Monday, November 24, 2008

Get to Know These Friends

The first Hindi film shot almost entirely in Miami with two male leads pretending to be gay to impress a girl and obtain residency. This may sound like a recipe for disaster, but don't let the premise fool you. First things first, Dostana is by no means a remake of the atrocious I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. Perhaps the only similarities are that two men are pretending to be gay and at some point they receive a surprise inspection - otherwise their motives for doing so and the core purpose of the film are miles apart. Also, while the latter was sadly unfunny, this outing is supremely entertaining, even if logic ceases to exist in the proceedings.

It is best to let the story unfold before you, not to mention it is hard to say too much without giving away too much. Let it just be said that the film works, and how, because of the chemistry of the three main protagonists: Abhishek Bachchan, John Abraham and Priyanka Chopra. The men, of course, deserve special applause for a camaraderie that carries the film on its shoulders. But, it is important to note that the film is not a dostana of two friends, but of three. The scenes shared between the three of them are enough to have you convinced that there is a genuine affection here, a friendship that perhaps evolved as much for them while filming in Miami as it did for their characters while living there.

But chemistry alone is not enough, and luckily the three seem quite aware (for the most part). Abhishek, after a long, long time, hits the nail on the head as the flamboyant, obvious woman in the err, 'equation', if you will. He is downright hilarious and a scene-stealer throughout. His counterpart, John, is used mostly as eye candy and is perhaps as much on display as you've ever seen him, but then I am yet to hear any females (or some males) complain. Although he may not get to 'act' as much, he is endearing enough with that perpetual look of simultaneous innocence and cheekiness.

Priyanka looks downright gorgeous and is also on ample display, but somehow she never once manages to look cheap. It's an achievement in a day and age where many actresses are about excessive skin display but come across vulgar rather than sexy. Priyanka, on the other hand, is dressed like the average liberal girl in Miami, even if there are one or two occasions in the film when you wish she were just wearing some clothes. But then if John refuses, why should she concede? In terms of performance, she picked up where she left off in Fashion. Some may not see anything 'special' in this one, as it lacks histrionics, but that is precisely why it is a good one: it is understated and natural in a film that is otherwise deliberately over-the-top.

Her character may seem clueless at times, but one wonderfully realistic thing about her is that in perhaps one of the film's best scenes, she reveals that she is 27, single, professionally unsatisfied and incomplete. Anyone who's not a liar would have to admit that he or she has come across several such people in their lives, namely women, and thus it's a nice touch that typically goes unmentioned in films that like to churn out 'perfect' characters.

Special mentions to Kirron Kher and Boman Irani for their hilarious supporting roles; Bobby Deol, sadly, is one of the flaws in terms of the casting. He does an okay job in his rather lengthy role, but at 38 he seems out of place in the larger scheme of things. His role also seems tailor made for someone like Arjun Rampal, who may only be a couple of years younger, but career wise is a whole generation younger.

Other flaws are that the film does drag in the end. Also, the plot itself has its share of loopholes, but romantic comedies are not the best to dissect in terms of content now, are they? Some have complained that the portrayal of homosexuals is entirely stereotypical, as they are all made to be flamboyant and sassy. But kindly look at the lead pair: while Abhishek portrays exactly that, John's character has been written to behave as normal, the 'man' in the relationship, save for one scene where he feels pressured to be slightly more obvious.

Also, for the first time in the history of Hindi films, the foreign actors are NORMAL. They are not strange Eastern Europeans posing as Americans or Brits, they do not have absurd accents or shout their dialogues or make comments about how Indians are the greatest people on earth. They just play their parts, and that in itself is a great achievement for an industry that always makes a mockery of foreign characters, often making you wonder if they picked up any random from the street.

The music grows on you; you may have never thought you would find yourself singing Desi Girl or Maa Da Laadla in your head, but the film has that growing effect on you. Jaane Kyon is the soul of the film and is the perfect way to depict the evolving friendship of the main three. Shilpa Shetty may be aging, but her figure remains as enviable as ever in the opening Shut Up and Bounce track.

Verdict? Go see it, because after a long time there is a comedy that is genuinely funny and a film that relies on pure, Bollywood entertainment, one that may just have repeat value at that, and characters that you actually do care for.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Priyanka Powers Through

After a series of appalling films following a nearly year-and-a-half hiatus, Priyanka Chopra could seemingly do nothing right. In my Drona review, I declared that Ms. Chopra "best hope that the upcoming Fashion and Dostana revive what looks like a sinking career," and damn it the lady has officially made me eat my own words.

That Fashion is Chopra's career-best performance is evident as soon as, just before the interval, she develops a perpetual smirk on her face and settles into her newly-appointed supermodel status. But as ungrateful as her reel-life persona may be to the people who helped her get there, let's hope she shows some real-life gratitude to Madhur Bhandarkar, the man who may have just salvaged her career.

Known for his women-centric subjects in past endeavors such as Chandni Bar, Satta, Page 3 and Corporate, he makes no exception here in a film that essentially revolves around three women: a struggling model with huge aspirations (Chopra); a b-grade model who teaches other wannabes the ropes (debutante Mugdha Godse) and a notoriously diva supermodel on the brink of downfall (Kangana Raunat, of Gangster and Woh Lamhe).

Chopra indeed receives the most scope and makes the most of it, perhaps predicting that this could very well be her last shot. Instead of merely digging herself out of the aforementioned hole, she ends up proving that recent poor film selection notwithstanding, she is in fact the one with the most acting potential of the new generation beauty brigade.

Kangana is bearable when she uses her body language and expressions; unfortunately as soon as she starts shrieking in her ever-shrill voice, it gets to be a bit much. Newbie Mughda is a good find either because she plays herself - a model - or she is in fact talented and one to look out for.

Kudos for the transitioning of Chopra from a small-town girl with bad clothes, cheap highlights and a bit of extra weight to a leaner, high-fashion achiever and then to an over-the-top, borderline tramp.

The main setback is the film's length. At two hours and 30 minutes, it feels more like three due to its often repetitive tendency. At times we feel we have seen enough shows and parties and have well understood the hypocrisy and superficiality of the coveted industry defined by glamor.

Verdict? A definite watch for a new subject and the return of Priyanka Chopra.