Dilwale: The Exorcism of Fast Food


Dilwale

There’s something to be said about fast food, junk food, or street food – you could coin your own sobriquet for your culinary sin. But the anticipation of devouring something that you don’t cook and eat every day is part of the lip-smacking exercise that’s so much fun. And when you actually dig into that first bite, unknown receptors jump out of your taste-buds’ receptacles and do a dance of unknown joy and yumpty-dumpty. And then, this joy continues as you chomp your way through your dietician’s description of a perfect nightmare on eat street.

That is how one approaches a Rohit Shetty venture. There is anticipation, there’s smiles, and there’s a feeling of joie de vivre as you enter the cinema hall. And if there’s a pair that’s ostensibly one that can create magic onscreen that crackles, all the more fun. Never mind the fact that the male lead actually hammed his way through the supposed magical decade, and a retrospect of his films with said female lead is more cringe than worthy. Although, one suspects that the magic by the male lead was more because of the swooning effect his infectious dimple and maddeningly infuriating thick mop of hair had on his susceptible female following. (This observation, as you would have guessed rightly, by a jealous member of the follically-challenged male species.)

Welcome, then, to the dish that is “Dilwale”, director Rohit Shetty’s latest addition to his fast-food oeuvre. Written by Yunus Sajawal and produced by Gauri Khan, “Dilwale” is Shetty’s strangest offering yet. And this in part because, while remaining within the ambit of “masala magic”, he also attempts to do a Karan Johar, get in the family album, while blowing up cars and contorting bodies to do stunts that are by now his trademark forte. More of that confusing treatment in a bit. “Dilwale” opens with Raj (Shah Rukh Khan) in Panjim, Goa, who owns a garage that redesigns cars, a la Dilip Chabbria. He’s got two close aides, who also run a restaurant in the same block. Shakti (Mukesh Tiwari) and  Hussain Bhai (Pankaj Tripathy) have been through thick and thin with Raj, and they know all about a past that Shetty throws at you through staccato frames of shootings and gun fights. Raj has a younger brother, Veer (Varun Dhawan) who he loves more than anything else in this whole world, while Shakti’s younger brother, Sidhu (Varun Sharma) fills in the space for Veer’s requisite friend and side-kick.

SRK shoots to charm
SRK shoots to charm

Into this serene scenario walk in characters who change the lives of the aforementioned folks one way or the other. There’s Ishita (Kriti Sanon), for whom Veer falls like a ton of bricks; King (Boman Irani), the local gangster who’s diversified into drugs, and with whose gang Veer has a run-in with; Money bhai (Johny Lever), a small-time thief, who does some pretty life-altering things as the movie progresses, including stealing King’s car; Jenny (Chetna Pandey), Sidhu’s girlfriend, and Oscar bhai (Sanjay Mishra), Jenny’s brother and Panjim’s leading light in the “chor bazaar” business. Through some snappy flashback scenes, you are told how Raj was actually Kaali, son of don Randhir Bakshi (Vinod Khanna) in Bulgaria, and how, 15 years ago, he fell for a painter called Meera (Kajol) in the same country. (You’re never told the name of the city, so you can keep guessing.) From here on, Shetty adds twists and turns to Kaali and Meera’s flashback story, that he culminates into a very gripping interval call, that also involves the Veer-Ishita romance. Unfortunately, the interval’s a long time in coming, and here’s where you wonder, for the very first time in a Rohit Shetty film, when’s the interval coming on? This, one suspects, is because the director tries to do equal justice to the Kaali-Meera and Veer-Ishita tracks, and you can actually see the movie meandering off the main road aimlessly for quite a bit.

The SRK-Kajol magic works, and how
The SRK-Kajol magic works, and how.

Which then means that Shetty has a lot of work to do in the second half, resolving some story-lines, even while creating newer conflicts between Raj/Kaali, Meera, and Veer. There’s also comic tracks involving Shakti, Hussain, Veer, and Sidhu. Then there’s Oscar bhai’s track with his sister and Sidhu’s romance with her. Plus, that niggling thing of Money Bhai stealing King’s car. And, obviously, Meera surfacing in Panjim to ream Raj’s old wounds (literally), and reminding him of how she turned his world upside down (again, literally.)

SRK, Varun, Kriti - bring on the seniors, please
SRK, Varun Dhawan, Kriti: Bring on the seniors, please.

