Film: 'Desi Boyz'; Starring Akshay Kumar, John Abraham, Deepika Padukone, Chitrangda Singh, Anupam Kher; Written & Directed by: Rohit Dhawan; Rating: *** half
Boys bonding is a great subject for comedies. Tarun Mansukhani tried it in 'Dostana'. Debutant director Rohit Dhawan gives a far more blithe and effervescent spin to that thing called friendship that makes us do all kinds of weird and wonderful things. Sometimes in tandem.
'Desi Boyz' is a very entertaining yarn about two guys in Britain taking on recession with a bit of naughty moonlighting as, ahem ahem, gigolos. Or, as brothel-chief Sanjay Dutt (who comes to the strains of 'Nayak nahin khalnayak hoon main', a la 'Ra.One') describes it, Jerry (Akshay Kumar) and Nick (John Abraham) are in the business of making women smile.
'Desi Boyz' goes beyond the fair sex. It makes everyone smile most of the while. The editing (Nitin Rokade) is seamless, bringing together the four principal actors' individual charms into a collective space without crowding the canvas. To their credit every principal actor, and that includes Anupam Kher (playing Deepika Padukone's zany dad) and Omi Vaidya (as her wimpy fiance) seems to get into the film's vivacious frothy mood without letting the dark underbelly of the film be squandered in frivolity.
Remarkably the film's light crisp upper-crust secretes a hard sombre bedrock of truth about how tough life can get in a super-competitive society where keeping up appearances can also mean looking your best after being told you've just lost your job.
Devastation is no reason for cosmetic bankruptcy.
Among this film's many virtues of being an engaging rom-com is its unmistakable glamour. The four main actors have seldom looked so fetching. Is it the camera (N. Natarajan Subramnaniam), the lighting and the choreography, all first-rate, or is it something more? The sheer pleasure that the actors derive in getting into the mood of an intelligently-written comedy is palpable, almost every step along the way. You can't miss the pride in playing a part in a parody that never plays dumb.
The narration moves effortlessly even while negotiating the highly filmy episodes. There is a heart-wrenching orphaned little boy (Virej Dasani, adorably cute) who needs a home with his bankrupt uncle (Akshay Kumar) badly. In movies of yore the heroines would perform mujras in kothas to preserve the sanctity of their family values. Here the boys strip and dance for their recession-hit lives.
Admirably Rohit Dhawan's screenplay turns the men into sex objects with comic candour and without a trace of selfconsciousness. Not that the women are any less attractive to the eye. Deepika Padukone has not much to do, and Chitrangda even less. The latter gets to play strip poker during exam revision with her 'student' Akshay Kumar.
It's a brilliantly written scene full of tantalizing possibilities.
'Desi Boyz' has ample room for skin-show and cheesiness. It goes for the skin with elan and avoids the cheesy ramifications by simply turning away from double meanings (the director Rohit's father David Dhawan's forte). Yes, there're phallic references and mischievous eye-rolling whispers and nudges relying on women's body-parts.
But the overall impression is that of a class comic act, a sumptuously-mounted sex comedy, no pun, but plenty fun, intended.
The songs (Pritam) and the choreography remain true to the film's entertainment-quotient. And the performances are a delight. Deepika has just a couple of scenes to sink her teeth into. She's a delight in the sequence where she tries to win John back from a Caucasian diversion in a pub. Chitrangda's sexy teacher act echoing Sushmita Sen in 'Main Hoon Na', shows her taking full charge of the commercial language. She smoulders.
John Abraham had hardly ever been seen having so much fun. Though his dancing is still lumbering, this ranks as his most watchable performance since 'New York'. And Anupam Kher as his father-in-law-to-be brings a queer blend of a 17-going-on-70 boy-man to his patriarch's part. Great fun to play and to view.
But the film finally belongs to Akshay Kumar, make no mistake about that. While other A-list stars from his generation have begun to look faded at the edges Akshay gets better with each film. Here, in this film, his comic timing is matched by his ability to hold up dramatic moments without letting them sink into over-sentimentality. This is arguably Akshay's best performance in a comic role since Priyadarshan's 'Hera Pheri'.
Put your hands together for 'Desi Boyz'. Smart, sassy, sexy and sparkling with dark audacious humour, the film brings us a striking director in Rohit Dhawan.