Directed by Rohit Dhawan. Starring Akshay Kumar, John Abraham, Deepika Padukone, Chitrangda Singh, Anupam Kher.
Debutant director Rohit Dhawan eases into his father David Dhawan’s shoes and delivers a surprisingly non-offensive dramedy that impresses (just because it is not as bad as anticipated).
A director’s first film is also his statement of intent. With Desi Boyz, Rohit Dhawan makes it amply clear that commercial Bollywood cinema has a new torch bearer. You can tell that Rohit Dhawan’s heart is in the right place. He has made a choice as to what kind of film he wants to make. And while you may love commercial flicks or hate them, the fact remains that every 100-crores-plus mindless blockbuster success ensures that a few more of those small brilliant films (that never make money) get made. In that light, commercial-cinema oriented Rohit is a welcome addition to Bollywood’s mixed bag.
Now, when it comes to enjoying commercial Bollywood flicks, the key is to keep your expectations low. Very low. Very, very low. And that’s exactly what you do when you have David Dhawan’s progeny at the helm, Akshay Kumar as the producer, a title like Desi Boyz and a story of two hunks living double-lives as male escorts. You reach the movie hall prepared for an onslaught of crude gags, a torrent of below-the-belt jokes, a series of raunchy antics, and a barrage of sexist and racist humor. You expect the worst. And that’s where Desi Boyz springs its many surprises.
Nick (John Abraham), an ambitious bean counter and Jerry (Akshay Kumar), his college mate who dropped out, are BFFs sharing an apartment in London. As Nick’s girlfriend Radhika (Deepika Padukone) puts it, they share everything, except responsibility. Nick plays the provider and Jerry the bum working odd jobs and getting kicked off them, though he has responsibility in the form of his orphaned nephew. The recession puts a spanner in their happy-go-lucky existence and both Nick and Jerry find themselves jobless. With no prospects and Jerry’s nephew’s custody at stake, the two are forced to take up Sanjay Dutt’s offer to join his male escort service, Desi Boyz. Their successful run as escorts comes to an end when Radhika discovers the truth and dumps Nick. Nick holds Jerry responsible for the breakup and throws him out of the house, forcing Jerry to reconsider his priorities. The second half revolves around Nick’s attempts to win back Radhika while Jerry returns to college where he bumps into once-fat-now-svelte classmate Tanya (Chitrangda Singh) who is now his Economics professor.
Remarkably, Rohit Dhawan keeps the proceedings clean, never once resorting to crude or slapstick humour. He even weaves in enough warmth and emotional drama into the narrative making Desi Boyz almost entertaining. The humour, for most the part, is just about average with just a couple of scenes that are truly laugh-out-loud funny (I am not counting John Abraham’s dancing, which is just plain cruel humour). On the acting front, John manages to defy his wooden reputation in a couple of scenes. Akshay, as usual, brings sincerity and spunk to the screen. The chemistry between John and Akshay is functional (and nowhere near Dostana-level sizzling). Deepika starts off all screechy but settles into her patented chilled-out urban chick groove that we love her for. Anupam Kher as Deepika’s father rekindles the DDLJ warmth. As the Economics professor incentivising Jerry’s studies by shedding a piece of clothing for every right answer, Chitrangda simply sizzles up every frame she is in. Omi Vaidya does a Chatur again and is equally delightful.
On the technical front, the writing shines in some portions and mostly delivers the goods. The editing is crisp and to the point keeping the film’s pace fluid. It is the songs in the film that are a bit befuddling. Strangely, all the lyrics are in Punjabi when none of the characters speak that language. But then, it’s commercial Bollywood cinema, right? So watch it in that spirit. You won’t hate it. Hell, you may even like it.