Tuesday, November 18, 2008

...Just the Perfect Blendship

Oh, the things I do for my Gentle Readers! Fired by the encouragement of Thombeau and others, Mr. Muscato and I and a select little theatre party sallied out last night to our local picture palace and caught - to our delight- Dostana.

You may remember my surprise about this film's ubiquity on our recent jaunt to the Emirates, and my even greater surprise that it is in fact Bollywood's first foray into gay(ish) comedy.

What it turns out to be, in its own way, is a variation on those old trio movies that in the 30s would have starred Joan Crawford, Franchot Tone, and Clark Gable or, in the 40s, Betty Grable, Don Ameche, and John Payne - if Franchot and Clark had had to play gay in trying to get Joan.

You can get a flavor of the piece from the credits, above, which pair an annoyingly, fairly irresistibly catchy masala-techno song, Shut Up & Bounce, with the kind of candy-colored visuals and fabulously skimpy costumes that rule the picture from start to finish. This is only the first - and by far the least flashy - of the musical numbers that punctuate the action;. The others range from an over the top hommage to Indian pulchritude (My Desi Girl) to a hilarious send-up of Bollywood excess when a traditional Indian mother finds out her son is not the Marrying Kind (the overwrought lyrics of which give rise to memorable subtitles like "Oh day of woe!/My son rides the bridal palanquin!").

Dostana is set in Miami, or rather it's set in a place of neo-urban tropical splendor that bears exactly the same relation to Miami that the Paris of An American in Paris plays to the real city.

Its central trio - Betty, Don, and John, as it were - are Priyanka Chopra (the gal), Abhishek Bachchan (the charmer), and John Abraham (the hunk). They are enormously engaging together, and if Abhishek rather overdoes his swish, and if Abraham really does recall Payne in terms of thespic ability, the two get a lot of mileage out of their faux-soulful glances (and garner yet another musical number, recounting their mythical, impossibly romantic meeting in Venice).

The script is not, arguably, a Deathless Work of Art, and the whole thing, for Western tastes, goes on rather long. Even so, Dostana is saved by what so often makes Indian movies such terrific fun: their sheer joy at being movies, their gleeful intoxication with all the possibilities of cinema (an underpaid male nurse takes over a whole amusement park for a night to impress his lady-love? Why not! A fashion photographer can plausibly never have met a gay person before? Whatever you say!).

It's a quality that American movies seem to have lost (for no particular reason I blame Rosemary's Baby: the rise of mean cinema), and one that allows you to enjoy the all-singing/all-dancing/all-credulity-stretching fun without worrying about the plot holes or the bits that fall just a shade flat. Hardly a revolutionary convention breaker (although the gay theme clearly titillated the mostly Indian crowd last night), Dostana - which after all means friendship - ends up a surprisingly sweet-natured paean to platonic friendships (and shirtlessness, which is all to the good).

So: if you like sun, fun, extensive displays of exotic beachwear, melodrama, hyper-costumed musical numbers, and a happy (and even slightly unexpected) ending, Dostana may just be your cup of tea.

It certainly was ours, and we spent the balance of our evening BollyBoogying around the Villa Muscato. Why don't you try it out?

Local note: this is a movie that features wall-to-wall bikinis, a fair amount of causual profanity in at least two languages, a generous helping of mock-homoeroticism, and the indelible image of John Abraham hiking skimpy briefs up over one very exposed cheek. Yet, it seemed, not a moment was cut. What gives? Do our local censors simply ignore Hindi movies? Arabs clearly go (the subtitles were English and Arabic), and had this been an American movie, I think it would have lost at least ten minutes - starting with most of the credits. Is it all somehow less corrupting-of-youth if it's subcontinental? Add it to the list of local mysteries...


  1. I loooove Cole Porter.

    (It is COle Porter, Right???)

    But my favortie one from that musical was the heaven hop.

  2. Yes, the Divine Cole.

    But I have to say you had me going for a moment - I was absolutely terrified, for a nanosecond, that you thought that Shut Up & Bounce was a Porter ditty, having forgotten my title...

    And do go see the movie while it's at Shatti - it's great fun.

  3. John Abraham's cheek on display? I am so there.

  4. It's just a passing moment - but a transcendent one...