Rajkummar Rao can walk on water. At least he’s in that stage of his career where almost anything he does is heralded as a great performance. But he leaves enough evidence for it. There is a scene in debutante Abhishek Dogra directed Dolly Ki Doli where after being shunned by his wife on their wedding night, he utters a part frustrated, part disappointed line, “Poori zindagi ka vrat todna tha aur aaj hi tumne vrat rakh liya”. It’s dark and you don’t even see his face. But he gets that sentiment across with just that delivery. With all its humor intact. We laugh out loud. There is a mild scare that he is typecast as this innocent loverboy who is not so innocent after all. But why complain when he can also tower over Malaika Arora Khan in an item number. That’s a first.
Outside of all that Dolly Ki Doli is inoffensive till its latter parts. It has its issues with not employing the right tone to its right moments but the fun parts do work. The parts of Dolly and gang’s modus operandi is kept succinct. The exposition scenes of how she manages her guests and relatives at the weddings, how she fixes her photographer don’t involve lengthy dialogues but rely on more showing than telling. When the film shifts to the story of a woman scorned does all its tonal inconsistencies show.
This is a very jarring shift and therefore the film never really takes off and a lot of scenes in this portion lack that emotional heft. Dolly is a great character and deserves a film with better writing. She doesn’t think twice about walking all over the hearts of men. When confronted for a wrongdoing she did not even commit she beams,“chillane se koi mard nahin banta”. Her past love story, her heart break needed more melodrama than what Abhishek Dogra would commit. He has some nice stretches in these parts. When police officer Robin Singh (Pukit Samrat) arrests her, she’s made to sit in front without handcuffs and the constable, an underused Brijendra Kala, sits in the backseat befuddled. Dolly is never sorry for what she’s done and that’s a welcome sight in a woman’s character in these parts. But if only she had a more colored past to make us realize her transformation. All she gets is a rehash of pick-any-Rahat-Fateh-Ali-Khan-song with the Dabangg styled Pulkit Samrat (an obviously intentional hangover as here too Arbaaz Khan is the producer). And honestly, Looteri Dulhan is a way better title than Dolly Ki Doli.
Varun Sharma and Rajkummar Rao play two ends of the spectrum of bad boys from the region the film is set in. Only this privileged mamma’s boy Manoj Singh Chadda may actually say janta hai meri maa kaun hai instead of the usual pithy one liner. But looking at Sharma play this character I was reminded of Kunaal Roy Kapur in Nautanki Saala, a far better performer who could have undoubtedly got more zing out of this role.
Sonam Kapoor, if nothing else, sure deserves credit for the range of film choices she’s made. She may be the most despised of Hindi film actresses around and it is often coloured by her off screen image. After Aisha (where she probably played herself) and Raanjhanaa, she isn’t half bad here. So far she hasn’t acted in anything that requires an intense portrayal and Dogra’s world doesn’t let her do it. The final portions screamed for it but he won’t budge. You really wonder what Kapoor could do in a melodrama. But I shall go for plausible deniability if that is ever subjected on you.
Dolly Ki Doli begins with a stop sign in front of a railway crossing and ends with a liberating train journey. If only the parts in between were as thoughtful.