Dum Maaro Dum
Details: (MA15+), 130 mins, In Cinemas 20 April 2011, India,
Synopsis: Lorry is a student looking to join his girlfriend at a university in the US. However, when his scholarship gets rejected, he finds himself sucked into the Goa club scene, with its attendant organised crime and drug culture.
One can’t help but think that those with substantial interests in Goa, India’s smallest but wildly lucrative state, have allowed themselves to get a little too precious about Rohan Sippy’s Dum Maaro Dum, and its ability to generate controversy. A slew of pre-release court proceedings were brought against the production by such diverse entities as the Goa State Commission for Women, the original composer of the title song, and a residents action group fearful of damage to the resort’s ‘reputation’. With that kind of attention, audiences had every right to expect a film that warranted the outcry.
Unless it comes as a shocking revelation that the beachside party town to which hundreds of backpackers and nightclubbers gravitate is rife with drugs, there really isn’t much in Sippy’s vibrant melodrama to get anyone too riled up. In fact, for all of the tough violence and rave-party gyrations, the moralistic tone and redemptive message of Dum Maaro Dum makes it a decidedly old-fashioned potboiler.
The cautionary tale focuses on Lorry (Prateik Babbar), an upstanding young sportsman whose plans for a US college life with his girlfriend Tani (Anaitha Nair) fall apart after he fails to secure a scholarship. Desperate for the cash needed to make his dream a reality, Lorry is persuaded into acting as a major narcotics courier. His lapse in judgement leads him into the depths of juvenile prison hell when his concealment is detected by supercop Vishnu Kamath (Abhishek Bachchan).
Flashbacks reveal Kamath has his own drug-related demons but he has decided to return to the beat to stamp out the drug culture that is destroying Goa.
‘DJ’ Loki (Rana Daggubati), an upstanding musician friend of Lorry’s and boyfriend to the beautiful but corrupted Zoe (Bipasha Basu), achieves hero status at the midway point of the film, from ostensibly a supporting role. Zoe has risen to a position of power within the cartel overseen by Lorsa Biscuta (Aditya Pancholi) and may be able to provide Kamath with the information to bring about the downfall of the mythical druglord, ‘Michael Lambossa’.
Sippy and screenwriters Shridhar Raghavan and Purva Naresh effectively portray the multi-faceted society that drives the pulsating centre of Goa: the hard-working family life that has instilled Lorry with strength of character (his sudden fall-from-grace is a little hard to believe); the multi-national face of the rave crowds, who indulge ambivalently in drug-fuelled hedonism (Scots, Russians, Brits, Germans and French partygoers are all duly tarnished, though Aussies are mostly absent); the self-serving interests of the local political elite; and the grubbiness that the ‘footsoldiers’, Goa’s police force, must confront every day. The Rashomon-like narrative style, coupled with the multi-tiered view of the impact of drugs a la Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic (2000), makes for satisfying cinema.
Post-intermission, the genre cliches kick in and the handsomely-mounted Dum Maaro Dum becomes a far more conventional ‘cops’n’drug-runners’ actioner. Some of the set-ups are particularly skilful (a single-shot raid on a drug den and a hit-gone-wrong staged in Goa’s iconic night-market are standouts), but Sippy crams a lot of story strands into his final hour. While it zips along, the fading focus on the characters’ personal lives denies the film any meaningful resonance.
The musical numbers are not integrated into the story as seamlessly as audiences have come to expect; Bachchan’s gun-toting rap set amidst a series of police raids just doesn’t work. Conversely, starlet Deepika Padukone’s woodland-rave rendition of Dev Anand’s hippy anthem ‘Dum Maro Dum’ from his film Haré Raama Haré Krishna (1971) is perhaps too effective – it looks like such an event would be a blast!
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