Saturday, September 19, 2009

Dil Bole Hadippa: The RANI is back!

Before I get into the review for Dil Bole Hadippa, let me first explain that there was a reason that all the groups of Boys Night Out were across the hall in the theatre for Wanted - DBH is a romantic-comedy. A cute one.

As if trying to erase the wishy-washy memories of LCMD and TPTM, Rani Mukerji cranks up the charisma to 11 and twinkles her way into our hearts. She anchors almost every frame of DBH and make no mistake, this is her film. The RANI is back!

Shahid Kapoor turns in an admirable performance as her love interest. He is basically playing Aishwarya Rai to Rani’s Hrithik Roshan a la Dhoom 2 and like Aishwarya Rai, Shahid echoes back and amplifies the raw Rani charisma into a nice frothy romantic chemistry.

The plot of Dil Bole Hadippa doesn’t actually make much sense when you stop to think about it. Fortunately, the action is so quick and engaging that one doesn’t really have time to think about it during the film. Rani plays Veera, a spunky, cricket-loving woman – who I think was supposed to be “18” but I ignored that bit of filmi aging – who lives and works with her father at a folk theatre. The one thing Veera wants more than anything else is to play cricket with her equals in talent.

Veera thinks she has her chance when she finds out that the local team is holding open auditions for the new season but when she arrives, she’s told, “NO GIRLS ALLOWED!”

Heartbroken, Veera heads back to the family theatre, where they are in crisis because the lead male dancer has drunk himself into a stupor. The theatre director shoves Rani in male drag and pushes her out onstage for a raucous and raunchy duet with Rakhi Sawant! A little light bulb goes off in Veera’s head when she takes a look at her self in the mirror and she decides to try out for the team, not as Veera but as “Veer.”

“Myself Veer Pratap Singh!”

The wrinkle in her Veer/Veera plan is cricket coach Rohan, a super-studly Shahid Kapoor, who has been lured back to India by his conniving father – an obnoxious Anupam Kher – and a large portion of the middle of the film is taken up with Rohan rediscovering how much he loves country… and Veera.

An interesting mix of elements is at work in Dil Bole Hadippa. First of all, there is the fact that this film is unapologetically rooted in the heroine. Rani is, for all intents and purposes, the Hero of the film. Veera had an almost Anthony Gonsalves-ish quality to her; she was comedic but with this core of strength and humanity. She experienced almost zero character growth but it didn’t matter because she was so entertaining!

Being a romantic comedy, the central element of the film was the Veera/Rohan relationship but unlike almost every East Asian cross-dressing film I’ve ever seen, there was no tension between Veer and Rohan. The male homosexual element was left completely out of the film and instead Dil Bole Hadippa gives us a healthy dose of lesbian Kantaben-style romps. The tension is never too overt, which would have been inappropriate in this fluffy film, but Rani gets in some relatively steamy scenes with both Rakhi Sawant and Sherlyn Chopra.

Rani’s cross-dressing was played for comedy more than anything else. She reminded me more of an adorable woodland creature with her big expressive eyes than the dangerously sexy cross-dressing Jesse Randhawa from No Smoking. The biggest laughs in my audience came from Veera’s obvious discomfort at being in close quarters with the half-naked men in the dressing room.

Speaking of half-naked men, I would like to pass a resolution in Masala Pradesh that Shahid Kapoor is mandated to wear v-neck t-shirts from now on. Now, some of the ladies sitting near me had some disparaging remarks to say about Shahid’s teeth but from where I was sitting, Shahid was luminously gorgeous. He and Rani made the perfect pair. Their romance had no help from the script, which gave the characters little motivation, and was generated almost entirely from the two actors and their ability to use their EYES to convey LOOKS! Where Kismat Konnection failed in not giving Vidya and Shahid enough scenes of romance together, Dil Bole Hadippa gives Rani and Shahid plenty of screen time to put their big, expressive eyes to their best use. There were eyes all over the place and I loved every second.

And that’s another funny thing about DBH, the script gave them little motivation for the romance. All of a sudden, Rohan has a crush on Veera and even more suddenly, Veera starts liking him back. There is no tormented angst about Veera’s deception or Rohan’s angst at falling in love with a fellow player. Rohan finds “Veer” to be extremely obnoxious, actually. And Veera has zero interest in Rohan until he starts liking her. With a different actor in either of the roles, this could have been a huge dud – the romance works only because Shahid has the ability to conjure lovelorn eyes out of thin air and Rani is a talented enough actress to return them.

Moving on from the romance (kya?!), there is a strong theme of feminism running through the film. This is no Chak De but Veera refuses to accept that she can’t do certain things just because she’s a girl and feels no guilt in moving outside her prescribed gender roles. The mean guard who refuses to let her try out for the cricket team as Veera says something like, “If the girls come out to play cricket, will the men stay at home and wear bangles?” As if there wasn’t room for both men and women in the public sphere…

Perhaps most importantly, Veera’s family and friends have no problems with her playing cricket. They have no problems with her cricket dreams and no problems with her playing cricket dressed as a boy. The disapproval she faces is from the community-at-large. Her talent is associated from the beginning with God; it’s a gift from heaven and shouldn’t she be allowed to use it? Wouldn’t it be sacrilege to refuse to let her use her talent

Dil Bole Hadippa says yes.

Along with the feminist theme is a curious backlash towards the NRI culture, or perhaps just the NRI culture that has taken over popular film in the wake of DDLJ – I was actually kind of surprised to see the audience laughing along as Veera brashly disapproves of Shahid coming from London and mocking his English affectations, especially since, you know, we were all watching this film in Washington, DC and presumably most of the crowd was living here, too.

