if it doesn’t make you laugh, it will make you smile.
If that doesn’t swing it for you, well, I think I may have found the cure for the common cold -Vitamin B! Not a sniffle in the cinema, the sore throat magically disappearing and a boost of energy, no one would have known that I had a cold at the start of the film. So this autumn/winter, beat the flu – watch Bollywood!