The minor shortcoming in the story is made up for by Nirmaan D Singh, Raaj Shandilyaa’s brilliant writing, well etched out characters and a fine show by its talented cast
Rating: 3.5 /5
By Mayur Lookhar
In 1977, filmmaker Pramod Chakraborty’s Dream Girl saw Hema Malini play a con artist, one who played five different characters. 42 years later, we have writer Nirmaan D Singh and first-time director Raaj Shaandilyaa creating a Dream Girl (earlier titled Googly) but she’s nothing like Hema Malini.
Show little affection to a loner, and s/he would jump onto it like frogs to flies. Ayushmann Khurrana finds himself in a sticky predicament where he is the pretty fly surrounded by bunch of lonely toads just waiting to stick their lusty tongues out.
Karamvir [Ayushmann Khurrana] is a humble theater artiste from Gokul, Mathura. From an early age, Karamvir has had the gift of being able to speak in a feminine tone. As a child, he bailed out his friends, and now this feminine tone has seen him play Sita in the local Ram Leela play every year.
His life changes when he lands himself a lucrative job at a dubious local ‘friendly’ call center. Khurrana takes the identity of a popular call center employee Pooja, who hasn’t returned from her holiday for long. It doesn’t take long for Karamvir to steal the many callers’ heart, none of whom are aware that the person they are talking to is no woman but a man. Trouble comes calling when her loyal callers get desperate to meet Pooja.
While we do get voyeuristic text messages, but seldom has one given a thought that this could be a smart business module. Your reviewer has never responded or called at any such number, but perhaps writer Nirmaan D Singh and Shaandilyaa have experience of such ‘friendly’ conversations.
A unique plot but thin on logic. Why would an executive use the same identity to speak to different customers knowing fully well that it won’t be long before the lusty, lonely men will come salivating for her. Karamvir needs to wriggle himself out of this mess, one that threatens to ruin his relationship with his girlfriend Mahi [Nushrat Bharucha].
While the story is little thin on logic, what makes this Dream Girl likable is the fine writing, and its endearing characters.
In his seven-year career so far, Ayushmann Khurrana has developed a reputation for picking diverse, out of the box subjects. He started his career playing a sperm donor in Vicky Donor . Ironically, he had no qualms in playing a guy suffering from erectile dysfunction in Shubh Mangal Saavdhan . Dream Girl is another out-of-the-box character.
Khurrana’s no stranger at playing characters from Uttar Pradesh/Uttarakhand. There was Dum Laga Ke Haisha (2015), Bareilly Ki Barfi (2017) and now Dream Girl. Each film had a different flavour to his character. Khurrana is confident as Karamvir and compelling as the voice of Pooja. His natural wit helps him play these small-town smart ass characters with utter conviction. Khurrana is on a roll with his last five films all doing both commercially and critically acclaim.
Khurrana is admirable as Karamvir/Pooja but it’s the supporting characters that entertain you with their rustic sense of humour. Vijay Raaz takes the cake here.
Let go away of the fact that despite being a cop, Rajpal Kirar [Raaz] isn’t able to crack the mystery behind his caller. What Kirar brings to the table is rib tickling Haryanvi humour. Raaz has exemplary grip on the accent. The frustrated constable is a henpecked husband who finally has someone who can listen to his poor shayaris [poems]. He makes a mockery of Urdu with his Haryanvi accented tallafuz (pronunciation). (The Kirar community is found in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and a few neighboring states) So, the shayar comes out as sayar. Correct him and Kirar says in a quizzical manner “Hain, yeh do hove hain” (Oh, there are two pronunciations).
Much like Khurrana, Raaz, too, has been on a role chipping in with one impressive performance after another. Be it Stree (2018), Chopsticks (2019), Gully Boy (2019) and now Dream Girl, Raaz plays his characters with such passion. His body language, dialogue delivery is exemplary. He understands the finer nuances of his character to the T.
Constable Kirar finds the right match in Chandrakanta (Neha Saraf), a fire breathing woman. Like Raaz, Saraf, too delights with her aggression playing the nagging wife to a nicety.
Together, Annu Kapoor and Ayushmann Khurrana were a revelation in Vicky Donor (2012). Doctor Baldev Chadha (Kapoor) was little overbearing in Vicky Donor. The Jagjeet Singh (Kapoor) of Dream Girl begins as a traditional simple Gokul widower but he, too, loses his lonely heart to Pooja, unaware that Pooja is his son.
To ward off Jagjeet, Pooja masquerades as a Muslim woman in a burkha (veil) in the hope that his father would reject a Muslim woman. However, despite his initial shock, Jagjeet Singh adheres to the ‘Na umra ki seema ho, na janmn ka ho bandhan’ (let there be no age, birth or any barrier to love) line from a late Jagjit Singh classic ghazal. The next morning, the devout Hindu converts to Islam. He event gets the walls of his house painted from blue to green.
Then there is Totto (Raj Bhansali) the filthy rich Haryanvi brat. His Haryanvi roots are reflected in the tattoo on his harm that reads ‘PUJJA’. Haryanvis are known to stretch their tone while pronouncing names.
Adding to Pooja’s woes is Mahendra (Abhishek Banerjee) who turns out to be the brother of his girl friend. Banerjee was a revelation as Jaana in Stree (2018). For a Bengali, Banerjee plays these North Indian characters with aplomb.
There are not just lusty toads, but a grumpy misandry Roma (Nidhi Bisht), too, finds comfort in the sensual tone of Pooja. Bisht’s authoritative show would make her spinster, powerful producer Ekta Kapoor proud.
Nushrat Bharucha has an academic role of playing Karamvir’s girlfriend. There was nothing really to work around with the character. Bharucha does a neat job. Having had to bear the brunt of being the bad girl in Luv Ranjan’s misogynistic films, Bharucha, would simply be happy to be playing a committed lover with no one casting aspersions over her character.
While the plot has a logical flaw, but Nirmaan D Singh and Raaj Shaandilyaa get full marks for creating a highly entertaining screenplay, the well etched out characters. The witty, intelligent dialogues help in producing one engrossing scene after another. Dream Girl is a perfect example where the minor shortcoming in story can be easily overcome by excellent writing and performances.
Beyond its humour, Dream Girl shows a mirror to a society full of loners. A society where one is too occupied in their gadgets, selfies, seek love in the unknown, but can’t hold a heart to heart conversation with their blood. It tells the teenagers to don’t confuse lust for love. There is a certain sense of empathy for the likes of Rajpal, Jagjeet, Totto, but men, too, need to control their urges. Desperation only leads to more despair.
When the bubble bursts, Karamvir tells all suitors to look for a Pooja beyond lust or gender. A pertinent point raised one that pierces the heart. It’s got your lonely reviewer looking for his Dream Girl, rather a ‘dream friend’. I’m still optimistic what are you waiting for? but first, go chase Raaj Shaandilyaa’s Dream Girl.