There is more I’d like to discuss but I’ll wait for a few more folks to watch this and maybe I’ll do another post when the DVD comes out.

In short, Dil Bole Hadippa is a cute romantic-comedy with a strong feminist lead and message. The appeal rests almost entirely on the personalities of Rani and Shahid but since it is Rani and Shahid, that suited me just fine. The soundtrack is nice and peppy and gave Rani, Shahid, and Rakhi Sawant a chance to dance, which is always a plus in my book. It met my expectations 100%.

13 comments:

srkluver7 said...

Wow! Amazing review :D I am so excited for this movie..Now more than ever!! But you're right, the movie does seem like a cute romantic comedy. And I think Rani's broken English is a definite turn on!!

Oh and I just had to ask you one question. Can you please add me as a friend? My comments always go under blog owner approval and I was hoping that would stop if you added me. Thanks and your review was great!

srkluver7 said...

Okay never mind! Sorry I don't know what was going on. I think I might have typed my password wrong or something. So the problem is fixed :D Thanks anyways and sorry for the trouble! :)

Filmi Girl said...

Hi Simran!

I set things up so that it does the "blog owner approval" for everything that isn't today. So the most recent posts will always just post but older ones are screened. :)

I hope you get to see DBH soon - it was soooooo cute!!!

Smitha said...

Glad you liked it! I saw it at TIFF of course and loved it, myself. But I'm going to touch upon the only two things I didn't like (that you also happened to touch upon).

First off, like you said, the NRI backlash. They laughed in our theatre too, but there was an uncomfortable tinge to it. The theatre was pretty much all NRIs to begin with and I know I was thinking "Um, alienating your audience is not usually a good idea." :P

The other thing was Anupum Kher's character. I joked with my sister that an alternative title for DBH could have been "Anupum Kher Gets Everything He Wants"! It's already established that he's selfish and more than a little close-minded, yet he gets everything: his son AND wife back in India, a pukka Punjabi daughter-in-law, and his team winning the cup. And he doesn't learn any humility or anything either, people just cave to his desires! I found it a little bewildering.

But otherwise, loved the movie. I think I was in a "suspend my belief" mood because I had no issues with the path of the plot or the romance, it all made sense to me. :)

Filmi Girl said...

@smitha DUDE! I was going to talk about Anupam's character, too, but I didn't want to get into too many spoilers for people who hadn't seen it!

*** SPOILER ALERT for people reading comments ***


Anupam's character infuriated me so much!! I totally agree with your assessment of him never learning his lesson. I liked that Rohan felt so angry at being guilted into staying in India, even as he was giving in. I kind of added a coda to the film in my head where Rohan and Veera just kind of do their thing in the Punjab in spite of Anupam rather than because of him.

Rohan was kind of twisted into knots like he wanted to please his father because his father had always pushed him aside but he resented his father for making him feel like that...

And I wonder now if the anger that Rohan feels at the reveal of "Veer"'s true gender is because he thinks his father put her up to making him fall in love with her. It wasn't 100% clear to me at the time but thinking back, Rohan's comments to his father about "your player" make me think that this adds to Rohan's feelings of betrayal, which makes sense. I'd be pissed, too.

Ameya said...

EE! i'm seeing this tomorrow and i'm SO excited! RaniRaniRani! And Shahid! I'm dragging my poor husband.. I comforted him (against the sugary romance) with "there is cricket!" but i already figured it wouldn't be too much of it. Oh well, it'll be too late once he finds that out! Bwahaha...

Filmi Girl said...

@Ameya Hee!!! Maybe he can sneak across the hall into Wanted, which is what I think the husband in the family sitting in front of me kept doing.

Bollywood chick flick FTW!

myrna_nora said...

I saw this today and loved it. I agree with the your assessment. There was definitely a strong theme of feminism. I can understand what you mean by a backlash towards NRIs --but I saw it more as: its important to understand your heritage.
Really fun movie! I hope it is a super box-office hit for Rani. :)

simran said...

Filmi Girl - Okay that makes more sense now :D

I am so tempted to read your spoilers!! I think I'm going to have to stay away from this article until I actually watch the movie xD Are you planning on watching Wanted soon?

Amrita said...

Hmmm, I went for Wanted over this one because I wasn't sure I was in the mood for a sporty romcom. So this week's releases pretty much divvied up the audience by gender?

Heh, my word for verification today is "greed".

ajnabi said...

Yaaayyyyyy! I'm so glad you liked it! Pretty much anything with Shahid is okay with me as long as it doesn't involve Repulsive Plot Points, but I had a feeling this would be more than okay because of Rani.

Anonymous said...

Not to be a party pooper, but I think people are tired of Rani and her super 'cute' movie roles. DBH is not doing well at the BO in the US or India. Since 2005, all her movies have flopped.

I know I am bored with her movies now - cute or weepy. It seems while the other top actresses (Priyanka, Aishwarya, Kareena, etc.) are branching out and doing different roles, Rani is stuck in a rut. She reminds me of Meg Ryan and Sandra Bullock who starting out doing cute and pretty much stuck to that typecasting.

Rani needs to take stock of her career and decide if she wants more out of acting then the typical YRF or Dharma roles.

Filmi Girl said...

@ajnabi I think you'll like it alot!!

@anonymous We'll have to agree to disagree. The house was packed when I saw DBH and the audience was having a good time.

And don't forget that Sandra Bullock had one of the highest grossest films this summer. :)

Some of us just love Rani!

Note from Filmi Girl:

I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.

If you don't like my sense of humor, please just move on by - Trolls are not appreciated and nasty comments will be deleted.

xoxo Filmi Girl