Dono is both (dono!) traditional and modern!

Rajveer Deol and Paloma in Dono. Photo: Communique PR

He’s begun a Startup but it’s not doing well. Dev Saraf (Rajveer Deol) cannot even express his love for Alina (Kanikka Kapur), who has been his buddy since childhood as their respective families are friends. And now, Alina is marrying the cool and hot (!) dude Nikhil (Rohan Khurana), and so Dev finally decides to attend the destination wedding in Thailand to bring closure for himself.

Then we have Meghna (Paloma), who has ended her relationship with boyfriend-since-school, Gaurav (Aditya Nanda), a shade rakish and decidedly chauvinistic individual, who is close to his mommy (surprisingly, Dev is not). Meghna has broken off because he would hit out too much at her sense of self-respect, and has come to the wedding from Nikhil’s side, as they too are family friends. Of course, Gaurav too is present there as a friend of Nikhil.

Dev and Gappu (Manik Papneja) are best friends, while Vilas (Poojan Chhabra) is in charge of the wedding’s organization, and often goes wrong.

During the pre-wedding events and festivities, Dev and Meghna meet, and at one occasion, are even sent together to arrange for last-minute saafas (turbans) as Vilas has goofed up. Gradually, they get to know and like each other, but Dev realizes that Meghna is not only an open book, occasionally guilty about breaking off with Gaurav, but has still moved on. However, Dev has not outgrown Meghna and her natural platonic behavior with him during the events is sheer torture.

As the pre-wedding celebrations continue, there comes a dramatic turn when a kissing video of the couple, Nikhil and Alina, goes viral, and threatens to destroy the match because Nikhil’s father, Jagmohan (Sanjay Nath) is believed to be stern and conservative as he never smiles. Emotions take an unexpected turn for everyone, including Dev, Gaurav and Meghna as the wedding nears.

The film, coming from the Rajshri stable, which gave us the superb Uunchai last year, is both traditional (their staple) as well as modern. Newbie director and co-writer Avnish S. Barjatya practically goes on the Hum Aapke Hain Koun!… track of lavish weddings with families galore but with a rider: he questions some traditional mores, harps on gender equality (as with Rajshri’s Vivah as well), delves into startups and other ‘today’ things, allows kisses on screen (scandalous for Rajshri until this film!) and talks also of young, reckless love, in school and college, again something the traditionalist would frown at and rather push under the carpet.

A colleague at the press screening opined to me, “Rajshri has lost its traditional appeal.” Friend, I wanted to tell him, change is an axiomatic process, and as long as Rajshri is not overdoing the modern part by introducing undue erotica, grotesque violence, needless expletives or other ‘trendy’ sexual angles, it is fine. A banner that produced its first film 61 years ago cannot be stuck in a time warp, especially when the writer is a fourth-Gen Barjatya after the founder, Tarachand Barjatya!

Still, the issues I have with the film are three-fold, and each might affect its commercial prospects. One, the length is too long and the script itself should have been edited—and if not, at least the film. Two, the music is poor, but for the transiently catchy title-track. The lyrics (Irshad Kamil), which are good, thus miss the bus! I instantly recalled the musical excellence of their last film as song after song came and went!

The third and most vital part is that the film has little dramatic meat in the subject. It has no traditional narrative structure, as the dramatic crises and their resolutions are no great shakes. These aspects give a purposeless sheen to what is actually an endearing, sweet, feel-good and cultured narration of a rather unconventional love story with quite an atypical end.

To give the film its due, the script, dialogues and direction do not at all make us feel that a first-time director is at the helm: kudos to Avnish for showing this kind of talent akin to his father in the latter’s debut, Maine Pyar Kiya, way back in 1989. Technically, the background music (George Joseph), cinematography (Chirantan Das) are good, and the production design and costumes are superbly done, and for the mood of the film, bewitching colorful even if extravagant.

Great chemistry among the youngsters further elevate the film. Among the seniors, Sanjay Nath has the only nuanced role and is supremely effective. But the youngsters carry the story. Rohan Khurana as Nikhil essays a character that could have gone the gray way in the film and is very good. As Gappu, Manik Papneja is a case of perfect casting and performance. Aditya Nanda is excellent as Gaurav. And even Poojan Chhabra is impressive and more as Vilas.

Kanikka Kapur is fantastic as Alina. Her fluid eyes and body language make her performance memorable and very charming. Rajveer Deol makes a promising debut and shares a perfect on-screen chemistry with both Kannika and Paloma. Of course, he is bound to improve further with future work, but he is definitely at home playing a complex (and complexed!) young man. As his foil, Paloma is a revelation as Meghna. Hers is an uninhibited portrayal and though she is already very good, she too will become better in the times to come.

In short, Dono is worth a watch anyway for the youngsters and how another newbie young director has kept the classic Hindi film alive with contemporary shades. I seriously hope that the film does overcome its flaws as far as audience response is concerned and comes up trumps at the b-o.

Rating: ***1/2 (Almost)

Rajshri Productions & Jio Studios present Dono  Produced by: Kamal Kumar Barjatya, Ajit Kumar Barjatya & Jyoti Deshpande  Creative Producer: Sooraj R. Barjatya  Directed by: Avnish R. Barjatya  Written by: Avnish R. Barjatya & Manu Sharma  Music: Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy  Starring: Rajveer Deol , Paloma, Kanikka Kapur      , Rohan Khurana, Aditya Nanda, Manik Papneja, Sanjay Nath, Poojan Chhabra, Varun Buddhadev, Muskan Kalyani & others




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