Saturday, November 22, 2008

Dostana

I just got home after watching Dostana with a friend. I've been interested in this movie for a while now, partly because it promised to plot itself on those faultlines where popular entertainment and topicality intersect. Partly because I like pretty clothes and bright colours.

As has been reiterated in every review-slash-conversation - the movie is not about two gay men, although the public and critics were initially led to believe otherwise (by some accounts, anyway). Two men pretend to be gay and fall in love with the same woman - they try to sabotage her romantic relationship, and eventually return to seek forgiveness and make amends. It's actually staple Bollywood fare, and homosexuality is just a plot device. The men could conceivably have been monks in training or Brahamacharis, although that's probably more of a 70's thing.

But the point is this - John Abraham and Abhishek Bachchan are straight men confined within a closet of their own making. Which creates scope for confusion and some genuinely funny lines. Not to mention Kiron Kher's incredible turn as an OTT full-on Punjabi mom. The theater where I watched the movie was full of families, kids and grandparents in tow, all laughing at the right times and even hooting with approval.

Does the movie compel viewers to re-think stereotypes? No. In fact, it relies on the absurd hand gestures, effeminate voices and odd turns of phrase that have long caricaturized gay men. At one point, Bachchan advises Abraham to get in 'character,' asking him to - 'Think like a woman...talk about shoes!' This is misleading, and obfuscates the complexity of gender and personality.

But at least audiences are smiling instead of allowing their sensibilities to be offended. 'Gay' is now part of our public lexicon. Maybe, in India, we need to get in on the joke before we embrace what we can't quite bring ourselves to recognize.

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