Dostana is like a puppy. Its big, friendly, sloppy, uncomplicated heart made me love it to bits. All it wants is to be your friend and make you happy, and most of the time it's cuddly and sweet and makes you laugh like a loon at the most everyday or un-noteworthy things. But, as puppies do, it also knocks over things in your house, gets mud on the floor, and chews your shoes. It means so well, but it doesn't quite know what it's doing. Only a puppy would introduce its major plot device with one the world's most obvious phallic symbols
- the cigar and gigantic car having already been used in the opening song.
But only someone with a puppy-like dil - full of love for its people - would introduce that same idea with the least judgmental and most empathetic portrayal of Iraqi war vets or gays in the military that I have ever seen in mainstream media.
Dostana did chew up a few of my favorite shoes. The limp-wristed fictional flashback to Sam and Kunal's meeting in Venice was eye-roll-y, though at least through its commitment to stereotype it made an excuse to include ridiculous clothes, which I always enjoy.
Though I wouldn't be at all surprised to see any of these outfits on some other movie's show-stopper song backup dancers.
And Boman's character.
More nuanced than Satish Shah in Masti, and thank goodness Boman rather than somebody else was in this part, but still. This to me was overkill; to be fair, it was on the same scale of overkill as Bollywood comic relief characters often seem to me, and in a movie that's basically a comedy, the even-more-comic person is going to have to be waaaay out there. But as many, many people have said about this film's portrayal and discussion - and even basic inclusion as lead characters - of homosexuality:
puppy baby steps. And M is also very likable (if silly), voices an important message, and is not given much screen time. If the filmmakers had to write him in, they did it in the best possible way.
I would also send Dostana back to obedience/writing school to re-address Priyanka's clueless Neha and her shorthanded relationship with bland Abhimanyu. Bobby Deol did the best he could with a non-character swathed in shiny suits. Knowing that neither was the main point of the movie and that their jobs were simply to react to Sam and Kunal, I still think Neha could have been less of a stereotypical chick-lit girl who "wants it all" and had assumed she'd be married by now, and as staff at a fashion magazine in Miami she might possibly find it strange that her gay roommates with the 3-year-old relationship were never in each other's bedrooms, though I guess she's so self-centered that she has little energy to spend noticing her best friends, and I know Bobby could have had a character trait or two other than the heartstring-yanking implied by his demographic as an abandoned single dad. Kiron Kher's MAAAAA wasn't fleshed out much either,
but somehow I read her as a satire rather than stereotype, I guess because her character type is well-established in Hindi cinema and thus could be pushed to extremes and toyed with to great effect in an understood context.
And probably worst of all, I haven't heard this explanation of homosexuality since occasional run-ins with conservative Christian students in college.
I was shocked the writers didn't - couldn't? - do any better than this, but thankfully they left it alone for the rest of the movie.
The good faaaaar outweighed the bad for me. Dostana has such a good attitude that I couldn't be annoyed for very long. I'm not quite ready to call Abhishek and John the new Shashitabh, as someone suggested to me when they watched this, but they certainly are very strong together. I still don't understand why John Abraham is a major star, but these filmmakers created a role that took full advantage of his natural assets* and default expression and demeanor. If he can be consistently good-natured and mostly quiet, then that leaves ample room for the many, many talents of Abhishek. I adored talky, smart, sweet, imaginative Sam (who reminded me of J. D. on Scrubs).
Awww, Sam even likes aunty!
Abhishek also got to make good on his physical assets - namely tall and sort of uncoordinated (again with the puppy) - to great comic effect, reminding me (very favorably) of the Motorola Rokr ad in which he dances with mini-Abhishek in the bathroom.
His verbal comic abilities are also in full swing. His gloating exchange with John about the attractiveness of chest hair made me laugh so hard I had to pause the movie.
The film was packed with small, almost throw-away moments like this one that racked up many points with me for adding so much flavor and lots of satisfying everyday-ness. Most of the fun of life is not planned jokes - it's in the things your friends say in passing or spur of the moment. This kind of thing makes me happy in any movie, but here it was a clever and essential part of grounding The Gay Thing in relative calm and no-big-deal-ness (with the exception of the relentless voice in the background score repeating "you dirty boy" - what was with that?). Well conceived, well executed. Dostana's real point, after all, is friendship - the joys and responsibilities of friendship - and everything else is to the side.
Other shenanigans that made me clap with delight:
Other dubious fashion choices that perhaps were the real reason Neha didn't get promoted until she had a boss who appreciated the leg shown by egregious formal shorts.
Our favorite gora of the new millennium, Steven Baker, leading the way in a cast of bit-part white folks who are totally not annoying for once!
Sure to be Tom Alter in his own way.
Maa's most excellent song - which, by the way, I had hated everytime I'd heard it because of the stupid cartoon chipmunk voice but loved in context (and the remix too).
Riffing on movies, but not the ones I'd expected.
Scaredy-cat Sam can't watch scary movies either! I'm inviting him over for my next Ramsay Brothers screening.
Can anyone confirm who this is? I really think it looks like Kader Khan, whom we have all seen in plenty of fake beards and mustaches over the years, which would be super.
If you want more, my sometimes snarky and usually spoiler-y liveblogging-ish tweets on Dostana begin here and ramble over a few hours to here. I love it. I didn't love quite all of it, but I loved enough of it that I am more than willing to put up with the flaws. Good intentions can make the world of difference, can't they? Warm, relaxed, fun, and affectionate, utterly lacking in judgment and mean-spiritedness, Dostana is a truly dear movie.
And to end, one of my favorite unimportant details about the film: the Wonderful World of Abhishek's Scarves!
* Sorry, this is cheap, but I can't not do it: