Dostana the Karan Johar Film:Having your cake and eating it too

There are some issues which Indian film makers have traditionally preferred to stay clear of.  Same sex relationship is one such contentious issue which has remained untouched even by enterprising film producers and Directors for the reason that one can never be sure as to what would be the acceptance level for such a presentation by the multicultural Indian audience. At least on this count i.e. for venturing in an unexplored territory, the producer and Director of Dostana  need to be complemented along with the two lead players Abhishake Bacchan and Arjun Ramphal. But that is the only count after  which the appreciation ends.

The plot which unfolds in the movie is not connected with the acceptance or rejection of the concept or with  sensitive portrayal of the issue involved. Off course this was not expected in a light hearted comedy film like this one but still the manner in which the issue has been dealt with throws up a host of questions.

As the story proceeds, the two lead male characters have to pretend to be gay for getting to rent an apartment which was open for hiring only for females. The property owner permits them to stay as tenants only after they pretend to be gay (and thereby are considered to be  harmless to other female inmates in the same house and accepted as tenants !).

Countless heroes and heroines have tackled the issue of changed identity for short term gains in HIndi movies. Oldest example being that of Ek Phool Char Kante where Sunil Dutt had to play different roles to impress  the four uncles of his lady love for securing her hand. Close by Kamlahasan came up with appreciative portrayal of a house maid in Chachi 420.

But Dostana overflowing with gloss and glamour but lacking the class and intellectual content of these films while trying  to give one laughter a minute, mauls the subject of same sex relations with an approach which is rather painful for a sensitive audience. After watching the film the question which comes to mind is what right did the film makers have for presenting the same sex oriented males as buffoons, pathetic and despicable characters salivating over male honchos. Is there an awareness over the hurt which the portrayal would cause to the image of males who are trapped in a body which is naturally inclined towards such relationships. . At a time when people are getting bold enough to openly come out with acceptance of this concept, the irresponsible image of same sex relationship   which the film throws up seems  quite out of sync with the changing times.

 On the other hand imagine the plight of that class of audience which has different views and  which finds the concept of same sex relationship  revolting and unacceptable. The film shows similar contemptuous attitude towards this category of filmgoers.

The Director did not wish to let go a single opportunity for giving subtle hints of homosexuality in shot after shot climaxing in the male to male kissing scene between the two lead players . Horribly enough., the suffering of the viewers does not end  even thereafter  as the female lead character Priyanka Chopra asks an absolutely unnecessary question as to whether the two characters developed some feelings for each other after the kiss.

 The movie while trying to cash on the tiltating influence of this sequence on the viewers  for whom  the act might have  been pleasing or comical totally  ignores the viewers with opposite mindset who would be definitely disgusted at the level to which art of film making has declined.

The film shot in foreign settings may have appeal for youngsters or NRIs due to their exposure to such situations .Yet even amongst such viewers the generation which has  grown up with comedy films of Rishi Da  and Gulzar may feel that Indian films churned out by Directors of this genre have nothing to offer for us old men.


Madhur Bhandarkar’s Fashion-a climbedown from Chandani Bar

Since we did not have anything interesting for the weekend we decided to spend the evening in the local theatre showing Madhur Bhandarkar’s Fashion. Not being a regular Cinema buff the last Bhandarkar movie which I could  recall having seen is Chandani Bar and do also recall having been moved by the sensitivity of the director to the plight of the women caught in the profession of singing and dancing at places of entertainment. Chandani Bar had an interesting storyline with many unpredictable twists and turns which kept the intelligent audience involved throughout the progress of the movie. Besides focussing on the life style of these professionals the film also gave the viewer an insight into the impossible options which confront a criminal trying to reform and lead a settled family life. It also painted a very sensitive picture of sufferings of the innocent youngster who has to carry the name tag of his dead parent who was in world of crime.

But sadly the latest movie  which seeks to reflect the dilemma of the girls from respectable background who aspire to be fashion models has nothing of that sort to offer to a sensitive movie goer. The oft repeated theme of cruel exploitation of newcomers to the world of showbiz and the consequent heartbreaks and depression pushing them in realm of drug addiction has inspired creativity over the ages in fiction and films -remember Valley of Dolls from  seventies . The present attempt by Bhandarker however proceeds on the presumption that the glare of repeated clips of fashion shows would  make the audience forget the need for story line in the movie. The end product is glossary of fashion fare which may bring financial returns  through wide eyed front benchers and teen agers from B grade cities but is sure to leave the intelligent audience frustrated over loss of time and money spent in the theatre.

Every step in the movie from the stage of entry of central character (a chartered accountant turned model from Chandigarh with a Kayastha  surname and an officious looking father) in the fashion world to the “happily lived thereafter ending” has element of predictability. In the first half of the film audience is kept tossing over the fashion shows with big names , the music trying to build an exciting state of mind without much success. The depiction of fashion world which seems to have more than fair share of crooks and exploiters with their eccentric ways may be quite close to reality but it does not offer anything more than the page 3 information which any metro dweller is exposed to as a routine. Since one gets this feeling of crookery right from beginning of the film therefore the sweet smiling guy (excellently portrayed by Arbaz Khan) also appears to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing -which he ultimately turns out to be.

By the time reality dawns on the central character it has already been in and out of three bedroom scenes and thereby generated enough financial prospects for the film by way an adult tag and gate money. Since after first ten reels the movie was still marching ahead in fashion documentary format one wondered whether it would end up as a suicide or with a question mark. But Bhandarkar had no such risky options in mind , so ultimately a handful of good guys and girls joined together to stage a comeback and give an inferiority complex to big bad guys and girls and relief to the tired audience.

In an attempt  give the film a realistic touch  the Director has cornered the incident of falling of model’s top in a fashion show and has incorporated it in his movie. Bhandarkar himself appears in the movie for a few seconds and a character speaks about him sarcastically.  Being impressed by his keenness to keep it close to reality ,we wondered why the Director failed to cash on the beach murders in Goa to give a realistic touch to the death of a drug addict character in his movie. Maybe next time. So let us keep our fingers crossed till then .