Who knew a movie about a couple of homophobic assholes could be this entertaining? Not me!
Meet Kunal (John Abraham). He bounces around the beach in teeny weeny (well, let’s hope not) yellow trunks that he feels compelled to adjust every couple of minutes whilst flexing his muscles and re-enacting the Ursula Andress/Halle Berry scene from the James Bond franchise, thus creating what is perhaps one of the best opening credits of a Hindi movie. Meet Sameer (Abhishek Bachchan). He drives a flaming pink convertible, wears ghastly tropical print shirts and works as a nurse because nursing is all about giving hot chicks sponge baths. All this means the two of them are screaming heteros.
Unfortunately, this won’t land them the apartment of their dreams – currently owned by Neha (Priyanka Chopra) who lives her life according to the moral dictates of her long-dead parents – so they decide to throw their arms around each other and mince into her life. Because her parents practiced the sort of conservatism that would have frowned at their daughter sharing an apartment with hetero males but would have been totally down with gay couples.
As you can imagine, this does not end well.
However! It’s fairly entertaining to see things go down the crapper. Of course, if you’re in the least bit sensitive to LGBT issues, it might help you to keep in mind that this is not a movie about two gay men. It’s about two straight Indian men who are clearly freaked out by their little charade and have no idea how to make it work other than by drawing on stereotypes. Nowhere is this more evident than in the cringe-inducing scene where the main cast prances around the living room with Boman Irani (as a bitchy old queen) and the most inappropriately effete immigration officer ever. Kunal and Sam ruminate on what it means to be homosexual and decide to “think like women, act like men” before running out with their pinkies raised and dancing to Beedi jalaile.
Thankfully, though, things aren’t always that bad in gay Miami. Sam’s fevered imagining of the origins of his and Kunal’s love story is just as cliche-ridden (they even dress up in sailor suits!) but thoroughly hilarious nonetheless. And the all-too-brief appearance of Kiron Kher as The Maa is one of the best bits. And in a surely unintended bit of irony, the boys are never so gay as when they’re being all hetero and lovey-dovey. Or maybe scrapbooking and watching Kuch Kuch Hota Hai are part of the Indian meterosexual awakening?
But really, by far the biggest problem with Dostana is that it’s the tale of two outsize jerks and when the movie starts asking you to feel their pain, you want to run out and get a couple of thumbscrews to up the ante, no matter what their sexual orientation. In fact, by the end of the movie, they’re so fucking evil in their “Duh! But we be hot, what be problem?” way, that you end up feeling more sympathetic towards the rest of the cast than their performances actually warranted. Bobby Deol, in particular, wins simply by existing as a foil to these two.
Can I also mention, as a film buff, how much I appreciate the efforts of Bobby Deol and AB Jr. who find ever more ingenious methods of discussing Sholay in pop-culturally relevant terms? The only thing I really liked about Jhoom Barabar Jhoom was the homage to Sholay which (intentionally or unintentionally) fed into all those “The Forbidden Love of Jai and Veeru” theories and now we have this movie. Well done, sirs!
And now, in lieu of a Dostana clip and in honor of the protest marches yesterday, I leave you with this clip of Dan Savage who is an actual gay man.
[for Raja who is clearly an evolved Indian male]