April 22, 2011
Abhishek Bachchan, Rana Daggubati, Bipasha Basu, Aditya Pancholi, Prateik Babbar
Yeh Michael Barbosa kaun hai?
It’s a question that occupies the mind and life of ACP Vishnu Kamath who has been hand-picked by the Union Home Minister to clean up drug-ravaged Goa. The state has been enslaved by dealers. But the kingpin is an ephemeral creature who no one seems to have ever met. Is he young or old, Indian or foreign, is he in fact a she? But the real question is, does Dum Maaro Dum have what it takes to keep us glued to our seats till we get the answer to that first question?
The story of DMD is told through three parallel tracks: Lorry (Prateik Babbar) aspires to study in the US with his girlfriend but doesn’t have the money to make it there without a scholarship; Kamath (Abhishek Bachchan) is a man battling the ghosts of his past along with the spectre of Michael Barbosa; musician/DJ Joki (Rana Daggubati) is desperate to redeem himself for his earlier failure to stand up for his girlfriend Zoe (Bipasha Basu). Tying them all together is the evil drug lord Lorsa Biscuta (Aditya Pancholi).
The film establishes each character firmly and succinctly. The actors are good; the background score by Midival Punditz is evocative of the sadness underlying the loveliness all around; and Amit Roy’s camera thankfully goes beyond the clichéd images of Goa’s beaches and churches, beyond even those traditional Portuguese homes and the roadways flanked by fields, and travels all the way up to atmospheric graveyards and the lonely patches of green in the countryside where anything could happen when no one’s watching. Till the interval comes around, director Rohan Sippy takes us along on the ride with his hands very firmly on the wheel. But his grip slackens post-interval, so does the pace, and the run-up to the climax followed by an overly elongated epilogue left me with a vague sense of dissatisfaction.
Directors of crime thrillers are all manipulating us; the trick is to keep us unaware of those manipulations so that they don’t get irritating. In DMD a couple of annoying red herrings are thrown our way while we try to figure out who Michael Barbosa is. There’s a voice threatening Lorry in whispers. It was just not disembodied enough and if I could spot the actor behind that voice, so could anyone. Then there’s the pointed look that sultry item girl Deepika Padukone throws at ACP Kamath before she disappears into a crowd. What was that about, huh Missy?
Making matters worse is Pritam’s insipid music. And I’m not just talking about one of the best-remembered songs in Hindi film history that he’s reworked into a pale shadow of itself. To be fair to Jaideep Sahni, his cheeky lyrics “Oonche se ooncha banda, potty pe baithe nanga …,” may actually have been fine IF they weren’t being imposed on a dull remix of RD’s classic.
But there’s also much to like in DMD. The characters are all well-rounded, especially ACP Kamath and Zoe. Kamath’s transformation from bribe-taker to upright policeman comes through a painful journey so well described by Lorsa Biscuta at one point. There’s one particularly deftly handled scene in which Kamath’s dead wife seems to speak to him. It’s touching, yet not maudlin. Abhishek pitches in a neat performance as the broodingly intense drug-buster, though a lot of the impact is diluted by repeated visitations by that same dead spouse which become tacky and silly after a point. There’s a scene in which Lorry angrily asks Kamath, “What would you know about family?!” We know by then that Kamath does know. But I guess because it’s assumed that we are dense, the sound of the car crash that killed his wife plays out in the background at that point.
While those irritants should be attributed to the director along with the pointless references to Amitabh Bachchan’s iconic films, Abhishek must share the blame for an entire interrogation scene he does which is woven around dad’s Khaike paan Banaraswala. Why was it necessary? Why why why?!
The character that worked best for me in this film is Zoe who, in a sense, personifies a physically beautiful yet internally scarred Goa. It’s not a large role, but it’s one that goes beyond the sexy body and endless legs that Bipasha has come to signify in the public eye. The actress shines as Zoe who makes the journey from youthful zest to bitterness and ultimate despair.
The rest of the characters too are well played. They fit well into the Goan milieu without caricaturing Goans in the stereotypical “Hum God se church mein jaake prayer karenga” Bollywood manner. But there is a strange and inexplicable disconnect between Rana Daggubati’s personality in the film and his voice/dialogue delivery. Rana is the grandson of legendary producer D. Rama Naidu and hero of the Telugu hit Leader. The handsome star makes his Hindi film debut playing Joki in DMD. At first I assumed that someone else had dubbed for him. Then I read news reports that he has dubbed for himself. Perhaps then he was too pre-occupied with camouflaging his borderline Telugu accent (which, by the way, I find quite alluring Mr Daggubati). Either way, something’s not quite right here. If anyone felt that Rana didn’t sound Goan enough for DMD, surely an explanation for the uncommon style of speaking could have been gently worked into the script! I mean c’mon, this is a Bollywood where a Katrina Kaif has made a career for herself while playing an NRI or a phoren-returned heroine in film after film just to justify that twang! More’s the pity considering that Rana is a tall, strapping hottie and he certainly looks this part!
So Dum Maaro Dum is a stark tale of what lies beneath a picture postcard setting. It’s violent without being self-indulgently gruesome. I liked the film very much as it unspooled in the first hour. But the inconsistent treatment has ensured that it ends up as a nice film in which the second half doesn’t live up to the promise of the first.
Rating (out of five): **3/4
CBFC Rating: A (The producer’s rep explains that while the Censor Board didn’t ask for cuts, the I&B Ministry asked for the deletion of the dialogue: “Yahan sharaab sasti, ladkiyan usse bhi sasti aur zindagi toh muft mein hi bik jaati hai.” It has been removed.)
Running time: 135 Minutes
Photograph courtesy: http://www.facebook.com/DumMaaroDum