Hindi hip-hop and a six-sided love triangle won’t turn “Do Knot Disturb” into Bollywood’s oh-so-elusive Holy Grail — the musical/hysterical hit by which the world’s biggest film industry finally conquers one of the world’s biggest markets. That said, vet helmer David Dhawan’s big-budget sitcom is a major, slumdogging step in the right direction, with nosebleed-inducing production values, infectious musical sequences and some astoundingly beautiful actors. Bollywood fans will flock, but word of mouth could be strong among all demos.
To call “Do Knot Disturb” uneven is to misunderstand how Bollywood works: Jokes are prolonged, sequences are stretched to the point of snapping, and verisimilitude is a vice. What may help the film woo a reluctant American aud are the characters, who are far better defined than in most Hindi exports.
Raj (Govinda, a Dhawan fave) is the CEO of a major Indian corporation but would probably feel a bit more empowered if his wife, Kiran (Sushmita Sen), weren’t the company’s owner. Despite his domestic oppression, Raj doesn’t earn much sympathy from the viewer, given the way he treats his employees or conducts his extramarital affair with gorgeous pop star Dolly (Lara Dutta), who’s a bit of a hard case herself, but probably no match for Kiran. Despite Raj’s protestations to the contrary, Kiran knows something’s afoot, and her attempts to nail Raj to the wall provide much of the comedic content, especially in the movie’s early moments, which accumulate principal characters the way a rowboat attracts barnacles.
When a compromising picture of Dolly and Raj makes its way to Kiran, Raj has to scramble. He enlists Govardhan (Riteish Deshmukh), an innocent passerby who happened to be in the picture, to pose as Dolly’s boyfriend in an elaborate and ultimately ill-fated ruse that involves chaste cohabitation, ridiculous situations and a private detective (Ranvir Shorey) hired by Kiran. The setup allows Govardhan to wheedle money out of Raj to get his mother the medical care she needs, but it also incurs the wrath of Deisel (Sohail Khan), Dolly’s ill-tempered ex, who has already proved himself a loose cannon after invading one of Dolly’s video shoots and wreaking havoc.
The video shoot reps a dose of well-crafted effervescence, but it also illustrates Dhawan’s desire to push the envelope: One would need micro-tweezers to separate the Bollywood aesthetic from the MTV musicvideo aesthetic, so to have a musicvideo shoot within a Bollywood movie is, on one hand, nothing at all; on the other, it’s a trip into cognitive dissonance. What’s so strange about people incongruously singing and dancing in a number that hopscotches from Mumbai to Delhi to Dubai to Abu Dhabi? Nothing, except that one no longer knows which hallucination is which. Reality has taken a left turn to Goa.
Viewers will have to take a major leap of faith to believe Raj is cheating on Kiran (Sen was Miss Universe 1994) to date Dolly (Dutta was Miss Universe 2000). But this is a fantasy, one supposes, in which a tsunami of derivative conceits (adultery, amnesia, “Weekend at Bernie’s”) all get into the mix. But the comedic talents of both Dutta and Sen are beyond question, elevating the movie just when it’s bogging down in baggy-pants inanity. (Because of the plotline, Sen has to play older and heavier than Dutta; as if to re-establish her babe cred, a slenderized Sen leads the dance number at the film’s finale.)
Nadeem Shravan’s music, when incorporated into the dancing, is fine, but the lyrics by Sameer are beyond banal (at least in the faulty subtitles on the print caught). Overall, “Do Knot Disturb” is thoroughly entertaining and another chip out of the wall of Western resistance.