Here’s a gem of a movie that presents a disturbing myopic look into the current youth culture of India. Brutally captivating, the film, “Dil Dosti Etc” does not leave any stone unturned in its frank portrayal of friendship, overt sexuality, and power. Produced by Prakash Jha and directed by debutante Manish Tiwary, the movie is disturbing to watch at times, prompting the viewer to avert their eyes and ears. Granted, the themes that are dealt with in the movie (specifically regarding sex) are quite tame by Western standards; however, it’s the Indian context that adds to the “shock” value. Though older generations might scoff at the at times explicit screenplay, it’s important to realize that the film mirrors what is going on in college campuses all across India.
The movie’s cast includes Shreyas Talpade (“Iqbal”) Imaad Shah (Son of esteemed actor Naseerhudin Shah), Nikita Anand, and Smriti Mishra. So, you are probably wondering, how is the movie? Is it great? Unfortunately it is not. Is it disturbing? Yes, it is. Will it change your understanding of the modern world that Indian youth live in? Yes, it completely succeeds in doing that, and that final point is the main reason why you should watch this film.
The story crosses cultural bounds and focuses mainly on the two male leads. Shreyas Talpade (Sanjay) brings forth a gruff yet sensitive portrayal of a middle class man who will do anything to win the school elections. Imaad Shah channels his famous father (Naseerhudin Shah) in delivering the standout performance of the film as the high class Apurva, who comes from a broken family and lives for sex. He has never received any love from his parents, and so is desperately looking for love in all the wrong places, whether it is with a prostitute or a high school girl or his supposed best friend Sanjay’s girlfriend. Nikita Anand as Prerna portrays the rich girl, who gets romantically involved with Sanjay and clashes with his middle class values. Rounding out this young ensemble cast is Ishita Sharma as the “jail bait” high school girl who exudes a sexy innocence that captures the libido (if not the heart) of Imaad’s character Apurva.
Shreyas Talpade adds another notch to his belt by providing a memorable performance and proving that he is one of the leading actors in India. He’s not your usual chocolate-faced hero, and garners much respect from this critic for his ability to select roles that fall outside of the normal constraints of Bollywood cinema.
Nikita Anand and Ishita Sharma will probably not win any awards for their performances, as they really don’t leave any lasting impact. However, special mention must be made that it was refreshing to see these young actresses portray women who are not afraid to get what they want and are comfortable with their sexuality. This is something that is all but missing in the usual Bollywood fluttering eye “heroines” who are innocently portray lust through their eyes and giggles. These girls don’t have to gyrate in sexual dance positions, or dress in skimpy outfits to titillate the “heroes” of the film. Instead, their performances showcase how women have become more aggressively expressive in conveying their emotional and physical needs.
Manish Tiwary’s direction of the film is fairly straightforward. You won’t find any artistic backgrounds or wide-angle shots. There are no extensive uses of shadows and contrasts to produce any film noir feel. In fact, the film would be equally home on television or on the big screen. It’s not the fault of the director, but rather what the screenplay, which focuses more on the basic interpersonal relationships that we all deal with as we go through life, requires. The music is as offbeat as the movie, and is not used effectively within the framework of the story. This is not a “filmi” movie by any means, so anyone looking for an escape from reality should stay away. There are no definite answers or conclusions to the relationships within the film, just like in real life there are no easy answers. Fortunately, in this case reel life imitates real life and we are left at the end with many uneasy questions that we might be uncomfortable answering. The sexuality in the movie is not framed in any titillating manner, but rather in a straightforward way that is full of a nervous energy.
The characters in this movie will disturb you, will not act in the way you might think, actually have sex with people they shouldn’t have, and betray those who are closest to them. In short, the characters act like real people in the real world. It’s no wonder that this movie has done well with the college crowd, as it reflects what is really going on all over India. If you want a break from the usual song/dance routine and wish to open your eyes to an at times disturbing reality, then don’t miss “Dil, Dosti, Etc”.