Are you even remotely surprised by what that headline implies?
If yes, then give this review a shot, even though you’re going to hate or scoff at or be indifferent about the stuff I say. You’ve probably already made up your mind about watching Dilwale. You may even already have tickets booked, rightly anticipating the rush for this movie.
Perhaps you’re a Rohit Shetty fan. Perhaps you’re a Shah Rukh Khan fan. Or a Kajol fan. Or an SRK-Kajol pairing fan. Or a Varun Dhawan fan. Or a fan of Kriti Sanon. Or perhaps you just go to the movies every weekend and watch whatever you have the time for.
If no, then we’re all in the same boat, and it’s a pretty tiny one. This is the Bollywood circus in all its glory, stomping out one of its regular earthquakes with one of Hindi cinema’s biggest superstars at its epicenter. Khan is 50 years old and apparently still not too old to play a 20-something falling in love. Kajol is 41 and looks half her age, aside from having given fairness cream companies further reason to exist.
They’re still doing the same thing we saw them do from Baazigar (1993) to My Name Is Khan (2010) — more than two decades of admittedly magical on-screen chemistry, despite never having even kissed in any of their films. You have to admit, it’s pretty weird — in 2015 — to see two people exchange intense looks, get really close, lean in and… embrace... for a while.
Rohit Shetty, now all set to deliver yet another ‘hit’ (whatever that means anymore), is the captain of this ship and, you know what, it’s unfair to blame him at this point. He’s just doing what he knows best i.e. to be Rohit Shetty and make Rohit Shetty films. That’s all he’s doing here when he destroys cars (in sequences reminiscent of Michael Bay’s Bad Boys films — he is, after all, the closest we have to a Bollywood equivalent); revels in forced, adolescent humour; and relies on a convoluted, far-fetched plot that ends in a typically ‘zany’, idiotic climax involving the entire cast.
Dilwale is a tired, factory-generated film from frame one, right from the overdone colour palette to the exaggerated, comical violence. Khan and Kajol are star-crossed lovers whose paths meet again after 15 years. Dhawan and Sanon are the younger pair. It’s box-office gold on paper — take one of Hindi cinema’s evergreen jodis, add two hot young actors and apply the ‘Shetty Shetty Bang Bang’ formula.
Funnily, even with a pretty big budget, Dilwale doesn’t look like a polished product — possibly its worst offence. The song ‘Gerua’, shot in gorgeous Icelandic locales, looks like SRK and Kajol doing their thing against Windows 98 wallpapers, as comedian Sapan Verma once rightly observed on Twitter.
Moreover, it’s just really difficult to wade through all the inanity beyond a certain point. While never as cringe-worthy as Chennai Express (2013) at its worst, Dilwale is chock-full of the usual things Shetty thinks are funny: sound effects for comic effect, mildly homophobic jokes, and sexism so casual that you could wear it to work on Fridays.
The point is that it’s 2015 and there are entire, new generations of moviegoers out there who have higher expectations from the 150-odd minutes they spend inside a darkened cinema theatre.
There are, admittedly, some things about the film that keep motivating you to give it a chance. It’s impossible to be a millennial and not be at least momentarily captivated by scenes that include SRK-Kajol making googly eyes at each other. The presence of Johnny Lever as mandatory comic relief is always welcome, never mind that he’s only occasionally amusing here. Khan hasn’t acted well or anything, but at least he’s a little more restrained here than usual. Kajol gets to play a role with more grey shades in it than she usually does opposite Khan and, hell, it’s kinda nice to see her again. Dhawan is sincere but why must he act like Uday Chopra on a sugar high?
Plus, proceedings are often enlivened by a man named Oscar, played by Sanjay Mishra, who has a penchant for ending his sentences with nonsensical rhymes. This is, for once, an instance of slapstick done right and Mishra steals nearly every scene he’s in. He may be the reason I didn’t actually walk out before the movie ended.
All things considered, Dilwale — even if it isn’t actually Shetty's worst work — is still an infuriatingly mediocre movie. For all the hype it has arrived with — complete with titular appropriation from Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge (1995) — it’s really just a standard-issue potboiler with the usual number of plot holes and lame, self-referential humour. There are a bunch of nods to Khan’s earlier films — the younger brother angle from Kabhi Khushie Kabhi Gham (2001), the constant referencing of DDLJ — to keep fans happy. There’s also enough that has been ‘inspired’: a car chase from Mission: Impossible II (2000) and the ‘two-minute date’ from How I Met Your Mother were the straight lifts I spotted, at least.
But the point is, it shouldn’t matter anymore. It shouldn’t matter that this is not the worst movie of the year, or that it may be slightly better than Chennai Express in parts and at least Khan didn’t ham as much this time. The point is that it’s 2015 and there are entire, new generations of moviegoers out there who have higher expectations from the 150-odd minutes they spend inside a darkened cinema theatre.
