Dishoom Review: brew called masala chai

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Most self-respecting tea aficionados, who take their cuppa a tad too seriously, have a pet peeve: a brew called masala chai. “There’s no real flavour of tea leaves,” “overwhelming spices”, “too much milk”: the complaints go on and on. Yet, for most of us aam aurats and aadmis, masala chai is the go-to, perk up drink, especially on a wet, rainy day. Dishoom is the cinematic equivalent of masala chai; an all too familiar, but giddy infusion. The tale of two cops trying to trace, in a matter of 36 hours, India’s leading cricketer (who has gone missing) before the crucial India-Pakistan final, may not leave much to our imagination, but is consistently amusing. So you have Kabir Shergill (John Abraham) of the Special Task Force joining hands with the rookie Junaid Ansari (Varun Dhawan) as an Indian cop in the Middle East who hasn’t even been able to trace a missing dog in his just-begun career. Dishoom is mad, silly fun and doesn’t take itself seriously for even a minute. A reason, perhaps, why in these highly righteous times even a politically incorrect cameo by Akshay Kumar seems more zany than rude. The presence of women as mere arm candy also doesn’t seem so annoying. I wasn’t thrown off by the patriotic spiel either, because even that is rather kooky. Be it the hat tip to Sushma Swaraj in the figure of the External Affairs Minister on the rescue mission, or dialogue like “Duniya ke kisi bhi kone mein koi ek Hindustani ko haath bhi nahin laga sakta” and “Naukri karta hoon inki, sunta hoon Modi ki”, all said with tongue firmly in cheek. Director Rohit Dhawan seems to be getting more at ease in handling a big mainstream entertainer: the larger-than-life canvas, the action, the helicopter-and-scooter chases, all make for full-on filmi fun. In fact with some gags he gets his dad’s comic forte spot on: like the wacky phone calls to Dhawan in Satish Kaushik’s voice (we don’t see him) that run like a thread through the film, right till the very end. Or the way he offers big star cameos as these nice little surprises (including cricketer Mohinder Amarnath casually walking in and out) or the revelation of the villain towards the interval. I was also amused at how he ties up everything and the littlest of things come to have a bigger purpose, be it a pug called Bradman or the cricketer’s dislocated shoulder. Abraham is severely muscled, walking as though he is carrying the weight of the entire world on his body and just about nothing moves on his face. But this deadpan persona goes very well with the swagger of Kabir. Dhawan, on the other hand, is rightly over the top. His comedy has a good touch of self-deprecation (I am not Circuit to your Munnabhai, he says, when you know that’s what he actually is), making him likeable rather than irritating. A sign of a good performer is how one can’t help not notice him or her even in a small role. Saqib Saleem packs quite a punch as Viraj, the missing cricketer. The firm posture, the determination to win that you can spot even behind the helmet, the fear and uncertainty when abducted: Saleem calibrates the performance rather well. The many chinks in Dishoom’s armour notwithstanding, on this prolonged, dismal monsoon day, the film’s infectious cheer seems just what the weather ordered. Whether it lasts beyond the season will be another story.

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