It doesn't take much to offend Indians when it comes to films. From politicians and organisations to the average man on the street, if someone doesn't like something they hear or see on the big screen(usually before they've even heard or seen it) they are quick to lodge an official complaint and approach the courts for an edit or ban.
So Rohan's Sippy's decision to make a thriller about the Russian drugs mafia's grip on Goa's underbelly was always bound to offend someone, least of all the Goan government who objected to the release of the film on the grounds "It puts Goa in bad light". Joining them was an air hostess training school who claimed the film was portraying their institute in a negative manner.
However, as is almost always the case in these filmi matters, Dum Maaro Dum was allowed to be released once the High Court heard the institute's plea and the filmmakers promised to blur the logo and other identifying signs. Crisis avoided.
So is the movie worth all that fuss and bother? The answer is yes, but only just. An attractive ensemble cast, stylish cinematography, great soundtrack and some catchy dialogues make Dum Maaro Dum an entertaining watch.
Abhishek Bachchan heads the cast as ACP Vishnu Kamath, a self destructive cop whose policy of taking back handers and only drinking whiskey on the job leads to him being handpicked for a special mission to clear Goa of its massive drugs problem . The problem with that task is that there are numerous mafia groups of various nationalities controlling the illegal industry. Israelis, Nigerians, French, British and of course the local Goans - where is a guy to start? With the Russians of course - they seem to be the biggest and baddest.
There on, Vishnu's life becomes entwined with several others, each of whom have some connection with the drugs world. There's Lorry (Prateik Babbar) a student whose dreams of following his girlfriend to a US University are dashed when his scholarship gets rejected. His life threatens to spiral out of control, until he meets a smooth talking hustler who promises to get it back on track for a small price.
Looking out for Lorry is Joki (Rana Daggubati) a local musician who drifts aimlessly through life after an encounter with the drug mafia cost him everything he held dear. Hell bent on ensuring Lorry doesn't make the same mistake, Joki is forced to take a stand that could cost him his own life.
Bipasha Basu plays Zoe, a child of the hippy generation and aspiring air hostess whose career and love life is dashed after she makes the wrong decision to get involved with Lorsa Biscuta (Aditya Pancholi), a ruthless local businessman. With his finger deep in every Goan pie, legal or illegal, Biscuit is the point person between all the various mafias operating in Goa. Keeping an eye on them all is a mysterious shadow. The ultimate drug kingpin with many names and identities, he makes sure no one knows who or where he is.
Despite having all the right ingredients and plenty of twists and turns that keep the viewer interested in the plot, it's Sippy's direction and casting decisions that fail to boost the film from average to superior. Choosing Bachchan to play a corrupt cop haunted by demons from his past doesn't pay off. He's simply too young, fresh faced and clunky to be convincing as a dark character going through personal and professional turmoil. Even when beating up sweaty baddies in toilets and injecting them in the neck with lethal concoctions, Bachchan doesnt have the right kind of menace.
Sippy's decision to make Bachchan recite some of his father Amitabh's old dialogues and perform a rap in the middle of the film is also misjudged. It simply illustrates the vast difference in ability between father and son. Away from Bachchan's poor turn, some overly sentimental flashbacks , an appearance of a wispy ghost figure and stretched out ending only serve to distract.
That said, there's enough to make you want to sit through till the end. Great camera work from Amit Roy and daring jump cut editing by Aarif Shaikh make for a polished and energetic film. Purva Naresh's sharp dialogues, such as "Tumhare paas, bangla hai gaadi hai. Mere paas maal hai.' add wit. Including clever mentions of facebook, twitter and google and allowing characters to have realistic sexual relationships also give the screenplay a certain freshness and authenticity. And of course there's eye candy for the girls (hunky Rana and Prateik) and boys (sultry Bipasha, item girl Deepika Padukone and Brazilian beauty Mariah Pucu ).
As Fox Star Studios's third foray into Indian/Bollywood themed films after Slumdog Millionaire and My Name Is Khan, the film's release through Twentieth Century Fox should in theory attract non-Asian audiences on top of the ready made Bollywood base. Whether that happens remains to be seen.
If you're after a modern take on the masala thrillers of the 70s where nothing or no one is quite what it seems, it's worth taking a tote of Dum Maaro Dum.
Dum Maaro Dum releases worldwide 22nd April 2011.