When an action thriller’s running time is revealed to be 124 minutes, it could be one of two things: a smartly plotted narrative with well-timed punches and punchlines, or a movie that has very little to say.
Dishoom’s premise has promise – two mismatched police officers join hands to rescue India’s cricketing jewel from a kidnapping – but Desi Boyz director Rohit Dhawan simply cannot get the film to jumpstart despite all the elements being in place. There are two brawny heroes, an oomph-oozing heroine, a retro 1970s feel, and plush Dubai locations, but the best scene is of Akshay Kumar in a show-stopping special appearance. The byword for machismo plays a lascivious gay socialite who forces the policemen to strip down to their Speedos so that he can contemplate their clearly padded goods.
There are quite a few empty vessels in a movie named after a uniquely Indian onomatopoeic coinage. Among them is John Abraham’s Kabir, a grouchy Mumbai police officer who is shaped like a GI Joe Hasbro toy and has a dim view of the universe because his girlfriend cheated on him with his best friend.
There is Varun Dhawan’s Junaid, a bumbling member of the police force of an unnamed Middle Eastern city (actually Dubai) who seems to get everything wrong but has not forgotten to bulk up his body and shave off his chest hair. And there is Jacqueline Fernandez’s Meera, who has been placed in this boys-only universe for reasons that remain unexplained till the end.
But most of all is the contrivance-laden screenplay by Dhawan and Tushar Hiranandani that has but a few bright moments, including the atypical casting of Akshay Kumar and Akshaye Khanna and a recurring gag in which Junaid fields phone calls from an arranged marriage prospect who is hell-bent on telling him how awful he looks.
Kabir and Junaid join forces when India’s leading batsman Viraj (Saqib Saleem) is kidnapped on the eve of a crucial match by bookie Wagah (Akshaye Khanna), so named because he apparently belongs to neither India nor Pakistan. For all his eye-rolling swagger, Wagah is as competent as the 1970s villains on whom he is modelled. His trail is easily revealed when it turns out that the mobile phone of one of his hoodlums has been swiped by Meera, who is a thief. Perhaps only those who have never been exposed to Hollywood action thrillers or buddy cop films will pardon the parade of contrivances, the lacklustre pace, and the desperate attempts of Abraham and Varun Dhawan to suggest a bromance.
An External Affairs Minister clearly modelled on Sushma Swaraj, a line in a song that says that anybody who does not stand up when the national anthem is being played deserves to be beaten up, and a declaration by Junaid that he doesn’t listen to anybody but Narendra Modi are all indications that patriotism is the last refuge of the incompetent. The ending suggests a sequel, and perhaps the next movie will feature better writing, less amateurish action, sharper comedy, and a greater reason to exist.