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Film review: ‘Dilwale’ has little heart and many attacks on good taste

Action, comedy and romance equal a pulpy mess in Rohit Shetty’s latest film.

Rohit Shetty’s latest big-budget hodgepodge stars Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol, Varun Dhawan, Kriti Sanon, and a crew of scene-stealing comic actors, including Sanjay Mishra and Johnny Lever. Dilwale’s big sell is yet-another pairing of Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol as lovers, but if Mishra’s antics as a fence are among the highlights, something clearly isn’t right.

The 155-minute movie opens in one of the many brightly coloured neighbourhoods in which Shetty usually finds himself. Car designer Vir (Dhawan) has lost his heart to Ishita (Sanon) shortly after giving her a lift. He wants to marry her almost immediately, but not so fast. His doting elder brother Raj (Khan) has a dark past, which involved running a gang in Bulgaria for seemingly no reason other than that the country's tourism board offers Bollywood crews cheap rates for shooting there. In Bulgaria, Raj, whose real name is Kali, had lost his heart to Meera (Kajol), only to have it broken. Fifteen years later, it turns out that Ishita is Meera’s sister. Kismet or contrivance?

As Vir and Ishita plot to bring the star-crossed lovers together, a local hood named King (Boman Irani) chases a missing consignment of drugs, Johnny Lever puts on a generic Southern accent, Sanjay Mishra does his thing, and Pankaj Tripathi and Mukesh Tiwari, who are the only ones who know Raj’s antecedents, pick up their pay cheques. There are nods to Hum, How I Met Your Mother and Love Actually, but the main reference point seems to have been Shetty’s own money-spinning Golmaal comedies.

Careening from romance to action to comedy like one of the vrooming cars that pop up in every Shetty production, Dilwale is a movie in need of a road map. Shetty is best known for comedies and action flicks, but he can neither sustain a drama nor build a convincing love story. The Khan-Kajol pairing proves that the stars still have what it takes to set the screen alight, and they are more combustible together than Dhawan and Sanon, but their romance is tired and trite. The movie works best when it stays within the Golmaal zone, and Farhad-Sajid’s WhatsApp-level humour keeps the eyelids from meeting ever so often.

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