Friday, November 27, 2009

De Dana Dunce?

Director: Priyadarshan
Starring: Akshay Kumar, Katrina Kaif, Suneil Shetty, Archana Puran Singh, Paresh Rawal, Sameera Reddy, among others
Stars: **1/2

All those people berating Akshay Kumar films for being no brainers, be warned! With De Dana Dan, the actor takes his revenge with a film that puts you through a test for recall ability. So you get a film about supreme confusions all arising out of supreme silliness but you can't get past it unless you follow it! Take that!

Like it's title suggests, there's great rapidity to the action with douzens of characters getting thrown into all kind of confusing events, most of them brought about by their own stupidity, rather than any real situational comedy.
It comes closest to the director's earlier, Hungama (infinitely funnier ) and Garam Masala in the number of sub plots and characters you are expected to keep track of. De Dana Dan offers a few good chuckles and some deftly executed action-comic sequences, but essentially it's a long-drawn 2 hr 40 mins (!) marathon episode about mistaken identities and ensuing chaos.

To its credit, the film starts very well and stays on course right till the interval point. Nitin Bankar (Akshay Kumar) is leading a wretched life in Singapore as Man Friday to a super rich, stingy corporate czarina (Archana Puran Singh). She makes him slog it out in her house, treating him shabbily, in return for an unpaid loan. These portions are hilarious, especially the episode with Archana's pet dog who she treats as surrogate owner of the house, reverentially refering to him as Moolchandji. This is an interesting subversion where Akshay gets treated like the (under)
dog and the dog, like royalty.

Ram Mistry (Suneil Shetty), who comes to become an actor years ago, is now into courier delivery service and is generally unhappy with his lot. Both of them have rich girlfriends (Katrina, Sameera), who are under pressure from their families to get married to rich grooms. So before it's too late, Ram and Nitin need to get enough money. They hit upon a plan to kidnap Archana's dog, so as to extract a hefty ransom. Meanwhile, Sameera's father (Mohan Joshi) fixes her marriage, and a big group of his guests and relatives check into a five star hotel. The entire sequence of events from here on are restricted to this one location.

The film covers a fair bit of the comic drama before the interval itself, which means many of the post-interval portions start to seem repetitive. There are of course funny dialogues and scenes that elevate the film every now and then, but the entire action set in one hotel --- with characters moving in and out of rooms, dashing into people, and other things, mistaking one for another --- becomes a bit too cumbersome to watch after a point. And what's with that awful climax with a flood situation in the hotel following a bomb explosion. There's so much water, the Bhatts would have been delighted to save up money on
Tum Mile sets and shoot here instead.

Comedy of errors are seldom easy to write or execute, but Priyadarshan gives it a decent shot. If the film does not work completely, it's because it is way too long for a comedy of this kind. Many of the confusions arise only because the characters conveniently insist on behaving in the most daft manner (they take everything on face value, without double checking) letting themselves get conned.

Akshay Kumar has his comic timing perfectly in place. His expressions in some of the songs are priceless. Archana Puran Singh comes up with an original, convincing performance, as does Neha Dhupia in a spit-fire avatar. For a good 30 minutes, Akshay misses from the film in the middle, and it's left to the supporting cast to take over. This is an ensemble film in every respect, with Paresh Rawal, Manoj Joshi and others having more screen time in the second half than the leads.

The music is okayish. The film would have benefited immensely with a better soundtrack.
All in all, like a good joke stretched too far, De Dana Dan also overstays its welcome.
-Sandhya Iyer


Blogger Abhishek Bandekar said...

Just saw De Dana Dan. I quite liked it. Yes, it's long at 2 hours and 45 minutes...but it has enough moments to keep you engaged.

What I found most interesting about DDD is that it is actually an ensemble film. In fact, if one were to take out the Akshay & Sunil track, it'd still make for a film. It is almost as if Priyan wanted to make a film about the other 20 odd characters, and roped in Akki merely to headline the film and sell it. The leads are so inconsequential to this film, that Akshay spends a good hour locked inside a cupboard...and it is in this hour that the film is at its funniest, piling one complication over another, one confusion over another...resulting in the most genuine comedy of errors I've seen in recent times. In fact, in APKGK, I was disappointed that Santoshi did not quite go for the payoff in what was a beautiful setup when both the Don and Ranbir's gang decide to kidnap Upen Patel with the same disguise. One waited for a blast of comedy of errors that never happened. DDD has many more setups, and thankfully has enough payoffs as well.

On the acting front, it is Johnny Lever yet again after All The Best, who steals the show with great timing and a newfound gift of underplaying. In his second innings, Lever isn't the loud comedian he once was. Paresh Rawal is in form after a long time, and with Manoj Joshi and Vikram Gokhale has some funny exchanges. Rajpal Yadav is wasted, and Shakti Kapoor is bad playing himself! Neha Dhupia, enticing as ever, continues to surprise in small roles. The offenders on the acting front in fact are Akshay Kumar and Archana Puran Singh...the former looking increasingly disinterested and the latter screaming, shrieking and shouting her way through in the hammiest performance of the film.

This is no masterpiece, nor is it a great comedy compared to the bests in the genre. But I'll say this, I enjoyed DDD more than all the films in the last couple of years that pose as comedies. And what truly impressed me, was that on the rarest of occasions, a Bollywood comedy was also expecting me to be mentally present. There is no way you can enjoy this film by leaving your brains at home...bring it along, you'll need it to keep a tab on every single plot development (or contrivance) and every single piece of information for the comedy to work. It is a comedy that tickles on the mental level, not with funny lines or slapstick comedy. The slapstick bits are only in the opening 40 mins (courtesy Akshay and Archana), but once the action shifts to a hotel (Do Knot Disturb tried to do the same earlier this year, but failed miserably), it is sheer comic mayhem that expects you to be attentive. . While not at the level of those great British and Central European comedies, I'm sure Benny Hill would chuckle if he had a dekko at this.

A definite 3 stars from me. Fifteen minutes before the interval and an hour after it (when none of the stars are around, only the supporting players are) is absolutely wonderful.

November 28, 2009 at 2:48 AM  
Blogger Abhishek Bandekar said...

Oh, forgot to mention that the final 10 minutes of the film is quite a downer, and literally, saare kiye-karaaye pe paani pher deti hai! Well, mostly anyways ;-)

One must never let the audience leave on a low note...quit while you're on top.

November 28, 2009 at 2:52 AM  
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