Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
Dasvidaniya: A bittersweet slice of middle-class life
If you were expecting Vinay Pathak’s latest film to be a comic caper, you are in for a surprise.
“Dasvidaniya” is a bittersweet comedy about a man diagnosed with cancer and how he spends the last three months of his life.
Heard that one before? It’s a subject Bollywood has dealt with in films like “Anand” and “Kal Ho Naa Ho”. The 2007 Hollywood film “The Bucket List” also had a similar storyline.
But Shashant Shah’s “Dasvidaniya” gives the plot some original twists. The film is the story of Amar Kaul, a 37-year-old timid and lonely bachelor living out a humdrum middle-class existence in a Mumbai suburb.
Vinay Pathak, best known for his simpleton act in the hit comedy ‘Bheja Fry’, plays Kaul with consummate ease — bringing alive the plump, bespectacled accounts manager with a penchant for making things-to-do lists.
Life takes a U-turn for the good-natured protagonist when a routine visit to the doctor reveals that he has stomach cancer.
Faced with the prospect of dying without having truly enjoyed life and egged on by his flamboyant alter ego, Kaul makes his umpteenth list — things-to-do-before-I-die.
He quits his job, plucking up courage to settle a score with his obnoxious boss and embarks in pursuit of his dreams — a shiny red car, a foreign trip, confessing his love to a childhood crush, guitar lessons and reuniting with an estranged brother.
Sound like a tear-jerker?
Well, yes. But there are plenty of interesting characters to provide comic relief.
There’s Kaul’s mother, an eccentric old woman with a hearing problem and an addict to soap operas on television.
There’s Kaul’s boss, the overweight owner of a pharmaceutical firm who spends his days wolfing down junk food in the privacy of his cabin.
“Dasvidaniya” derives its name from the Russian word for ‘goodbye’, a fitting farewell to the hero from the film’s only Russian connection — which we won’t talk about.
The pace of the film does slacken in the second half, but some brilliant acting and poignant dialogues make up for its shortcomings.
Characters played by Rajat Kapoor, Neha Dhupia and Sarita Joshi are an effective foil to Kaul’s bumbling persona. And Ranvir Shorey is impressive in his cameo as a habitual tippler who bumps into Kaul at a bar.
It’s hard for a film without top Bollywood stars to make a killing at the box-office and “Dasvidaniya” may soon share the fate of its unlucky protagonist.
But if you are in the mood to watch a heart-warming film with some splendid performances, spending time with Amar Kaul and his acquaintances might not be a bad idea.