Director Rohit Shetty does do a snappy job of things in “Dilwale”, and there are genuinely funny moments, as there are some superbly romantic ones. He also gets in sibling confrontations and tells you how Shah Rukh (clean shaven for the sake of youth) took care of a younger and precocious Veer, while the latter was in boarding. Kabhi Mushy Kabhi Glum, anybody? These scenes, you can almost see Shetty wince behind the camera, as Sunny Deol would have when told to stomp for “Yaara o yaara” in “Jeet”. Which is why, “Dilwale” flounders in parts, when Shetty tries to get mushy, and is absolutely fun in parts when he’s being himself.  Some twists and flashback reveals are superbly entertaining, as are some scenes involving attempts to rekindle the Raj-Meera romance. And yes, the car blowing scenes are superbly executed as always. To me, where Shetty also loses track is when trying to focus too much on Varun Dhawan and Kriti’s romance, when he’s already titillated you with Shah Rukh and Kajol’s simmering romance. That is like eating bland khichdi after having tasted some nicely spiced up samosa chaat. Because yes, Shah Rukh and Kajol are absolutely mesmerising in their screen space together. You only wish you’d had more of them and less of the kiddos. You can see that there’s still something nicely gooey about a romantic couple sharing an umbrella in the rain, only the director is in too much of a hurry and snaps you out of your reverie not once, but a couple of times in the movie.

Boman Irani and the superb Sanjay Mishra
Boman Irani and the superb Sanjay Mishra

Pritam’s soundtrack is one of his better and inspired (a quarter of a pun intended) works, so songs like “Gerua”, “Janam Janam”, and “Daayre” make an impact. The contentious bone to pick is his choice of Arijit Wail Singh as the hero’s voice. Why does the singer have to sound as if an auto rickshaw ran over his foot during the recording? Why not use Udit Narayan, Abhijeet, or Sonu Nigam instead? Amar Mohile’s background score is as consistently loud as all his earlier projects.

There’s quite an ensemble cast here, and for the most part, they work. However, while it’s good fun to watch Johnny Lever, did he have to be made into a loud South Indian caricature, yet again? Boman Irani as the gangster is okay, just about, sometimes a little loud, sometimes executing little nuances with zest. Pankaj Tripathy (always such a pleasure) and Mukesh Tiwari have a ball, and are truly entertaining. But it is Sanjay Mishra as Oscar bhai who steals the laughs from right under everyone else’s noses. If in Shetty’s “All The Best” he spoofed Pran, here he takes off on Jeevan. And he does it with such aplomb, you’d think this is all that he can do. His reference to Mukesh Tiwari as “garibon ka Jackie Shroff” is absolutely a riot, as are some other lines and scenes.

Kajol is magically brilliant
Kajol is magically brilliant.

As the pivotal romantic pair, Varun Dhawan and Kriti Salon have some weight lifting to do, more so the former. And as Shah Rukh’s younger brother, Dhawan plays to the gallery (and is more than just the mopey brother that Zayed Khan was comfortable with in “Main Hoon Na”), is extremely likeable and vulnerable all at once. His scenes with Khan, as they confront their past and familial choices are a nice showcase for Varun’s acting skills, and he displays them with bravado. He also has a ball doffing his hat to Khan’s outstretched arms movement. Kriti, then, has very little to do, so she’s just adequate, more for a lack of a stronger role than anything else.

Shah Rukh Khan is absolutely great fun in “Dilwale” – he still turns on his charm with the ease of a brand new LED lamp. He revels in the action scenes, he slides into his romantic mode with panache and when he looks longingly at Kajol, wanting to break the 15-year old silence and separation, he’s marvellous. There are some silly things that Shah Rukh Khan can pull off in style, and he does them here as well, as also enjoying some references from his earlier movies. He’s not as funnily self-deprecating as I hoped he would be, but he’s still a good watch. And Kajol is the other LED lamp in “Dilwale” (one more LED lamp reference and they’ll rename the movie to “Diljale”) turning on her charm, her romantic side, her angry side with such grace, she’s beautifully irresistible. When she waltzes with Shah Rukh Khan in a song sequence, she’s pure magic. Again, you wish you’d seen more of her and less of Kriti.

Strangely, it is as if the sheer weight of expectations the Shah Rukh-Kajol pair brought with it that obfuscated Rohit Shetty’s effort. “Dilwale” could have been a sparkler of an entertainer, had the director, somewhere along the line, not given into the temptation of going the Karan Johar way, and stuck to his fast food venture. What he chooses to do instead, is exorcise the fun of fast food partially, and serves up a menu that’s neither fast nor furious.

#‎Dilwale‬ ‪#‎ShahRukhKhan‬ ‪#‎Kajol‬ ‪#‎RohitShetty‬ ‪#‎BomanIrani‬‪#‎SanjayMishra‬ ‪#‎PankajTripathi‬ ‪#‎MukeshTiwari‬ ‪#‎VarunDhawan‬ ‪#‎KritiSalon‬‪#‎JohnnyLever‬ ‪#‎Bollywood‬ ‪#‎MovieReview‬ ‪#‎Review‬ ‪#‎Pritam‬ ‪#‎ArijitSingh‬

Watch the trailer of “Dilwale” here:

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