Dolly ki Doli review: The film is fun but pretty Sonam Kapoor is plastic as usual
True to the spirit of Bollywood, Dolly ki Doli doesn't make much logical sense, but it's a fun plot.
Rajkummar Rao is a serious actor. Since his debut in Dibakar Banerjee's Love Sex Aur Dhokha (2010), Rao has shown he can pull our heartstrings, be the boy next door and convince us he's everything from callous to charming, depending on what the script and the director demand from the actor. It turns out that this is not the extent of his talents. Rao can also match Malaika Arora Khan jhatka for jhatka. In fact, he's a better dancer than Sonam Kapoor. When he leaps into the choreography of "Fashion Khatam Mujhpe" in Dolly ki Doli, you might just find yourself ignoring Khan and being riveted by how Rao busts the item-number moves.
That song isn't the only instance when Rao steals the show in Abhishek Dogra's Dolly ki Doli. As Sonu Sherawat, a sugarcane farmer from Sonepat whose heart is broken by his runaway con-artist bride, Rao is both hilarious and lovable. He's got the Haryanvi accent down pat as well as the swagger. Although he's just one of three men that Dolly (Sonam Kapoor) has dancing to her tunes, Rao's Sonu is the one who stands out.
The film begins with Sonu and Dolly's love story. She bats her eyelashes, he shows up at her house to ask for her hand in marriage and after a few googlies, Dolly weds Sonu. By the time Sonu wakes up on his first day as a married man, Dolly has cleaned out his family home of all their valuables and vanished. Little does Sonu know that he's joined a long list of men who have fallen prey to the woman whose exploits are recorded in a police file labelled "lootera dulhan" [the bandit bride].
True to the spirit of Bollywood, Dolly ki Doli doesn't make much logical sense, but it's a fun plot. A young woman and her family of choice traipse around north India, gleefully fleecing nitwits. Her entourage includes a pandit, who helpfully picks convenient wedding dates, and a photographer who makes sure Dolly is not in any wedding photos. There's also a fake mother, father, brother and a grandmother who is the the desi version of Groot. What is true about this collection of criminal oddballs is that they're a team and they love each other.
This gang's con is simple: scope out new targets, take on different identities and run off with everything in the groom's home on the wedding night. This means cash, jewellery, the gold chain on a father in-law's neck and one mothpler in-law's underwear collection. As Bollywood heroines go, Dolly is a refreshing contrast to the paragons of virtue that we usually see. She loves conning people and takes great pride in these unsavoury skills. Never mind minor details like marriages involving legal documents and leaving a paper trail, the impossibility of no one having taken a photograph of Dolly, and the sheer ridiculousness of everyone cheerfully glugging drugged milk just because it's being served to them by a beaming Sonam Kapoor. How is not a single person lactose intolerant? Is north India as the setting justification enough for everyone, without exception, liking milk?
Largely because of the supporting cast that has actors like Rao, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub, Rajesh Sharma, Archana Puran Singh and Varun Sharma, Dolly ki Doli is enjoyable enough in parts. Unfortunately, it has two critical flaws. One is the script. Much like Bobby Jasoos, which had great characters and not much else, Dolly ki Doli's plot is barely there even though the scenes are filled with delightful elements. Weakening the plot further is the way the script rushes through important details, like Dolly's first love story and the film's end. Still, there are some lovely dialogues and in the hands of good actors, the script's flaws could have been camouflaged. Unfortunately, the bulk of Dolly ki Doli depends on Kapoor and Pulkit Samrat. That Dogra thought he could convince audiences these two can act is the most audacious con and one that is resoundingly unsuccessful.
Yet again, Kapoor has chosen a delightful, spirited character for herself. However, when she has to do things like say dialogue and arrange her beautiful face into expressions, the effect is about as natural as a plastic cuckoo in a cuckoo clock. This is a shame because Kapoor looks gorgeous in the film and it's easy to believe anyone would fall for that dazzling smile, so on paper, she's well-cast as Dolly. Fortunately for Kapoor, there's someone worse than her in the acting department: Pulkit Samrat, who plays Inspector Robin Singh, the Dabanng-inspired cop chasing Dolly. Samrat's face is pretty enough, but has no expression and he does a godawful Haryanvi accent that's all the more jarring because Rao's is pitch perfect. Finally, there's more chemistry in a sterilised glass of still water than between Dolly and Robin Singh, which is why the end — hasty and half-baked as it may be — is such a relief.
In an ideal world, Ayub, who plays Dolly's fake brother Raju, and Rao would have the key roles in this film. Had Dolly ki Doli cast Rao as Robin and paid attention to Ayub's character instead of abandoning Raju's story along the way, Dogra's film could have been great fun. Unfortunately, since neither actor has movie star looks, they have to be relegated to supporting cast. Considering that Dolly ki Doli is a film about how there's more to life than keeping up appearances, this is particularly ironic. Left to the pretty faces, a film that could have been a charming caper ends up to be a simple disappointment.
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