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Stefan Says So: Dum Maaro Dum

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Item girls are back with a vengeance given the much talked about Sheila Ki Jawani with the midriff baring Katrina Kaif in Farah Khan’s Tees Maar Khan, that fast forward till today the buzz baton was ringing very loudly for Deepika Padukone in her item for Dum Maaro Dum.

But personally I still preferred Sheila for the music, the narrative flow in which it was picturized on, and of course the dance performance. In Mit Jaaye Gum (Dum Maaro Dum), Padukone got decked with a shorter dress number sporting a mean looking cobra tattoo, but I don’t have a thing for the drugged out look, given this was solely a song and dance number performed at a rave party before Abhishek Bachchan’s ACP Vishnu Kamath came gatecrashing with the cops in tow.

Dum Maaro Dum provided what I would deem as a lift from the rather lacklustre lineup of Bollywood films released so far in this year, with the story keeping it fairly simple, yet intriguing with a mystery, with a great ensemble of actors fleshing out their carefully crafted characters. It’s a basic cops and robbers tale on the war on drugs in Goa where the stakes are high on either side of the law with matters and issues hovering around the grey, never outright black or white. Cops are on the take, gangsters can turn informers, and you’re never too sure just who you can trust, and who will switch allegiance.

Which makes the film thoroughly engaging to follow, paced fairly quickly and clocking just over two hours. The first half of the film before the interval allowed director Rohan Sippy to dabble with a non linear narrative structure to introduce the lead characters, starting with Lorry (Prateik Babbar, last seen in Mumbai Diaries and has another film lined up later this year as well), a student at the crossroads of his educational path, being stopped short at clinching a scholarship, and therefore unable to follow his girlfriend to the USA for further studies. Money woes meant subjecting himself to influences from a friend who had persuaded him fast cash from being a drug mule. Then there’s the story of ACP Kamath, a once corrupt cop on the take who had now turned his life around (shades of Dabaang anyone?) given the death of his family, and going all out to take the war on drugs by the horns. The romantic story arc of DJ Joki (Rana Daggubati) and Zoe (Bipasha Basu) has the lovebirds being impacted through the drug trade, with the former being a easy-going, laid back bystander to his girfriend’s woes, with the latter being really hard up to be an air-stewardess, and got sucked into a road of no turning back when short term gains were traded for longer term loyalties.

In some ways this is like Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables, where Elliot Ness gathers a few good, uncorrupted man to form a core team to challenge the biggest gangster in town, and here, ACP Kamath does just that when he goes up against Lorsa Biscuta (Aditya Pancholi), a well connected and well oiled businessman who dabbles in the drug trade and is one of the biggest in Goa, carved out into various territories as controlled by various foreign enclaves operating the drug business. With ACP Kamath turning the heat on their operations, Biscuita becomes the guarantor of every drug baron’s illegitimate business with the involvement of an enigmatic Michael Babbossa, who becomes the primary mystery man that ACP Kamath and team are trying to unravel.

So begins a cat and mouse game after the interval, where all story arcs merge into a single thread but between the two halves, the first was more of Sippy’s playground with tremendous use of seamless and slick editing techniques and transitions. And something that I’ve always enjoyed watching is the extended single take of an action scene, which Dum Maaro Dum now has bragging rights to, involving a very fluid camera following ACP Kamath and team as they go on a drug bust in a building, continuously weaving into and out of corridors and doors, windows and down a drain pipe even in one long extended take. I’m always in awe given the sheer amount of planning that goes behind the scene to have this achieved, and it is nothing short of fascinating always.

The violence is strong as well with ACP Kamath and the villains all dishing out punishment in no holds barred style, whether using a weapon or through their bare fists. And again there will be the usual police tricks and unorthodox techniques used by the no nonsense ACP that may raise some questions, even though he’s given the mandate by the chief minister to eradicate the drug problem. It’s been some time since Abhishek Bachchan had headlined a box office success, and I’m backing this film to be that shot in the arm for him as he reunites with director Rohan Sippy (since Bluffmaster). Rana Daggubati also shone especially in the second half of the film where his role got expanded and turned meatier, but unfortunately for Prateik he had opened the film, but because of the narrative had to disappear for the most parts in the second half.

Still, this is one of the more satisfying Hindi films that I’ve seen in recent weeks, with a strong story by Shridhar Raghavan (dialogues by Purva Naresh) coupled with strong performances from the ensemble cast that makes you feel for the characters and their predicaments. Music by Pritam stand out excellently, and if you’re in need of a good old fashioned cops and robbers thriller with a mix of interesting cinematography techniques employed, then Dum Maaro Dum will be your film of choice this week. Highly recommended as it goes into my shortlist as some of the best of this year!

~ A Nutshell Review~

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