Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
Dostana: A spectacular first half but nothing great overall
‘Dostana’ is a path-breaking Bollywood film alright. Maybe not for gay rights but certainly the number of times the word ‘gay’ has been used in a single film.
Indians hoping for a “Brokeback Mountain” may do well to stay away from this slapstick comedy about two men pretending to be a gay couple in order to lay hands on a top-notch condo overlooking the sun-kissed sands of Miami.
The latest offering from filmmaker Karan Johar features the usual mélange of romance, snazzy designer wear, exotic locales and foot-tapping numbers.
But writer-director Tarun Mansukhani plays a masterstroke with the ‘gay’ plot, setting the stage for a hitherto unused treasure trove of witty one-liners and bawdy humour.
But why do the leading men pretend to be gay?
Well, photographer Kunal (John Abraham) joins male nurse Sam (Abhishek Bachchan) in the hunt for an apartment, destiny taking both to the abode of (Neha) Priyanka Chopra.
But Neha’s guardian aunt is on her guard against the two strapping young men. Until Sam has the brainwave of confessing they are gay — and therefore ideal flatmates for a single woman.
The only problem — both have fallen head-over-heels for the vivacious Neha, who works for Verve magazine.
The object of their attention remains oblivious, enjoying the company of her ‘gay’ best friends and arousing their jealousy when a third admirer drops in — Neha’s boss Abhimanyu (Bobby Deol).
The big question — will love triumph over friendship? Or will the ‘gay’ tag be a hindrance.
The first half of “Dostana” is a delight. Bachchan as Sam draws the most laughs, especially with his antics in the Venice flashback sequence he concocts when asked how he and Kunal became a couple.
Sam’s London-based mom, played by a feisty Kirron Kher, doesn’t take too kindly to the idea of her son being gay — and crosses the Atlantic to harangue him.
Also not to be missed is a cameo by Boman Irani, playing a flamboyantly gay editor of Verve magazine, swinging hips with Bachchan and Abraham to a sizzling item number originally picturised on Bipasha Basu.
Unfortunately, the magic of “Dostana” wears off in the second half. The dialogues lose their spontaneity as the film veers inexorably towards its predictable climax.
And even Bachchan, who so ably carried the first half on his shoulders, can’t salvage the film from a heady mix of item numbers and far-fetched scenarios.
Still, if all you want is a dose of non-stop entertainment, gay or not gay, “Dostana” is the movie for you.
There might be some debate on whether the gay characters or mannerisms portrayed in the film are stereotypical, but it’s the first time Bollywood’s leading men are even pretending to be homosexual — so it’s certainly one giant leap for India’s gay community.