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‘De Dana Dan’ – Anatomy of a Bollywood ‘Quickie’ December 8, 2009

Posted by southasiamasala in : Chemboli, Srinivas, India , trackback

Srinivas Chemboli

A down-on-luck domestic help steeped in debt, a courier boy with dreams of stardom, a mafia don, a hired assassin, a lecherous businessman, and lissome lasses at every turn—these are just a few of the perquisites for a successful Bollywood ‘quickie’—and the list is not even half-done!

There’s ‘popular cinema’, and ‘cinema for discerning connoisseurs’ that proclaims grandiose ambitions of a ‘message’ sandwiched in ninety-odd minutes. And, there’s Bollywood cinema—defying any attempt at categorisation or classification, deplored by ‘intellectuals’ for incessantly pandering to the sensibilities of the ‘masses’. The Bollywood ‘quickie’ is an even stranger breed: commercial entertainment and quick return on investment are its selling points—nothing preachy or epochal. Yet, there is an undercurrent of sharp wit and social commentary that often goes unnoticed in most successful mainstream Bollywood quickies.

De Dana Dan is a thoroughly revamped and stylised remake of critically acclaimed director Priyadarshan’s earlier Malayalam movie, Vettom. The movie is packaged as a ‘commercial entertainer’, also known as a ‘feel-good movie’ in popular parlance.  Though the recipe is rather well-known and easy to replicate – zany characters, impossible situations, foot-tapping songs, and outrageously funny interludes – making it all work is ultimately down to the director.

And this is precisely why De Dana Dan works at this level. In spite of the maelstrom of madcap mayhem that surrounds the characters in this comic caper, their humanity flashes through, exposing them at their frail and vulnerable best. Nitin Banker (Akshay Kumar) and Ram Misra (Suniel Shetty) are two friends who share everything in life, including their awesome misfortune. They are tragically unsuccessful in every endeavor except in wooing the loves of their lives—rich girls Anjali Kakkad (Katrina Kaif) and Manpreet Oberoi (Sameera Reddy). Desperate to get under the mountain of debt to his employer, Kuljeet Kaur (Archana Puran Singh), the two friends decide to pupnap the only thing the flint-hearted businesswoman holds dear: Moolchand-ji—her spoilt rich dog! What ensues is a comedy of epic-proportions fusing mistaken identities, misunderstandings, slapstick burlesque and a watershed climax where all the characters go ‘down the drain’ in a deluge that would make even James Cameron blush!

Yet, in all the mayhem and confusion, De Dana Dan faithfully incorporates the life and soul of any self-respecting modern Bollywood masterpiece, presented below in no particular order:

The love ballad establishing the ‘undying’ love of the protagonists: The opening credits roll in accompaniment to the haunting Rishte Naate (Relations) penned by lyricist Sayeed Quadri to composer Pritam Chakraborty’s tunes. In true modern Bollywood tradition, the lyrics are a fusion of Hindi and English in a trendy Sufi vein with vocals by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Suzanne D’Mello.

Fall in love first, fear thy parents later: As the story unfolds, Manpreet tells her handsome hunk Ram that he better fix up his life since her marriage has been fixed by her parents. This is a recurring theme in Bollywood, and parental conflict and opposition to the unwholesome life choices of their daughters/sons is the bread and butter of Bollywood drama.

Slapstick humor: If there’s no slapping, it’s obviously not funny enough. De Dana Dan has plenty of ‘violent’ humor. Spousal violence is obviously considered ‘funny’, and no character is immune to the slapping epidemic, not even an Indian Ambassador!

The fusion/hip-hop, reggae and ‘item numbers’: Changing lyricists for every song is the latest in-thing. The obligatory ‘item number’ titled Hotty Naughty makes its entry pretty early in the proceedings. Penned by Neeraj Sridhar and crooned by Sunidhi Chauhan, the song is also used as an excuse to introduce additional characters in the storyline.

Following it is the reggae-inspired celebration track Baamulaiza (Be respectful) serviced by Bhangra rapper Mika Singh and Dominique Cerejo.

Finally, it’s the turn of a fusion hip-hop number Paisa (Money) by the UK-based group RDB. No decent Bollywood flick would be complete without outrageous visuals accompanying the new-age desi hip-hop!

The big big ending: At almost 180 minutes, De Dana Dan is hardly a ‘quickie’ in terms of length! Of course, all the characters congregate in one convenient location for a big splashy waterlogged climax.

While it is pretty easy and convenient to dismiss this movie as a classic commercial flick, De Dana Dan distills and packages all the variegated flavors of Bollywood cinema—the result is a little bit for everyone. While the situations enacted are exaggeratedly outlandish, the movie still is a rollercoaster of emotions. And as De Dana Dan reveals, there are many vehicles for Bollywood humour: When the Indian ambassador, Paramjit Singh Lamba (Vikram Gokhale) strives to regain his self-respect by asserting: “I am an Ambassador!” he is berated soundly by his brother-in-law: “An Ambassador? You are not even a Fiat! You are a bullock-cart!”

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