dreamgirl review

Following a remarkable consistency in his character graph, Ayushmann Khurrana puts in an exceptional turn as Pooja, and Karam and shows that he completely deserves his current success. (photo provided)

MUMBAI — A young man, Karamvir, a.k.a. Karam (Ayushmann Khurrana), lives in Mathura with his widowed father Jagjit (Annu Kapoor). Karam is best known for his roles as Sita in local Ramlilas, but needs a job. His father owns a shop that sells items for the last rites but is under a heavy bank loan.

He sees a call-center ad on a bus and finds out that it is for some kind of a Friendship Club for lonely souls, run by W-ji (Rajesh Sharma), with a group of women. He wins W-ji’s heart when he shows that he can talk like a woman, and becomes the only male worker here, pretending to be Pooja. Soon, W-ji is so pleased he gifts Karam a car and a mobile-phone and tells him that he should be a 24/7 employee.

Meanwhile Karam has met Mahi (Nushrat Bharucha) and fallen in love, she reciprocates, and they get engaged. Soon, Pooja becomes enormously popular and “her” clients grow and even include a male-hater scribe (Nidhi Bisht); Mahi’s brother-in-law (Abhishek Banerjee); an honest cop (Vijay Raaz) who is a poet and is despised by his wife (Neha Saraf); a screwball teenager Toto (Raj Bhansali) and so on. Finally, Jajgit himself, who, as we are told right from the beginning, is a romantic soul who is lonely, falls for Pooja’s compassionate and sympathetic responses.

One by one, and purely by chance, Karam comes to know that all his suitors as Pooja are closely connected with him or he is familiar with them. Things start getting out of hand as he has not yet revealed what he does, either to his father (who even despises his female acts as Sita) or to his fiancée. His only confidant is Smiley (Manjot Singh in his best role yet) and the two try everything to get out of the mess, especially as W-ji has suddenly turned “rogue” and warned Karam that he will expose him if he backs out now. 

Karam finds himself getting deeper and deeper into the mess despite the wily tricks he tries and the climax comes during the Krishna Lila show wherein — you guessed it! — he is playing Radha! And it is a hilarious yet crisp climax, in which the writing and direction become especially skilled in bringing in trenchant yet emotional angles about how more and more people are becoming lonelier in times when the population is surging. A wonderful line here talks about how family photographs have now given way to selfies!

As the film is meant to be an entertainer, it does not delve deep into the loneliness issues and its association with technology but that is fine. The second (and always more vital) half, in fact, rescues the film after a loose and quite tepid first hour. The screenplay picks up, the lines are better, and the pace is brisker.

Shandilyaa keeps the gags coming from the beginning, but takes himself needlessly seriously sometimes, like in the superfluous scene where Smiley and Karam praise the latter’s father and feel guilty for their subterfuge, which is senseless when we see how Karam publicly (so what if gently) castigates his father in the climax.

And the one serious gaffe is how Pooja, aka Karam did not recognize even his own father calling in as Rahul. It is inconceivable that a son would not recognize his father’s voice on phone!

“Dreamgirl” thus revisits the illogical phase from the ‘70s to the early millennium when the pace made us immune about such things. However, Jagjit’s desperate ploys to win over his girlfriend bring the house down and are the funniest sequences in the film, though the moulvi’s episode seems a tad tasteless. All these facts combine to make us feel that Shandilyaa has gone a lot down David Dhawan lane, though the hilarious angles also show that Shandilyaa was a good student when he worked on Kapil Sharma’s comedy show.

The technical values are good, and as a song, “Dil Ka Telephone,” works and is well-written and filmed. The performances stand out, but among them, Neha Saraf makes a mark as the cop’s wife despite a miniscule role. Nushrat Bharucha has very little to do. Manjot Singh, as we said, is excellent.

And yet, while everyone is better than good, the film belongs to Khurrana and Annu Kapoor — this is the latter’s best performance in years and he is superb as the doting father, the romantic dude he tries to be, and the final desperate lover.

And there is no stopping Khurrana now. He lets himself go far beyond his subtle comic self and is yet in complete control of himself. Following remarkable consistency in his character graph, he puts in an exceptional turn as Pooja, and Karam and shows that he completely deserves his current success.

There are areas where you feel the film goes overboard for a few seconds or minutes, times when you feel the movie could have been improved by cutting about 10 minutes or so, but it all comes around in the end for “Dreamgirl” to be a skilled presentation of a natural comic premise.

Rating: ***1/2

Balaji Telefilms present “Dreamgirl”

Produced by: Shobha Kapoor & Ekta Kapoor

Directed by: Raaj Shandilyaa

Written by: Raaj Shandilyaa & Nirmaan D. Singh

Music: Meet Bros.

Starring: Ayushmann Khurrana, Nushrat Bharucha, Annu Kapoor, Vijay Raaz, Abhishek Banerjee, Nidhi Bisht, Rajesh Sharma, Neha Saraf, Neela Mulherkar, Raj Bhansali and others.

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