Heavily inspired by I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, Dostana is a product of Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions, directed by debutant director Tarun Mansukhani. I suppose the best way to describe it is a gay-medy.
Handsome horny hunks Kunal and Sam(eer) find themselves pretending to be a gay couple so they can get through immigration quickly(?) and also become acceptable roommates to gorgeous Neha in swinging Miami. When Neha gets interested in another guy, the duo try to sabotage the relationship so each can woo her for himself.
Since Kunal( John Abraham) and Sam( Abhishek) play gay through most of their screen time, the movie opens with a strong bid to establish their hetero credentials, in case any of the audience gets convinced otherwise by their acting talents(!) There is an abundance of female flesh but the most lascivious camera work is devoted to John’s rippling muscles as he does a Daniel Craig doing a Halle Berry and emerges from the waves. I thought Dhoom 2 was pretty risque, but Dostana flings around skimpily clad bodies with gay( no pun intended) abandon. Even Priyanka’s haute couture looks like draped towels most of the time – mercifully she has the figure to carry off the tiny pieces of cloth that pass for dresses.
As for the plot and the treatment, one reviewer at rediff called the movie “injuriously entertaining”, lamenting the setback the movie may be doing to the gay rights movement in India. I would shorten that assessment by one more word – Dostana is infuriating and disrespectful and not entertaining at all, unless your idea of entertainment is to poke fun at people by using the worst stereotypes associated with them. It is like the “Madrasi” Mehmood in Padosan – it was funny when I first saw it but it left me with a feeling of discomfort at the end because it was so campy and outrageous. The movie is also very derivative, borrowing funny bits from successful Hollywood comedies. There is a body wax scene that is ripped (again, no pun intended) straight from The Forty-year Old Virgin.
Dostana tries to do the right thing but it ends up portraying the ambivalent feelings Indians have towards homosexuality. When Sam asks Neha if she’s ok with him being gay, she replies, “Oh sure, whatever, it’s your choice.” Uh, no, it isn’t. When Sam’s mother learns that he is gay, we have a song sequence that is positively cartoonish in its lament, with an exorcism thrown in for good measure. I suppose the point was to make these reactions look ridiculous and regressive but when the mother changes her mind and accepts her son’s partner, she makes him overturn a bowl of rice at the door and gives her “bahu” kangans. So what is it exactly? A movie about accepting gays for who they are or a comedy with buffoonish characters who overreact at every twist and turn?
The only redeeming factor could be that Dostana is an equal opportunity insulter, taking on Sindhis, women, and the nursing profession with rude gusto. Sushmita Bannerjee as the Sindhi landlady hams away under the burden of terrible lines and Kirron Kher plays the Punjabi mom character she can probably pull off in her sleep.
It takes a talented director to make a movie that deals with a sensitive subject funny without being offensive and Tarun Mansukhani, while indulging in the trademark Karan Johar gloss, does not have KJ’s masterful touch behind the camera. John and Abhishek act well, and Abhishek in particular shows his playful side. This is what gives the movie its two stars of watchability. I found the script dreadful, the song sequences over-the-top and the comedy jarring. I would be surprised if the movie has legs beyond its initial boost from the Karan Johar name and the star cast – this is one movie I think even permissive Indian parents will not take their kids along to. Avoid it and rent one of Karan Johar’s well-made melodramas instead.
*ring John Abraham, Abhishek Bachchan, Priyanka Chopra
My rating – 2 stars out of 5.