In sports, we’ve had several stories of obsessed fans harming their favorite’s rival and bookies/betting mafia losing money due to one player’s performance and taking violent turns. There is the Escobar incident after the 1994 World Cup and there is Steffi Graf’s obsessed fan who stabbed Monica Seles in Hamburg, Graf’s fiercest rival at that point. These are sad stories. But Rohit Dhawan is not interested in serious drama of the psychotic fan or betting and drug cartels. He just wants to use this as a wafer thin plot device and make a buddy cop movie around it. The problem with Dhawan however is – forget good filmmaking – he has miles to go before even reaching Abbas-Mustan level of keeping you entertained.
Everything about Dishoom is generic. A generic buddy cop movie. A man of action (John Abraham as Kabir Shergill as John Abraham) with little regard for authority and his sidekick (Varun Dhawan as Junaid Ansari) who gives you the feeling that he can pull off good jokes and great comedy but only no one is giving him that. A generic conversation between Foreign Ministries of the two countries involved. I feel like it’s my duty to say sorry to Sushma Swaraj. Even the text we see says “Somewhere in the Middle-East” in the beginning. That is also generic. The star player who goes missing is Viraj(t) (Saqib Saleem doing his best Virat Kohli impression). There is a constant battle between the text on screen, the background score we hear and the actual frames. Each belongs in a different film. The texts are from a serious nerve-racking film brimming with tension. The background score gives you the impression that this is a non-stop action extravaganza on the lines of a Die Hard or even Lethal Weapon. The frames though belong in an action comedy that is constantly trying to find its footing.
For some reason, Rohit Dhawan believes that there are several money shots in his film. Surely there are introductions galore even halfway through Dishoom. There is already a song with the leads over opening credits but no, Dhawan insists on elaborate uninteresting intros for them. Out of nowhere, Jacqueline Fernandez is running in slow-motion. Oh there is Nargis Fakhri. And Akshay Kumar. And hey Parineeti Chopra is here too. The film is over and Dhawan continues to introduce characters. We keep hearing blazing scores set for all these intros and plot turns (spoiler alert: nothing has turned except my eyes towards the exit sign) that for a film named Dishoom, there is really very little of dishoom dishoom going on.
Here are some of the things you can learn by watching Dishoom: One, in a film with Mohinder Amarnath, Rameez Raja, and Nargis Fakhri, John Abraham still manages to come across as the worst actor. Two, the overused non-actor makes you wonder why an actor like Akshaye Khanna remains underused. Underused in the industry, underused in the film. Three, Jacqueline Fernandez would fit right into the shoes of some of the worst roles mainstream Tamil film directors write for the female leads in their films. Hansika Motwani and Tamannah, be very afraid. Four, there is a new found respect for Abbas-Mustan. Dishoom is right up their alley but at least they had you invested in the plot and kept things interesting scene after scene. Bollywood used to be better at making bad films.
(An edited version of this was published in The New Indian Express)