An Engaging Coming of Age Saga
By MovieTalkies.com, 28 September 2007
Debutant director Manish Tiwary's Dil Dosti Etc is a beautiful comment on the pangs of growing up. It is a coming of age movie, but a coming of age into a cynical world where there are more questions than answers and a feeling of regret almost, for things done, because all that is good and pure is lost.
The film is narrated through the consciousness and experiences of Apurv (Imaad Shah), a cynical 18-year old young man, who has just entered college. Set against the backdrop of Delhi University with its student politics and a typical hostel life, it follows Apurv's journey into manhood in the truest sense. Through Apurv, the director portrays the ambiguity of life as seen through the eyes of the protagonist. Juxtaposed against the aimlessness of Apurv is the story of Sanjay Mishra (Shreyas Talpade), a very ambitious young man, very active in student politics. The film is not just about these two characters but also deals with the larger questions of friendship, trust, love, sex and finally betrayal as seen through the life of these students. Such is the canvas of Tiwary's Dil Dosti Etc.
The director has got his characters down pat as also the hostel life with its ragging of juniors and the typical obsession with sex and love. Sanjay is a character who is so typical of the Delhi campus. Hailing from Bihar, politics is in his blood. Life is a serious business for the Sanjays of this world. But for the Apurvs, life is a mystery with too many questions and too many answers. He just lives. Obsessed with trying to find meaning in his existence, Apurv belongs to that class of upper middle class, who can perhaps afford to indulge in this pastime. He tries to find meaning in his relationship with a prostitute, played by Smriti Mishra. He spends his days sleeping and nights carousing. He plots and plans how to take Kintu, his school-going girlfriend to bed, but he needn't have as she is also quite typical of today's youth, adult before their time in matters of sex and love. It's all about having a good time and Apurv has plenty of them. Sanjay, on the other hand, has a tough time understanding the casual approach to sex and love that Apurv and his own girlfriend have. Everything here is for keeps.
Apurv and Sanjay quickly become friends, with not much in common. Apurv kind of secretly admires Sanjay because he has beliefs, however chauvinistic and parochial they may seen. Sanjay, on the other hand, takes him under his wing like a younger brother. The stage is set for the elections on the campus and with it begins the campaigning which often takes a violent note. Politics is politics, whether it is played on a college campus or on the national arena. Money and violence are all a part of it. Sanjay, strangely has no qualms about playing this game. There is absolutely no conflict here. But his ideals and traditional way of thinking come into conflict with his girlfriend's decision to take part in a beauty pagent. He has problems accepting the fact that she will take part in a bikini round. That is the point which marks the break between Sanjay's relations with his girlfriend, who finds more in common with Apurv. They do, after all, belong to the same class, with more or less the same kind of values.
Set against this is a silly wager that the two men engage in—Sanjay will win the elections and Apurv will manage to have sex with three women. Apurv actually takes the wager very seriously. He already has his prostitute lover and Kintu is all to eager to play the game. He needs a third girl to win his wager. Sanjay ultimately wins the elections and Apurv too finds the third girl to complete his part of the wager, but it all comes at a heavy price.
Tiwary manages to show two divergent views. There are two Indias here in his movie. One is the India that lives in the metros, pampered existences and the other is the small town mentality. Sanjay and Apurv are very typical of their mileu and are content to live there. Sadly, there is no meeting of the two. But with Sanjay's death, the director makes a powerful statement of the inevitable collapse of a certain way of life and thinking. Sanjay's death, is in a sense meaningless. It does not impart and lessons but just leaves behind more questions which continue to plague Apurv.
Tiwary's film is an absorbing encounter with Sanjay and Apurv. The unfortunate part is that the both are unable to co-exist together. The film has been written and directed by Tiwary himself, who reveals a mastery over his subject. The characters are sketched very life-like. His actors too have excelled in playing out their characters with great integrity and finesse. Talpade has already made a name for himself where acting is concerned. And he gives another fine performance as Sanjay Mishra from Bihar. Imaad Shah, who makes his debut here, shows that he has what it takes to be a good actor, besides his genes. He has a certain charm about him and he plays the passive rebel very well. The girls, Nikita Anand and Ishita Sharma too, fit into their roles with ease. Smriti Mishra makes a come back with this film, she delivers a nuanced performance as the hardened yet vulnerable prostitute.
The music complements the mood of the film and Dum Laga, should definitely do very well. It has a wonderfully rowdy feel to it, which is quite irresistible. The film has been shot well by Arvind K. The art direction too is quite commendable.
As a first film, Tiwary has proved that he has a story to tell and that he also has the ability to tell that story well. He seems to have lived his characters life for them. He carries you through the film with the easy flow of the narrative. Definitely a commendable first effort.