Dream Girl movie cast: Ayushmann Khurrana, Annu Kapoor, Manjot Singh, Rajesh Sharma, Vijay Raaz, Abhishek Bannerjee, Nushrat Bharucha, Nidhi Bisht, Raj Bhansali
Dream Girl movie director: Raaj Shandilya
Dream Girl movie rating: Two stars
There are many good ideas floating around in Dream Girl. But ideas need execution, and on that score, this film flubs it: it has so little wit and imagination that it turns all those ideas into a series of flat set-pieces. And that’s sad because it has a stand-out lead, Ayushmann Khurrana, in yet another stand-out part.
The jobless Karam (Khurrana) lands an opening at a call centre run by a dodgy money-grubber (Sharma) which has a bunch of women doing ‘pyaar, mohabbat, dosti’ on the phone. Karam fits right in because he has a gift which he has used since he was a boy—he can do a perfect female voice. Within a phone call, all those lonely people calling in are smitten by Pooja, Karam’s alternate id, and he begins minting money.
Till about then, the tone is just right too, risqué ( what else can it be with phone sex) without going over the top. But the insistence of making it family-friendly makes it a troublesome tight-rope, and Dream Girl starts to swing uneasily between smut and sentiment. And then it takes refuge in what comes easiest—tastelessness.
Bollywood’s other problem is that of using quirk to offset clichés. Look at the characters surrounding our Karam: Smiley the sardar (Singh), hero’s BFF, always there for support; Mahi (Bharucha), romantic interest; colourful dad (Kapoor), ‘rangeela’ pulisiya (Raaz) who does bad ‘shayari’; a vertically-challenged fellow with a blond thatch; a loud girl who hates men and likes girls; a grandma who likes her booze, this last character reminiscent of the old lady who does ditto in Vicky Donor.
In fact, Khurrana and Kapoor were a great ‘jodi’ in Vicky Donor, and that was the former’s debut film. In the past seven years, Khurrana has become the go-to star for good acting jobs. Here Kapoor plays ‘papaji’ to Khurrana, and gives him able support, as does the solid Manjot Singh. The rest, including the perky Bharucha, seem to exist as walk-on parts in a loose, shambling ramble masquerading as a movie.
There is a lot of merit in a star-driven character study standing up for the rights of women who work night shifts in call-centres whose chief job is to provide phone cuddles to needy men. Karam gets to mouth dialogues about ‘loneliness’ and how it is gender neutral. Dream Girl also has a throw-away strand about religious amity, a lecture on how smoking and drinking do not define a person, and the attempt at a truly radical reach-out to ‘men who are like women’. But these ideas remain half-baked, being mouthed strictly as meaningless dialogue for either laughs or claps.
You stay watching Dream Girl for Khurrana. He plays Karam/Pooja with grace and conviction, and makes this thing sing. He is the one who has been shifting the goal-posts in the depiction of masculinity in status-quoist Bollywood, and this film, in which he plays both man-and-woman, minus preciousness and exaggeration, would have been the perfect vehicle to take the conversation a notch higher.
If only the film had been better.