In an interview to a music station, Akshay Kumar, the hero of this film says: He’d been narrated this script thrice over, and still he didn’t quite get it. This, I suppose, is a good reason to sign up for a movie.
Akshay, it’s easy to tell, is an instinctual, comic actor. His career decisions should be no different. I’m certain he’d applied the same bases — “Eh, what’s this? Let’s do the film, for sure!” — when selecting scripts for his recent works: Blue, Kambakkht Ishq, Chandni Chowk To China et al.
Little surprise, the hero, midway through, disappears from the screen altogether. He probably couldn’t take it beyond a point. His character, a house-help, also can’t take his obnoxiously demanding boss (Archana Puran Singh). He and his friend (Sunil Shetty) kidnap her pet for ransom. The pet’s back home; Akshay, the servant, is considered abducted instead. This makes for a plot all right. It doesn’t even make for a fourth of this film.
Suddenly the action shifts entirely to other vignettes, an unrelated one after another. De Dana Dan, goes the background score. Your ears begin to roll. Deciphering the narrative becomes then a minor challenge at solving a math puzzle — with every permutation and combination possible.
Paresh Rawal, indisputably Gujarat’s top movie star, plays a Punjabi money-swindler “Chadha Saab” instead. Cops are chasing him. He’s chasing two brides and their fathers for his son’s dowry. All of Priyadarshan’s stock actors (Asrani, Rajpal Yadav, whoever available for a day or two) are seen chasing someone or the other. Merely the purposes interchange. Shakti Kapoor, as the sleazoid, is of course chasing a prostitute. Little will make sense, or is meant to. There is simply no recess from this excess.
The picture is the longest advertisement for a hotel called Pan Pacific, where the action and a random flood are set. The backdrop is Singapore where, like all Bollywood movies placed abroad, an Indian with impeccable Hindi materialises from every corner: waiters, cops, courier boys, TV reporters… The genre’s literally slapstick, so you stick it out as a character or the other gets slapped across their cheeks, often ducked into masala, mud or mud-cake.
Millions have endured (or loved) Priyadarshan’s previous hits (and flops) of a similar flow: Dhol, Bhaagam Bhaag, Garam Masala, Mere Baap Pehle Aap etc. Earlier this year, the director picked up a National Award for Kanchivaram: a warm, quiet, Left-leaning Tamil film about a silk-weaver and his family. Few, including me, have seen that one.
In another interview, this time to HT, Priyadarshan says, “Somewhere down the line I’ve realised that if critics like a film, it doesn’t work; and vice versa. I hope they hate De Dana Dan.” Well, we’ve certainly met our half of the deal. I guess, it’s for the public to meet their end of Priyadarshan’s promise.