When Chota Don (played by Rajpal Yadav) says “Kisne kiya hain ungli. Kaun hain humare beech main Sourav Ganguly” (Who has betrayed us? Which among us is Sourav Ganguly) in “Partner” there was a moment when I thought, looking at the semantic association between Ganguly and “traitor”, that the staffers at a certain cricket-themed “info” website had collaborated in the script of David Dhawan’s latest flick.
Not that any help was needed because Dhawan is firmly in control in “Partner”. Reunited with long-lost muse Govinda, he belts out his best work in recent times—-a throwback to his salad days in the 90s but still quite a bit short of the sublime genius of “Haseena Maan Jayegi” or the genre-defining “Raja Babu”.
When analyzing the phenomenon of Dhawanism, it is futile to take into account plot originality, logic and character development just as it is useless to consider Shilpa Shetty’s intellect or Laloo Yadav’s honesty when it comes to judging their place in history. And that is because the greatness of Dhawan’s creations can be measured only by the craziness you can remember, long after you have forgotten the movie name.
So for me, Govinda’s multicoloured dresses , buxom women in white saris shaking their posteriors, Anupam Kher in a Hitler moustache yelling Aoooyaaaaa as he is wracked by lust, Shakti Kapoor (picture of Shakti Kapoor to the left looking like a cross between Hitler, Gandhi and Mother Teresa) saying “Lajababu tho gya” while manipulating his chaddi, Govinda in drag essaying the role of the legendary Bruce Lee ki behen Choos Lee, an introduction on the lines of “Yeh aap ke honewale pati ke ho chuke bacchein hain” to a bride-to-be represent the pinnacles of Dhawanism, as these unconnected disparate fragments of shadows and light culled from multiple celluloid creations have, just like the two lizards I once saw fornicating on the wall, burnt their images into my mind, allowing me to, in moments of sadness, to reflect and have a quiet chuckle to myself.
This is precisely where “Partner” loses out because despite snappy dialogues, Govinda’s “give-it-all” performance complete with baby-stepping and the classic dance moves executed with a pristine smoothness that belies his sperm-whale-washed-ashore look, there will not be any moments from “Partner” that will join the primordial soup of eternal Dhawan memories, at least for me.
The reason for that is perhaps that David Dhawan’s style of movie-making has changed dramatically over the years. Not all the change is for the bad of course—the misogynistic, polygamy-endorsing chauvinism of “Gharwaali Baharwali” has been replaced by a sensitivity towards single mothers in “Partner” (a change I presume dictated by the political correctness of the target demographic more than anything else). In the process of sanitization however, Dhawan sadly KaranJoharizes himself—displaying a proclivity for spectacular foreign locales, songs with an “international feel” (Spanish, reggae, hiphop) and over- mature kids who need a tight slap or two, along with a corresponding abnegation of the classic (often crass) signature double entrendes and the subaltern environs where “Ram Narayan baja bajata” while doing “thumkas” and people for whom “mehenat mera jeewan” used to breathe. In the process, David Dhawan abandons the milleau he is most comfortable in and blunted the “crass” edge demented people like me so adored.
So when one of the character says “Main Laila laila karke maila thaila leke ghum raha hoon” in “Partner”, I could not help but think how David Dhawan in the 90s would have possibly made this into “Main Laila laila karke maila ho raha hoon” or something on those lines.
As a concomitant of this new approach, Dhawan jettisons the side characters and bit players that made his creations memorable—the Shakti Kapoors, the Kader Khans, the Aruna Iranis, the Anupam Khers and the Johnny Levers who were as much a part of the Dhawan kaleidoscope of madness as Govinda himself have made way to the anatomically correct and suitably plastic Deepsikha. What a let-down. And lest I forget, the “Maria Maria” type songs, introduced to make David Dhawan “upmarket”, are an insult to the glorious traditions of “Teri naani maari to main kya karoon” , “Kiya pompom ka ishara mujhe badnaam kiya na” and “Baare kam ka bandar, naache to Jitender”which, no matter what you think of their lyrical qualities, are memorable, unlike the Partner title track.
Of course David Dhawan is aware of this change. In what I felt was the best scene of the whole movie, the Govinda character is seen dancing, flaying his arms and legs rustically, to the tune of “Sarkailo Khatiya”(changed to “Sarkailo Takiya”) when his love guru Salman Khan tells him that all this is now passe and unleashes the minimalist dance moves of “Chill Chill just chill” to show how “cool” is defined today, getting into an argument with Govinda on the difference between vulgarity and style.
Maybe I could be over-interpreting it, but this was in a way David Dhawan’s “explanation” to his fans for his metamorphosis.
We shall always have “Nandu sab ka bandu” and the “Oui amma oui amma kya karta hain”-s.