Ayushman bhav. As our new superstar of meaningful cinema drives home his stardom by uttering his real name in a veiled fashion, you do tip your hat his way. For a long time now, you have been marvelling at Ayushmann Khurrana’s choice of scripts and his ability to meld with his unconventional portrayals. From sperm donor to the cocky blind-man to an upright police officer, he turns a new leaf once again.
Indeed, it is not the first time a hero is masquerading as a woman. With films like Chachi 420 and Mrs Doubtfire shining bright in the hall of cinema, Ayushmann is not creating history but is certainly in hallowed company.
What makes his gender bender a tad more interesting is that for most part it requires him only to modulate his voice. Doubling up as a call centre employee, Pooja, his job is simple yet complicated. Luring men over the phone with his/her sexy voice can only create commotion. The fracas that would soon follow is perhaps a foregone conclusion. Expectedly Karam’s Pooja act has men falling hook, line, and sinker.
The shayari spewing Vijay Raaz, seen in a fleshed-out cameo, is one of his many suitors. Annu Kapoor, his lonesome father, his would-be brother-in-law (Abhishek Banerjee of Stree fame), the Gujjar youth and a diehard feminist editor of a magazine; indeed it’s quite a crowd out here chasing him, aka Pooja. At many points, the film threatens to swallow more than it can chew. Much of the second half goes in Karam/Pooja trying to swim out of the messy waters, which, as things turn out, is more of a rough ride. But what sustains the narrative is its control over the humorous quotient, the way it blends in the mirth factor, keeping you amused most of the time. Sure it comes laced with a message too… about loneliness and the need to connect with another human being.
One of the heavy-duty dialogues goes —“Today everyone is busy taking a selfie, no one is interested in a family photo.” Then there is reference to #Metoo as well. But none of the obvious messaging (or, subtle subtext about gender stereotyping) gets the better of its comic tenor. First and foremost, a situational comedy, it is essentially light and light hearted. Dialogues sparkle with rare wit and hilarity. Manjot Singh, as the ever dependable friend Smiley, has some of the best. To sample a few, ‘Oh papa nu pyar kareeda hai, gumraah nahi’, he delivers his share of one-liners spot on.
In a film where the hero himself is the dream girl, the heroine will obviously not have much room to find her mooring, except provide romantic interest. Nevertheless, Nushrat Bharucha stands on firm footing. When she says ‘Iss Pooja se toh mujhe bhi pyaar ho gaya hai’, she warms up her way to your heart. As for the Dream Girl himself, well, Ayushmann does not get trapped into any of the formulaic men dressed up as women caricatures. He may say that the film gave him the scope to go over the top; his switchover to female voice is smooth, natural and almost seamless. Whatever may be your idea of a dream girl (fleetingly it refers to the original too), Ayushmann will make you fall for his enactment of this one.
While the film sails on his smoldering voice and singular performance, he finds equal support in fine actors like Vijay Raaj. The way the film is finally tied up might seem more convenient than convincing. But there is no doubting the beating heart of the film. Fun and frolic, it has entertainment written all over it.
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