All smoke, no fire

April 23, 2011 06:01 pm | Updated August 24, 2016 05:23 am IST

Deepika Padukone in Dum Maaro Dum

Deepika Padukone in Dum Maaro Dum

How seriously can you take a film where an intense, angry, young cop still mourning the death of his wife, suddenly breaks into a rap for the camera? And the dude goes back to his sad face after gesturing ‘Thayn Thayn' like a kid with a new toy gun, still expecting us to feel his angst.

How seriously can you take a film that resorts to showing us computer-generated snakes just to spell out a metaphor? Or the car accident that seems to have popped out off a video game when the same effect could have been achieved by cutting to black and a sound effect?

How seriously can you take a film that uses a staple of pop culture references and whistle-seeking punchlines that make you laugh out loud when you are supposed to be dealing with the dark reality of innocent lives on the verge of death and drugs treated with a hand-held brand of realism... in a film that's neither a dark crime comedy or an intentionally campy b-movie, with names like Vincent Vega and Lorsa Biscuita thrown in with utmost seriousness?

How seriously do you take a curious mix of style, pop culture kitsch, song and dance but with the ambitions of being a gritty, realistic, hard-hitting suspense thriller that invests way too much time in building up suspense about the enigmatic super-villain more difficult to find than Keyser Soze himself without really giving us any further mythology to be scared of him... only to resolve it conveniently with a cheeky hat doff to Clint Eastwood and Sergio Leone. (Also, it's not really a suspenseful twist when you haven't taken any care to disguise the voice of the mysterious enemy!)

But then, how seriously could you have taken the film after watching the promos of Deepika Padukone in an item number replacing the cult lines from the anthem of the Seventies with something about the toilet seat being the great leveller? Unless pot there is used as a drug-related pun.

For a film about the drug trade, Dum Maaro Dum lacks both substance and imagination. Can you imagine a hardcore coke-snorting addict of five years undergoing a change of heart overnight after a night of passion with an ex-boyfriend, exhibiting no consequences of the habit on her appearance or behaviour?

However, the film turns out to be a good old-fashioned Seventies entertainer with all its reductionist trappings. Instead of the Big B, you have Junior doing a fairly compelling version of his father. Or maybe he just looks so good when compared to Rana who looks wooden.

While Bipasha's Zoey gives us enough to drool about, it is left to Prateik Babbar and Anaitha Nair to flaunt their acting chops. Dum Maaro Dum opens rather promisingly with a non-linear narrative that keeps you intrigued. At least until Bachchan Jr. decides to employ his rapping skills to woo the box office and director Rohan Sippy infuses one too many songs that slam the brakes on the trip (something that never happened with the racy Khakhee , also written by Shridhar Raghavan).

Not that the screenplay here is devoid of detail, there are a few nice touches. The alcoholic Chief Minister asks the tough cop to clean up the town on the eve of his surgery just because he will be unreachable over the phone, the celebration of getting an acceptance letter from a foreign university is interrupted halfway as the son notices that his scholarship is not approved and an aspiring air hostess tells a Russian woman that she's realistic and knows her diploma is not enough to get her a job with an international airline. It also helps that the hero here gets a punchline every other scene — some are a riot, some are camp but there's no denying that the lines have character.

It's just the characters — especially the hero and the villain — don't have enough strokes to evoke empathy or fear.

But go ahead, take a drag. This ticket to escape is not injurious. But certainly not healthy either.

Dum Maaro Dum

Genre: Thriller

Director: Rohan Sippy

Cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Rana Dagubatti, Bipasha Basu, Aditya Pancholi, Prateik Babbar, Anaitha Nair, Govind Namdeo

Storyline: A ruthless police officer is put in charge of fighting the drug mafia in Goa and the mystery about the faceless protector of the trade heightens

Bottomline: Wish it took itself more seriously instead of being a kitschy suspense entertainer that revels in homage more

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