In Rohit Dhawan's Dishoom, the opening credits roll to a rap song mouthed by two brawny protagonists who describe themselves as "simple" men disappointed in love who prefer home food to eating in five-star hotels.
With one disclaimer: these otherwise meek men turn violent if someone doesn't stand up while India's national anthem is playing, criticizes the country or harasses a woman.
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The song could be the anthem of every Hindi film hero. He's your average Joe - gawking at a woman's low-cut blouse, but threatening to beat up anyone who pesters a woman.
Varun Dhawan's character, a trainee police officer in a foreign land, sums up the hypocrisy when he says "I work for them, but I listen only to Modiji (India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi)".
That kind of doublespeak sits easily in Dishoom, a buddy-cop film about the kidnapping of an Indian cricketer in an unnamed desert state that is very obviously Dubai. When star batsman Viraj Sharma (Saqib Saleem) goes missing a day before a crucial tournament final, everyone from the cricket board chief to the country's foreign minister is rattled.
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Their best hope is to fly in Kabir, a police officer who is so incapable of emotion that he shoots at his two-timing girlfriend's lover rather than express any anger or sadness. Or maybe that's because Kabir is played by John Abraham, who flexes his bulging biceps to distract people from his lack of acting talent.
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Kabir enlists the help of Junaid (Varun Dhawan), a bumbling trainee. As they chase red herrings around the desert and find a comrade in addict-turned-pickpocket Meera (Jacqueline Fernandez), Dishoom unravels rapidly.
Director Dhawan cannot seem to hold on to his promising premise, and introduces more and more ridiculous plot elements as the film inches towards its climax.
There are badly executed CGI chases through the desert, a half-hearted romance between Meera and Kabir, while Akshaye Khanna features as an evil cricket match-fixer desperate to reverse his losses.
The only redeeming quality of this film is Varun Dhawan and his comic timing that lightens the mood and makes some lines funnier than they would have been otherwise.
The real stroke of genius though is Akshay Kumar's cameo as a gay socialite sporting a man-bun who lusts after our two heroes, forcing them to strip before sharing crucial information. If only the film had more of Kumar and his pout.
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