There’s a thin line between making something outrightly subversive and completely juvenile. Judd Apatow’s brand of filmmaking walks that line. And Tarun Mansukhani’s effort stays shamelessly juvenile and is great fun if that’s all you need from your cinema.
But the tragedy about Dostana is that with a little more intelligence, it could’ve been a subversive masterstroke.
Yes, it is politically incorrect, irreverent and replete with gay stereotypes but if you forgive the trappings that come with being a mainstream Bollywood mass-based film, here’s a film that, even if half-heartedly or unintentionally, not just celebrates male bonding and but also converts its homophobic protagonists into guys who soon become comfortable in roles they pretend to assume and finally become people who don’t mind being officially recorded as ‘gay’ even (when they are not) simply because it makes lives easier for them.
Spoiler Alert till end of paragraph (Highlight to read): Towards the end, they are even made to kiss as ‘punishment’ for making homosexuality seem like a joke and that would’ve redeemed these juvenile characters a great deal, even if not wholly, had Bobby Deol not commented in disbelief that he would’ve never ever done anything like that (like kiss a man). Bobby saying that defeats the purpose of the exercise of teaching the homophobes a lesson because his reaction still makes the idea of two men kissing seem like the “unthinkable”. The ‘Y Tu Mama Tambien’-ish ending doesn’t help things either.
If the intention was to at least fake a semblance of political correctness, Dostana fails miserably. At no point does it come across as a film you would take seriously. It does make fun of gay people with its unpardonable stereotypes at one level but then, it’s also the kind of film that is likely to make the homophobe think again about what exactly is he/she afraid of about gay people?
At this stage of transition in outlook towards homosexuality, Dostana may just do the trick in making more people warm up to the idea of same sex couples simply because they’ve seen known straight icons like John Abraham and Abhishek share a sparkling chemistry pretending to be gay to a greater extent than Shah Rukh Khan and Saif Ali Khan did in Kal Ho Na Ho. Even if it is just for a dream sequence or a scenes of make-believe, visuals of two male icons dancing and romancing each other are likely to be strongly ingrained in the subconscious of the society. And two men having fun pretending is a great start because the first step towards an inclusive society is starting a dialogue.
Unless we joke about it, we won’t talk about it. And unless we talk about it, we are never going to understand another perspective.
Dostana, though set in Miami, largely reflects a society in transition and begins to address the issues of acceptance within the Indian framework of marriage and saas-bahu dynamics. The screenplay largely derived out of Hollywood romantic comedies and a few episodes of Friends does have its share of problems as characters walk in and disappear forever after much build-up. But there are a few nice touches that are essentially Indian. Like the bit when Abhishek swears that Gabbar Singh was gay. Or when he wonders aloud about Munnabhai’s affection for Circuit. But then again, you can’t help but remember that conversation in ‘Sleep With Me’ about Top Gun being the story of a man’s struggle with homosexuality.
Abhishek Bachchan, John Abraham and Boman Irani make even stereotypes delightful and Priyanka hasn’t looked better or dumber ever before as you are left wondering why would anyone in the right mind ever fall for/cast Bobby Deol? Haven’t they seen him shirtless in Apne? What would’ve been a cool twist is if Dharmendra Da Puttar was cast against the type and it turned out that he was gay. This would’ve also fixed the stereotype overdose.
Political incorrectness aside, Dostana is great mass entertainment manipulating the inherent homophobia of a country in the threshold of change, as it gets parents and children to share laughs over alternative sexuality and related issues that will no longer remain in the closet.