Bullet-point Report: Dum Maaro Dum

Posted on April 22, 2011

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  • The first scene showcases a blue sea, the picture-postcard-touristy-blue sea of Goa. That’s the only time the sea is this blue, this inviting. Elsewhere, we get the grey-green waves of nighttime, the turquoise waters of a decadent swimming pool, a stretch of beach that’s bleached out by yellow, this film’s dominant colour — but never again that picture-postcard-touristy-blue sea of the opening image, which suggests a paradise lost.
  • The staging of several sequences – beginning with the psychedelia of the opening credits – is brilliant in the way the effects of drug culture are evoked. Entire sections of the film feel like a trip, especially the ones staged like a graphic novel.
  • The other trip-inducing characteristic of the film is how the first half dispenses, very cheerfully, with the screenwriting rule of letting us view the story through a single perspective. We first see things from Prateik’s point of view, then Abhishek Bachchan storms in and starts narrating his story, in his voice, and then Rana Dagubatti begins to narrate his story, in his voice. And then, in the second half, the story is invisibly told, without subjective points of view, which is just another way of saying that we’re finally in the hands of an omniscient narrator.
  • The prelude with teenagers in love – and on the brink of breaking up – is absolutely wonderful. We get the feeling we’ve been immersed in a two-page short story about the fragility of relationships, and this sets up the stakes for the rest of the film.
  • It is during this prelude that we meet Dagubatti, who looks headed for a short stint as a supporting character but ends up the story’s hero. I do not see why this film is being marketed as a Junior Bachchan vehicle. Yes, he’s there, but he’s part of an ensemble, and even if you consider him the hero, he’s merely the action hero, whereas Dagubatti is the moral hero, the man who makes a mistake and spends the rest of the film trying to redeem himself.
  • Abhishek’s character, I felt, needed to be more along the lines of a world-weary noir protagonist, bitter and broken and a step away from complete disintegration. He says things like “mujhe maar nahin sakte, sirf azaad kar sakte hain,” but you never feel that quality of a man perched at the ledge, leaning forward to see just how far he can go without falling.
  • I wish the apprehension of Prateik at the airport had been staged better. I cannot put my finger on it, but there’s something missing. I was more tense the first time he walked through the luggage scanner. I knew bad things were about to happen to him – but when they finally did, the moment was anticlimactic. I don’t think I felt what I was supposed to.
  • And that goes for quite a few scenes. This is, in general, a superbly staged film, but it doesn’t quite hit its emotional notes consistently. You’re there – yet not there. Part of it could be that the villains are never a tangible threat. Even when they do the most heinous things, they do them from a distance.
  • But this could also be a result of how the makers have decided to stage the movie, as far away as possible from melodrama. So the deaths don’t make us cry, the jokes don’t make us double up with laughter – things proceed at an even keel, and it’s some sort of achievement that, despite all this, the film is never really boring. Somewhat dull in parts maybe…
  • The finest emotional moments belong, rightfully, to the two characters whose descent into the world of drugs wasn’t due to depravity so much as dreams. Drugs for Prateik and Bipasha weren’t something that they could get high on, but something they thought would get them to a higher station in life. And it’s painful when these dreams crumble, especially Bipasha’s. She’s enjoying a brief rebirth as a good woman, and then…
  • Along with that reworking of the prostitute-with-the-heart-of-gold, golden-age masala-movie lovers will find lots to enjoy – the setting up of a lovable character who’s sure to die horribly, the writing in blood at the back of a card, and the dialogues. My top two: “Ek hi sikke ke do pahloo kabhi aankh se aankh nahin milatey.” And, “Jab zameer bikta hai to zindagi bhi soot samet vasooli karti hai.”
  • There’s a great bit of technical showboating in a scene that begins with cops storming into a hotel’s entrance and proceeding to take out, one by one, the bad guys, and the scene ends by a drainpipe. I was so engrossed, I didn’t notice any cuts. Were there?
  • Want further proof that the gun is a phallic symbol? Abhishek pulls a condom on it and sticks it up someone’s butt. Freudian lecture classes round the country are no doubt delighted by the possibilities for analysis.
  • What a terrific, terrific background score, so full of unusual sounds and so marvellously attuned to mood. It’s not wall-to-wall music, and yet, the few stretches we hear are so right that they seem to go on and on and on and on.
  • They really have to stop using teddy bears to signify children from happy homes. Enough is enough.

Copyright ©2011 Baradwaj Rangan. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.