The one thing I can say about Desi Boyz is that it's tolerable. Let's look at some facts: the debutant director is an offspring of David Dhawan, and shares his first name with a certain Mr Shetty. Now that's a lethal combination right there. Dhawan Sr was a man in form in the ’90s, regaling with his brand of comic films that even today make for great television viewing. But the formula prevailed for far too long, and his last few films have been more horrific than what the Ramsays achieved at their peak; the scars from Rascals are still fresh for many.
Watching an Akshay Kumar film, on the other hand, has been a painful exercise for a couple of years now. The actor with impeccable comic timing has been a regular feature in too many shoddy films that do little justice to his persona and talent. So much so that Kumar’s antics themselves no longer make a film watchable anymore. Lately, the star comes across as slightly jaded, tired perhaps, after a string of films that seem no different from another. John Abraham attempting comedy is not exactly a prospect to salivate at either.
Given all this, you approach Desi Boyz with a sense of trepidation. However, things aren’t as bad as they seem. The Dhawan boy impresses with his hold over the craft, with slickness and style, and Kumar and Abraham play off each others' personalities well to make a lovable jodi.
At the onset, you are impressed with Dhawan’s making -- the film looks fresh, and more in the Karan Johar Dostana mould than a regular haphazardly put together comedy. The basic plot - two out-of-job guys becoming male escorts -- has potential, and the casting seems apt.
John and Akshay show off their chiselled torsos, revelling in their Desi Boyz avatar, and their chemistry is crackling. Meanwhile, Dippy Padukone flits in and out without purpose, starting off as a sort of sutradhar, an aspect that is quickly forgotten. But just when you expect the director to surprise you with a quirky comedy with a twist, the clichés take over.
Watching Desi Boyz unfold is akin to ticking off a checklist -- there’s an orphan kid you are supposed to root for (but also want to beat up for being so irritatingly OTT). There’s the underdog hero -- a ‘failure’ -- who proves his worth eventually. There’s also a lame attempt at patriotism. How could, then, there not be a courtroom climax?
Chitrangada Singh, in her first appearance in a ‘mainstream’ film, becomes a burden more than USP. Singh plays a ‘hotness’ economics professor who is supposed to be ‘sexy and powerful’ but just comes across as desperate. What makes an attractive-looking teacher sexier is that she’s unattainable, out of reach -- merely a fantasy. In Main Hoon Na, Farah Khan exploited this to the hilt, showing Sushmita Sen to be smitten by SRK, but never stepping over the line.
Chitrangada’s character, on the other hand, seems to have no sense of the line, throwing herself at her student -- Akshay -- like her life depended on it. Attractive as Chitrangada is, she comes across as uneasy and trying a tad too hard.
The scene I couldn’t fathom is one where Deepika tells John, after breaking up with him, that she can’t get married to a guy who’s been a male escort. Her reason: would he accept her if she stripped and pranced around 50-odd men? Her argument seems pretty darn strong. John then gives some spiel about how he was just being a good friend, that he did it for the little orphan kid, and walks away. Deepika then seems to be struck by the realisation that she may have been wrong. Of course, like Chitrangada, she too then throws herself at her man. This, coming from a young director in his 20s, is just disappointing. All that slick technique comes to zilch when at the end of the day a filmmaker does little than shove down throats the same old cliched melodrama that went out of fashion in the ‘90s.
Ah well, maybe I’m giving it more thought than it deserves, because frankly the film did make me laugh out loud in a couple of places. If your expectations are low, you may not be disappointed with Desi Boyz. To be fair, it’s Akshay Kumar’s best film in quite a few years.