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There’s a difference between dream and daydreaming – Beyond Bollywood

Director Raaj Shaandilyaa’s ‘dream’ spiritual sequel ends up in a nightmare for viewers. Ayushmann Khurrana makes a sincere effort, but it’s not enough to paper the huge cracks in story, screenplay.

Rating: ⭐️? (1. 5 / 5 )

By Mayur Lookhar

In terms of versatility, no actor today can match Ayushmann Khurrana. He can gracefully acquire a feminine tone or embrace his sexual preference. Dream Girl [2019], his biggest hit had him charm lusty customers in a feminine tone over the phone. After enjoying a successful phase, the last few years have been tough for Khurrana. That is not to suggest that his recent films are bad. Doctor G [2022] was outstanding. An Action Hero [2022] was a refreshing experimental dark comedy. Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui [2021] was another brave call.  Jeez, Khurana has made a career out of bold choices

While Khurana has franchise experience – Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan [2020], Shubh Mangal Saavdhan [2017] – we’re a little puzzled by his decision to opt for Dream Girl 2 [2023]. Phew, we’ve not even begun reviewing the film, but the above sentence is enough to sum up the mood. 132 minutes later, we wonder is this Dream Girl 2 borne out of desire or any desperation?

This one is called a spiritual sequel. There’s one big change though with writer Nirmaan D Singh not returning for Dream Girl 2. Director Raaj Shaandilyaa is aided by Naresh Kathooria here. Khurrana, Annu Kapoor, Manjot Singh bear the same character names, but there’s a different tamasha here. Firstly, Ayushmann Khurrana’s Pooja avatar was more appealing in the first film as he only played her over the phone to woo lusty customers.

In Dream Girl 2, Karam [Khurrana] is compelled to become a drag queen. Economic woes play its part again, but Karam’s doing it to win his lady love. Pari’s [Ananya Panday] father has laid down a Maine Pyar Kiya-like challenge to Karam. Three decades later, inflation has touched skies.  So, it’s only natural that Jaipal Srivastav [Manoj Joshi] demands Karam to earn some Rs20-30 lakhs.

Though initially reluctant, Karam love ke liye kuch bhi karega (will do anything for love). Karam turns into Pooja and opts to become a bar dancer. He is soon wooed by Sona Bhai [Vijay Raaz], A regular at the Mathura [Uttar Pradesh] bar. He isn’t alone in the love challenge. His best pal Smiley [Manjot Singh] has a challenge of his own where Agra’s Abu Saleem [Paresh Rawal] stipulates that if Smiley can bring a smile out of his depressed son Sharukh [Abhishek Banerjee], then he’d let the Sikh man marry his daughter Sakina (Anusha Mishra]. Smiley urges Karam to charm Sharukh as Pooja. After some persuasive conversations, Sharukh does smile but Karam finds himself in a difficult predicament when Abu Saleem offers Pooja huge sum as mahr [dower] to marry his biological son.

Naturally, one chaos leads to another. Dream Girl 2 has the Dream Girl [2019] spirit, but the plot also partly rekindles memories from Kamal Haasan’s Chachi 420 [1997], which itself was inspired by Mrs. Doubtfire [1993]. Economic woes drove Karam to work in a love call center, but the first film subtly touched upon issues of loneliness, ordinary Indian men’s confidence at striking conversation with a woman. Despair leads to desperation leaving fragile men to find solace in the Poojas of the world. Everything about the first film seemed organic. It was backed by brilliant writing and clean humour.

The chaos in Dream Girl 2 is purely borne out of individual desire. What’s the message for the society here? We’re still scratching our heads. The cross-culturalism is fine but the tehzeeb is missing in Shaandilyaa’s Ganga-Jamuna endeavor. Abu Saleem is perhaps beyond our imagination. A failed marriage left Sharukh depressed. Later, a personal disclosure doesn’t come as a surprise. You, however, do question the wisdom behind the name Sharukh?

Shaukiya [Rajpal Yadav], Saleem’s adopted son, lives up to his passionate name. He acts, and is treated like an adopted son. Jumani, the thrice-divorced sister of Abu Saleem, is hopeful that a cougar prophesy by a sage in Ajmer Sharif will come true in the form of Karam. Jumani’s parents were perhaps fans of a noted astrologer that they named their daughter Jumani. Yes, this is far from a perfect family, but is Shaandilyaa questioning /mocking certain culture?

The lone sane character in the Saleem household is the patriarch Yusuf Ali Salim Khan [Asrani]. Unfortunately, he’s on a wheel chair and doesn’t live long. More than its chaotic storyline, screenplay, one is aghast at the insensitivity on display. Poor Yusuf is mocked for being on wheelchair. Abu Saleem has no respect for his adopted son Shaukiya.  You are left scratching your heads by the Saleem family reaction to serious situations. Yes, this is a comedy film. A filmmaker is entitled to a little bit of euphemism. However, the drama here seems staged.  Shaandilyaa has served cringe in the garb of certain dialogues. The most insensitive one was the poor joke on Sri Lanka’s economic crisis. Well, it is fine to push the envelope a bit with adults, but dragging children into toilet humour is unacceptable.  Sona Bhai, who is one of the suitors of Pooja, brings along his two young boys to meet their prospective mother.  One of the boys says that he would like to drink milk from his new mother.  It’s bizarre that Shaandilyaa and his writer saw humour in it.

Evidently, this spiritual sequel has borne out of commercial greed and a certain desperation. Shaandilyaa had shown great promise as a first-time director with Dream Girl. He’d only penned Janhit Mein Jaari [2022], but the poor story, screenplay left one in disbelief. With Dream Girl 2 also turning out into a messy drama, one is compelled to think whether Nirmaan D. Singh was the true architect of the first film!  

The below par screenplay made the editor’s job tough too. There appear to be few missing links.  Now either Shaandilyaa has left that to viewer’s imagination or Edward Scissorhands were at work at the edit table.

The story, screenplay is disappointing but its ensemble cast make a sincere effort. This despite the largely poorly written characters, dialogues.  Annu Kapoor, Abhishek Banerjee, Ayushmann Khurrana, the film’s triple A do a fine job.

Ananya Panday and Ayushmann Khurrana (R)

Ananya Panday is used as a prop. The nose ring adds to her screen presence but there is nothing more to her character.  The Mumbai girl is smart enough to know that by merely adding a ‘jey’ as prefix doesn’t turn one into a Mathura girl.  To be fair to Panday, there really wasn’t much scope for Pari here. Seema Pahwa provides few genuinely funny moments, but Jamuni is unlikely to win her much praise. After being given due respect in the first film, Manjot Singh ends up playing a Sikh caricature.

For a comedy film, Dream Girl [2019] had impressed with its color, production design.  The same is missing in the spiritual sequel. There’s no freshness to the music either. 

We began with Ayushmann and we end with him. The actor looks compelling in a drag. He sports two different shapes. As always, Khurrana gets into the skin of his character, regaling in its chaos, not afraid to mold his body / shapeshift to produce entertainment. The maddening drama here though smacks of exploitation, with his father Jagjit [Annu Kapoor] and best friend Smiley guilty of it. 

Khurrana’s often been likened to Aamir Khan in the way he chooses his scripts.  No one is perfect. Even Khan has got his last few scripts wrong. Others can speculate. Khurrana, though, is too smart an actor to misjudge a script. In time, he could reflect on this choice.  Deep within, Khurrana would know that any huge expectations from Dream Girl 2 would be akin to daydreaming.

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