The point is that we’re the reason these films exist. We go to watch these films out of curiosity, perhaps because it’s a weekend family outing, and there’s no way we can get out of it. We give them our money. We give them mentions on Twitter and likes on Facebook. And all of us, to some extent, have been brainwashed into coming up with justifications for this kind of filmmaking to exist. “It’s a Rohit Shetty film — what do you expect?”
To Mr Shetty and team: I apologise for expecting more. I am sorry for bringing to your notice that the world has changed, and, indeed, keeps changing even as you guys continue living your Groundhog-Day-esque situation of eternal, ‘90s mediocrity. I regret to inform you that this is bad even by recent commercial Bollywood standards (I have several problems with PK and Bajrangi Bhaijaan, but they're miles ahead of this tripe). And lastly, I apologise on everyone’s behalf for the existence of the Internet and satellite television.
To everyone else: we’re better than this. Let's start believing it now, please.
Also see on HuffPost:
"So here’s my first life lesson, inspired by the movie title Deewana: Madness (of the particularly nice/romantic kind) is an absolute prerequisite to a happy and successful life. Don’t ever treat your little insanities as if they are aberrations that ought to be hidden from the rest of the world. Acknowledge them and use them to define your own way of living the only life you have. All the most beautiful people in the world, the most creative, the ones who led revolutions, who discovered and invented things, did so because they embraced their own idiosyncrasies. There’s no such thing as “normal”. That’s just another word for lifeless."
"If you ever find yourself cheated of all your money and sleeping on a grave, do not fear, a miracle is near, either that or a ghost. All you have to do is fall asleep! In other words, no matter how bad it gets, life IS the miracle you are searching for. There is no other one around the corner. Develop the faith in it to let it take its own course, make all the effort you can to abide by its beauty and it will not let you down. Use every resource you have been given, your mental faculties, the ability of your heart to love and feel for those around you, your health and good fortune: all of the thousands of gifts life has given you to their maximum potential. Honour your life. Honour each gift and each moment by not laying it to waste. There is no real measure of success in this world except the ability to make good of life’s endowments to you."
"Darrmeans fear in Hindi and everyone always tells you that you ought to be brave so I’m not going to bore you with that idea. Instead let me tell you this: Being brave means being shit scared all the way to the party but getting there and doing the Funky Chicken in front of all your teenage kid’s friends anyway. Let me just add on behalf of all the fathers of the world who have embarrassed their children by doing this…it takes a lot of bravery resolve and grit to do this. So do it. Don’t let your fears become boxes that enclose you. Open them out,feel them and turn them into the greatest courage you are capable of. I promise you, nothing will go wrong. But if you live by your fears, everything that can possibly go wrong will go wrong and you wont even have done the Funky Chicken."
"Life lesson number four rears its head: Give of yourself to others. And while you’re at it, make sure you realise that you aren’t doing anyone any favours by being kind. It’s all just to make you feel that sneaky little twinge that comes from being utterly pleased with yourself. After all, the one that gets the most benefit out of any act of kindness or charity that you do will always be you. I don’t say this, as many see it, in a transactive or karmic way. Its not an “I do good, I get benefit” equation with some white bearded figure taking notes from the heavens above. It’s a simple truth. An act of goodness becomes worthless when you assign a brownie point to yourself for it, no matter how subtly you allow yourself to do so. As benevolent as your gesture might be; someone else could have made it too.Regardless of how rich, successful and famous you become, don’t ever underestimate the grace that other people bestow upon you just by being the recipients of your kindnesses. You might be able to buy your friend a Rolls for his/her birthday but its no substitute for a patient hearing of your sulky rants on a bad hair day."
"When life hits you with all the force of its resplendent rage, the Rolls isn’t going to give you comfort. A friend’s grace will, and if you can’t find resolution as easily as you would like to, don’t panic. Everything evolves as you go along, Chalte- Chalte as we say in Hindi (and yes, that was another movie I did but no more mad plots for God’s sake!!) Even disasters eventually resolve themselves. Give life the space to move at its own pace, pushing it ahead only by way of being kind to yourself when you are hurting or in despair. You don’t always have to figure things out or find an explanation for the circumstances you are in."
"All the names you give yourself, or those that others call you, are just labels. You are not defined by them no matter how flattering or uncomplimentary they are. What defines you is your heart. Ask The Artist Formerly Known As Prince!! And learn a thing or two from him, if you don’t believe this insanely sexy Indian Superstar standing in front of you. And I say this out of experience because if I was to go by what all I am called on Social Media I would be an old desperate manipulative has been star who swings both ways while making crap movies, and these are just the good mentions."
"Whatever it is that is pulling you back, its not going away unless you stand up and start forging your own path with all your might in the opposite direction. Stop whining and start moving, so to speak. Sadness and happiness have the same quality of transience. Life is a balanced exchange of one with the other. And this is lesson number eight: Don’t attach yourself to either, they’re both going to change with the same certitude. Take them with the ephemeral spirit of their impermanence and manage them with a healthy dose of good humour. Laugh at yourself when you are despairing, shed a tear or two when one of my movie plots makes you hysterical with laughter."