“Dishoom” is one of the most fast-paced Bollywood bromances in recent times. Bromance, it sure is. And a pretty cool one at that. With John Abraham (excellent as the strong silent sturdy he-man type) and Varun Dhawan (endearingly vulnerable clumsy but finally dependable) helming the hyperventilating hijinks, director Rohit Dhawan can’t go wrong.
Plus it is about cricket which is very popular in India. So what happens when Virat, fictionally altered to Viraj, is kidnapped by a mean money machine named Wagah (probably because he lives in a No Man’s La La Land) who has a dog named Bradman (and probably a cat named Mandira, though we don’t see her).
Though I found “Dishoom” to be way too formulistic to make as strong an impression as Rohit’s directorial debut film “Desi Boyz” , there is virtue in vice. “Dishoom” proves it. Everyone in the plot including the heroine who plays a thief (this is as close as Jacqueline Fernandez will ever get to scene stealing) breaks the law in a country far away from home.
Let’s say it out straight. Dubai never gleamed so invitingly. Cinematographer Ayananka Bose shoots the city with fastidious flair, capturing the tall buildings in postures of imposing intimacy. The characters are luckily not dwarfed by the energetic chase sequences that clutter the second-half as though Dubai served as host to a hectic game of drones?
In the post-interval half, the three main protagonists are shown running around trying to apprehend first the second-villain Rahul Dev (in splendid snarling form) then the arch-villain Wagah played by Akshaye Khanna whose comeback to acting is one of the high points of the film. Akshaye doesn’t have too many scenes to chew on. But when he does get to open his mouth he makes you listen.
Akshay Kumar has a scene stealing cameo as a gay baddie. His look and his pout and the glint in his eye when he asks John and Varun to strip add a mischievous spark to the otherwise surpriseless proceedings, bolstered by a sense of boyish fun that the two protagonists bring to the plot .
John and Varun play off each other effectively. John is the scowling smoking he-man betrayed in love and determined to win in war, personal and political. His character Kabir’s contempt for the rule of law extends even to his intermittent conversations with the Minister Of External Affairs, played by Mona Ambegaonkar who is at least 20 kilos heftier than Sushma Swaraj.
Saqib Saleem plays a Virat Kohli double named Viraj who won’t succumb to forcible bribery, won’t sell his nation even if it means death and won’t ogle at Nargis Fakhri even if she offers her lips and other assets on a platter.
And here I swear I heard Sare jahaan se achcha playing in the background. Then there is the token ‘Rahim Chacha’ moment when our two heroes refuse to attack Rahul Dev as they run into a congregation saying its prayers.
“If we respect the namaaz, God will look after us,” declares Varun with surprising piety. I am sure I heard holy chants in the background. But the best incidental character in the fidgety plot is Satish Kaushik who plays a marriage-selling voice on Varun’s phone. We never see him, just as we never saw Bharati Achrekar in “The Lunchbox”.
The best line in the film goes to Ms Fernandez who tells John, “You’ve just come out of your testicular cancer, now stop smoking. I could swear I saw John grimace over here. He is skilled at appearing effortlessly masculine on screen, as though his physicality is just an excuse to get even with a world which respects only the tough. Varun dares to play vulnerable goofy and downright silly with amiable earnestness. In his farewell scene with John he confesses how his parents died in a plane crash. But now he’s found a brother. Here I could see John looking wistful. Missing the brother who will move on to his next project. And we will move on to yet another week on onomatopoeic pleasures.”