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Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 

 

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Dream Girl, Review: Lady Boy’s multiple nightmares

Dream Girl, Review: Lady Boy’s multiple nightmares

Can one accuse film-makers of misleading audiences by describing their films as anything but what they really are? Dream Girl, dubbed ‘family entertainer by its makers,’ panders to below the belt viewers and frustrated loners, under the garb of showcasing the lead actor’s mimicking talent, and providing a telephonic helpline to lonely hearts. It is a series of stand-up comic jokes, with one-liners, puns and double entendre being among their most harmless manifestations. Family entertainer it certainly is not.

A young boy, Karamveer, is gifted with the art of imitating the voices of others, and this proves a boon to his best friend, Smiley, who has flunked his exam. Smiley persuades him to mimic an aunt and console his mother. It works. Cut to an adult Karamveer, who is the north Indian small town favourite to play female roles in amateur festival stagings of mythological classics, like Ramayan and Mahabharat. He is the Seeta or Radha, by default, and is even paid for his services. Though fed-up of this role play, he needs to contribute to the family coffers, since his father is up to his neck in debt, and he has no other immediate family.

Travelling in a bus one eventful day, he sees a torn poster which invites applications for a job that will pay Rs. 70,000 a month. He rushes to the given address, quite unaware what the job entails. The manager of the establishment takes him to be the man who was to come and repair their electrical current inverter, which has conked out, affecting power supply. But within minutes, he discovers the nature of the business: a call centre where women take calls from lonely men and talk to them lovingly. Karamveer is about to be thrown out, because he is a man, an instant disqualification from the position, till the owner, ‘W’Jee, learns that his star performer Pooja has again failed to turn up. Seizing the opportunity, Karamveer picks up a call, and the rest is geography. Men from all walks of life, from a married policemen, to a widower, to a sworn bachelor, to a woman who has been ditched by three men, to a young punk, to…fall head over heels in love with ‘Pooja’, while Karamveer himself falls for a beauty called Mahi. How many can Pooja marry? And should Karamveer be the groom or the bride? He can run, but he cannot hide.

Debutant director Raaj Shaandilyaa (Freaky Ali, Bhoomi, Jabariya Jodi; all three as writer, all three forgettable) has collaborated with Nirmaan D. Singh and Niket Pandey on the screenplay and penned the dialogue alone. Shandilyaa earned fame as lead writer and content director for a TV programme called Comedy Circus, where Singh contributed too. Even in circuses, the clown is the only comedian and there are other acts galore to keep you riveted to your seat. After creating several gender-bender characters for their show, Shandilyaa and Singh were inspired by the most common Internet pseudonym, Angel Priya, to create a circus for cinematic release, a circus which has only clowns, each mouthing vulgarities and gesturing suggestively, for 132 minutes. Welcome to Dream Girl.

Shandilyaa told a newspaper, “The seed of the story idea originated in my college days when I knew of boys who would hide their identity and pretend to be girls, in order to talk to strangers on social media. Opening up your heart to a stranger is something we have all done in life at some point. These days, in city life where we are so surrounded by people, and getting attention in the real and the virtual world is so easy, people are becoming lonelier, because the real connection is missing. Feeling lonely in a crowd is an urban phenomenon nowadays. That is why we all need a character like Pooja in our life, who just listens to you without judging you and, somewhere the process, heals you.” Heals you? With this ease (pun intended)? Not in this film, no. Seals you? Yes. Your fate.

 

Caller: What were you doing?

Pooja: I was having a bath.

Caller: Alone?

Pooja: No, with the whole town.

 

Caller: How do you I tell my girl-friend I want to marry her?

Pooja: Tell her you want to replace your single bed with a double bed.

Caller: What if she doesn’t get the hint?

Pooja: Pull her on to the single bed.

 

Policemen to Smiley, who runs a liquor store: What is all this noise? Why is your shop open on a dry day?

Smiley: The shop is closed. What you are hearing is the voice of my girl-friend.

Policemen: Why don’t you get a mattress?

What you just read are among the most sanitary…sanitised jokes in the film.

Statutory warning: The lines are reproduced from memory, so accuracy is not guaranteed, though content is.

 

As director, Shandilyaa wants Ayushmann Khurrana to do a Kapil Sharma. Khurrana, who did work as an RJ and VJ before Vicky Donor catapulted him to fame, is no stand-up comic. Even if he was, a stand-up comic in drag, chased by five/six suitors, cannot hold the floor for 132 minutes. Oh yes, he gives it his best shot. A small face with a large mop of hair, which might be result of over-zealous hirsute genes, or a wig that makes his gig ultra-dig, make him a good stag to get into drag, even if he has to be almost dragged to go feminine in his first scine. There are bound to be pauses and build-ups in a scripted comedy show, which can be ill-afforded on the big screen. So, why make a film, in the first place? Might as well shoot a couple of episodes of a SirCuss and release them as a feature. And having played all their cards in the first half, the writers and the director do not know where to go from there. As a result, the film has at least four climaxes, which mean a fabulous score in the bedroom, but confuse the audience, which does not know when to head for the exit, leading to delayed withdrawal symptoms.

