Rather than a cohesive movie, De Dana Dan is a muddle of sideplots with no connecting thread. As a result, the talents of Bollywood’s comedy all-stars are squandered in an unsatisfying waste of two hours and forty-five minutes.
De Dana Dan gets off to a bad start for those of us who don’t understand Hindi, as Akshay Kumar’s opening narration isn’t subtitled in English. What I was able to work out is that Kumar’s character, Nitin, works as an a kind of indentured servant for the overbearing Kuljeet (Archana Puran Singh). Nitin’s buddy, Ram (Sunil Shetty), is likewise paying off debts by working as a delivery man.
Nitin’s girlfriend, Anjali (Katrina Kaif), and Ram’s girlfriend, Manpreet (Sameera Reddy), are sick of waiting for their guys to raise enough cash to marry them. So Nitin and Ram concoct a scheme to kidnap Kuljeet’s beloved dog and demand a ransom for his return. Of course, things don’t go as planned.
Meanwhile, a conman named Chadda (Paresh Rawal) tries to arrange a marriage between his son, Nonny (played by Chunky Pandey, who’s only 12 years younger than Rawal), and Anjali. Chadda plans to use her dowry money to pay off his debts. When Anjali lies to Nonny that she’s pregnant with someone else’s child, the conmen target Manpreet and her family instead.
The rest of the movie contains seemingly infinite cases of mistaken identity among the innumerable characters, some of whom — like Neha Dhupia’s dancer/thief — exist only to add to the confusion, not to further the plot. Granted, what passes for plot in De Dana Dan is little more than characters running, shouting, hiding from each other and falling on each other in compromising positions.
De Dana Dan is convoluted and irritating, rather than complex and interesting, and the final product is boring and empty. The romances between the penniless guys and their wealthy girlfriends feel hollow, since both couples are prepared to break up if the dog-napping scheme fails.
Paresh Rawal does his best as the movie’s lead actor (despite Kumar’s and Kaif’s prominence on the movie posters), but there’s ultimately no one to root for in this film.
The movie also contributes to a distressing trend I’ve written about before: the seeming acceptability of violence against women in Hindi cinema. Early in De Dana Dan, Anjali’s father slaps her hard enough to knock her over. Then he slaps her mother and threatens to break their legs if they defy him.
As the movie progresses, Anjali’s father assumes a supposedly comic role, accidentally groping a woman and chasing after the wrong guy. But how can the audience think him funny when he’s been established as an abusive husband and father?
I accept that physical punishment within families could be viewed differently in India than it is in The United States (although spanking your toddler and slapping your adult daughter’s face are on opposite ends of the corporal punishment spectrum). But I can’t imagine that abuse is so widely accepted that it’s considered funny.