Tag Archives: Rohit Dhawan

Movie Review: Dishoom (2016)

Dishoom2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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As I walked out of the theater following Dishoom, I tried to downplay my concerns about the way the film handles its female characters. Then something in the lobby reminded me that one’s social conscience doesn’t turn off when viewing media billed as light entertainment.

Dishoom‘s main hero is Kabir (John Abraham), a tough cop who doesn’t play by the rules. He’s introduced tossing a man out of an elevator for daring to ask him not to smoke indoors. We’re supposed to laugh when Kabir tells the man that he offered to let him take the stairs instead.

In the next scene, Kabir meets his girlfriend, Alishka, in her apartment. He deduces that she’s been having an affair and that the man is hiding in the apartment. Kabir draws his gun, points it at Alishka’s head, and tells the hiding man that he has three seconds to reveal himself or Kabir will kill Alishka. (The man reveals himself, sparing Alishka’s life.)

Writer-director Rohit Dhawan underestimates how disturbing this scene is, lumping it in with the elevator scene as a means to establish Kabir as a rule breaker. I was almost lulled into acceptance myself until I saw something most ironic playing on a monitor in the theater lobby. There was Jacqueline Fernandez — Dishoom‘s leading lady and Kabir’s eventual love interest — dancing to the Spice Girls’ “Wannabe” in front of a banner that read “End Violence Against Girls.” (The video is embedded below.)

Violence against women is enough of a problem in India (and around the world) that Fernandez was moved to star in a public service announcement decrying it, yet her character in Dishoom falls for a man who was ready to murder his girlfriend. One step toward ending violence against women in the real world is to stop normalizing it onscreen.

The scene with Kabir’s girlfriend is such a shame, because Dishoom is otherwise a pretty fun movie. Kabir travels to the Middle East to find a kidnapped Indian cricketer (played by Saqib Saleem) before a high-stakes match with Pakistan. Kabir is aided by a rookie cop named Junaid (Varun Dhawan) and a wise-cracking thief (Fernandez).

The performances are uniformly solid. Varun (director Dhawan’s brother) supplies the laughs while Abraham serves as straight man. Fernandez gets to be funny, too — and she steals the show in the killer dance number, “Sau Tarah Ke.” Saleem does fine work, as does Akshaye Khanna in a villainous role.

Dhawan knows how to make a great-looking movie, full of bright colors and pleasing shots. The cricket scenes in particular stand out. Here’s hoping that Dhawan chooses a sports film as his next project.

Yet, for all the things that I enjoyed about Dishoom, it’s hard to fully recommend it given its troublesome lead character. It would be easy to write Dishoom off as a mindless action entertainer, but maybe that’s exactly why we should be even more critical of the message it sends about violence against women.

Here’s Jacqueline Fernandez’s PSA for The Global Goals:

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Movie Review: Desi Boyz (2011)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

Desi Boyz borrows liberally from the plots of movies like The Full Monty and Loverboy while failing to really understand either. Both of the Hollywood comedies are about ordinary men pressured into selling their bodies (in one way or another). In the process, they learn that romance is about more than looks, and that men and women both have insecurities about sex.

Debutant writer-director Rohit Dhawan misses the point of the movies he’s aping, and instead casts two of the hunkiest actors in India — John Abraham and Akshay Kumar — to play a pair of down-on-their-luck Londoners forced to dance at bachelorette parties for dozens of sexy, scantily clad women.

Abraham plays Nick, a financier, and Kumar plays Jerry, a mall security guard and (gasp!) college dropout. Jerry is  responsible for his young nephew, Veer, following the deaths of the boy’s parents. Nick is planning a dream wedding for his girlfriend, Radhika (Deepika Padukone).

Their plans fall apart when they are both laid off. In order to keep child services at bay, Jerry signs on with an escort service called Desi Boyz. Nick reluctantly agrees to help Jerry for Veer’s sake. While their new careers forestall financial ruin, child services take Veer when they learn the source of Jerry’s income. Radhika spots the guys performing at a bachelorette party and dumps Nick.

While film’s promos focus on Abraham and Kumar as strippers, that plotline is dropped after the first half of the movie, never to be resurrected. The second half falls into the doldrums as Jerry goes back to college and Nick tries to win Radhika back by living in a trailer on her front lawn and smoking pot with her dad, played by the always delightful Anupam Kher.

All of this is supposed to enforce the tidy moral messages that dignity shouldn’t be sacrificed for short-term gains and that one can only succeed with a college degree. So why does Jerry, immediately upon getting his degree, blackmail someone into giving him a job with false accusations of sexual assault? What kind of moral message does that send?

There’s similarly inconsistent character growth in the Nick and Radhika storyline. Nick, the supposed champion of hard work, ultimately wins Radhika back by being a slacker. Radhika is no peach herself, leading on a nerdy suitor played by Omi Vaidya solely to make Nick jealous.

Desi Boyz would’ve been more interesting had Vaidya and Kher played the guys forced to become strippers. Or Nick’s character could’ve been marginalized, shifting the focus onto Jerry as he supports Veer and pays his way through college working as a male escort. (How did broke, jobless Jerry find the money for college anyway? The movie doesn’t explain).

Rohit Dhawan has some potential as a filmmaker if he can keep his stories focused and his characters consistent. I like his debut better than most of the movies I’ve seen by his father, filmmaker David Dhawan.

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