By Subhash K Jha
So you think films about masculine friendships are outdated? Suneel Darshan's old-world film wallows in truisms and ties that we had left behind with films about 'true' friendship in the 1960s like Sangam and Dosti.
The old-world values stretch from the main characters to the peripheral ones. Kiran Kumar and Lilette Dubey playing rich socialites could be Pran and Sonia Sahni in Raj Kapoor's Bobby thirty years ago. They neglect their only son and choose to attend meeting and kitty parties.
Long live the bourgeois class!
But that's another story. In DOSTI we meet two friends who are ready to die for each other. The rich one Bobby Deol, spends his time making out with sundry floozies in girl's hostels (watch out for the vulgar boobie-traps) while the poor one, Akshay Kumar keeps bailing him out (watch out for Akshay The Comedian).
Akshay and Bobby with their Punjabi bravado, looks comfortable enough coping with the buddy-buddy business. It's a miracle they can go through the me-dost-you-the-most paces with such gusto.
Akshay has the superior part. He's fairly in charge here going through the light and cumbersome moments with melodramatic confidence.
The ladies, immaculately dressed and getting an equal share of Nadeem Shravan's bland songs, have little to do. Kareena succeeds in sinking her teeth into two vital dramatic interludes where she must deal with the seeming unfaithfulness of Akshay Kumar.
It's all a hectic harks back to the melodramatic machinations of cinema from the 1960s. The characters never rise above the material served out to them. What they do is to float freely over the flat but eye-catching surface that Darshan provides them.
While the first-half is styled as a mirthful jokey riotous mélange of scenes depicting male camaraderie and male-female courtship, the editing patterns in the second-half take a sudden swerve to suggest a close affinity with the popular American serial Friends. The same storytelling pattern was apparent in Nikhil Advani's KAL HO NA HO. In fact a major part of Akshay Kumar's character's relationship with his sweetheart Kareena, best friend Bobby, family doctor Juhi Chawla and death (in the order) directly echo KAL HO NA HO.
But the sound is not quite lucid. The temptation to derive formulistic pleasure from the drama of male bonding is often superceded by pockets of pedestrianism that peep out of the film's generally sleek exterior.
Much of the masculine sentimentality and male maudlinism, so appropriate to Raj Kapoor and Rajendra Kumar's passionate camaraderie in SANGAM, seems hopelessly out of place in the present day age of sexual cynicism. It's like those homophobic 'Kanta Behn' jokes in KAL HO NA HO (remember how much Shah Rukh Khan and Saif Ali Khan enjoyed the maid Sulabha Arya's horror at their gay jokes?) had suddenly been shorn of all irony.
At most DOSTI is an ode to the era of non-cynicism when to be gay meant to be happy. No more.