Comedies rely heavily on two main pillars — characters and situations. In Dream Girl, the former is what drives the film and generates laughter, while the latter meanders, often in a vapid terrain of mediocrity. The novelty of the film lies in the situation (a man imitating a woman’s voice at a call centre for ‘dirty talk’), which starts off funny but eventually becomes stale and monotonous. Although the film’s aesthetics — with close-ups, garish colours (piercingly pink walls and lips) and establishing opening shots and unbearably loud background tracks — make Dream Girl more suitable for television than cinema. As the film carries on, the way the characters are built and the narrative shapes up, makes me further convinced that this film was fashioned out of an abandoned (if not rejected) television script.

In alignment with Ayushmann Khurrana’s repertoire of acting in social satires, which deal with various taboos like infertility (Vicky Donor), body positivity (Dum Laga Ke Haisha), older couples having a baby (Badhaai Ho), Raaj Shaandilyaa’s Dream Girl attempts to showcase how loneliness is crippling our lives, despite an illusion of solidarity generated by social media validation. Barring a seemingly mandatory monologue in this ‘sub-genre’ (which literally takes place on a stage), the film picks silliness and humour over didacticism, and delivers some witty one-liners and descriptors like ‘gareebo ke Abhishek Bachchan’. The film’s strength lies in its dialogues written by Shaandiliyaa, and the humour sporadically is enjoyable but beyond a point, you wonder, ‘what next?’ as the film keeps going on aimlessly. After a while, the jokes appear to be cut from the same cloth of insults, disparaging tone and manufactured confusion.

Dream Girl

  • Director: Raaj Shaandilyaa
  • Cast: Ayushmann Khurrana, Nushrat Bharucha, Annu Kapoor, Manjot Singh, Vijay Raaz, Abhishek Banerjee, Raj Bhansali, Rajesh Sharma, Nidhi Bisht, Neela Mulherkar
  • Storyline: A jobless youth’s female impersonation gets him employed at a call centre for ‘dirty talk’

In this long-winding film, Khurrana’s lack of self-consciousness and machismo while imitating a woman is commendable. Even in drag (as Sita or Radha), Khurrana doesn’t elicit cringe. Annu Kapoor, who plays his father, chastises him for making money out of his ‘talent’ to imitate the voice of a woman but the film keeps the discourse light-hearted, thankfully. Although Kapoor’s repartee with Khurrana isn’t as sharp as it was in Vicky Donor, largely due to Kapoor’s caricaturish character, their personas individually do generate laughter. Vijay Raaz as a hapless constable in love with Khurrana’s voice, Manjot Singh as Smiley, the loafer best friend, and Raj Bhansali as Toto, the short Haryanvi brat, stand out among the characters surrounding Khuranna.

But when it comes to the women, we deserve better humour than Nidhi Bisht’s embittered man-hater-turned-lesbian character (who apparently fell for a woman after being jilted by three male lovers) and Nushrat Bharucha, who plays Khurrana’s inconsequential fiancé. Among other women, the film cuts to an oversized woman at the call centre a few times and plays a mocking track in the background, in the guise of comedy. We are approaching 2020 soon, I’m sure we can do better than fat-shame.

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