A hodgepodge of accents and even languages, runs through the film. Khurrana gets to do three. Then you have the Haryanvi policeman who writes the kind of ‘Urdu’ poetry that no drunk, when he is dead…drunk…would accept as poetry, even if he was promised a lifetime’s free supply of his choicest booze. Khurrana keeps correcting his pronunciation. The old widower is willing to convert to Islam when Pooja tells him that her real name is Zubeida, and young Toto picks up a knife and slashes his birthday cake because Pooja refuses to come to the party. By this time, even you might be tempted to pick up the…cake-cutting knife, no violence please, and fling the cake into the maker’s makery…correction…baker’s bakery.

It is just Ayushmann Khurrana’s bad luck that Dream Girl comes on the high heels of the (joint) National Award for Best Actor in AndhaDhun. Yes, he has some amount of vocal variety, but his natural penchant for motor-mouth delivery comes in the way of nuanced intonations. Nushrat Bharucha (Akaash Vani, Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2, Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety; age 34, a year younger than Khurrana) as Mahi has a sweet presence, similar to Jahnvi Kapoor, who, of course, is much her junior. Annu Kapoor as Jagjeet Singh, Karamveer’s Dad, requests a singer to sing Jagjit Singh’s song in a restaurant, and you might be expected to laugh at it. Likewise, when motor-mouth rattles off names of Pakistani cricketers as her own, rather long, name, what a joke it is! Leg before wicket, I would say. And be on your abdomen guard. Jagjeet asks Karamveer why does his employer, a toothpaste-maker, make him work nights. Witty in a ditty, Karamveer replies, “Unless toothpaste is made at night, how will people brush their teeth in the morning?” Jagjeet swallows the toothpa…reasoning, post haste, giving us ample indication of his IQ. Where did Karamveer inherit his from? Mama, I presume.

Manjot Singh is somewhat funny as the clueless pal, Smiley, who wants to help Kaamveer, but keeps getting out of the make-believe characters Karamveer shoves him in, including a moniker that goes Ismail. His, and almost all other, dialogue consists of a statement that lends itself to double entendre, the other party asking the leading question, and all this leading to the punchline. This is so cyclic that you can ride it with no hands. As the Haryanvi policeman-poet Rajpal Kirar, Vijay Raaz is Vijay Raaz, granular voice and free-flowing accent. He must locate better roles, that challenge his metier, otherwise he will spend the rest of his screen-time reprising the same persona over and over again. Ditto Rajesh Sharma, the man known only as ‘W’Jee. In one scene, he keeps shifting his eyes in a guilty, self-conscious, villainous look, forever, till the director wakes up and says “Cut”. Abhishek Banerjee is a natural as Mahendar, Mahi’s brother, a confirmed celibate. It was not an easy role to essay, so encomiums are in order. Raj Bhansali as the punk Toto, who tattoos Pojja on his forearm, is a good piece of casting. Neha Saraf as Chandrakanta Kirar, Arihant as her son Sonu and Nidhi Bisht as Roma are all good in their places. Neela Mulherkar as Dadi (Mahi’s grandmother) is over-the-top, and audibly Maharashtrian.

One song cannot but help remind us of the ancient Mohammed Rafi number on Johnny Walker, ‘Maen, maen, maen, maen, maen, cartoon, Baj rahaa hae baar-baar dil ka telifoon’ and another, rhyming Radhe with Aadhe, is found in the appellation of a popular stage play, Radhe Radhe, Hum Sub Aadhe.

Cinematography by Aseem Mishra and editing by Hemal Kothari are two other credits.

If laughter, derisive, squeezed out, or drawn out by childish or silly or risqué antics, and unconnected, obscenities passing for funny lines, is the sole criterion of a film’s entertainment value, Dream Girl scores high. Obviously, such laughs, and there are many, are no measure of the film’s writing level and directing merit.

Join a Lonely Hearts Club, if you need to, and can find one, in the real world or virtual, but give Dream Girl a Miss. Obscene is better unscene than seen. Sex is not funny by nature, yet we have seen umpteen sex comedies, because there is so much awkwardness, privacy and secrecy involved in sex. Going round the three-letter word in four-letter circles, audio-visually, suggestively and provocatively, is not what romantic comedies are made of.

Incidentally, who said this was a romantic comedy in the first place? How about describing it as a Lady-boy’s (Lady-boy? Naw, you have not been to Thailand, have you?) multiple, concurrent  nightmares. And yes, I do exaggerate.

Rating: * ½

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nf39Jpi3ZQ4

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.


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