Dilwale is full of the kind of car chases, shootouts, fight scenes and bad puns you would expect from a Rohit Shetty film. But from the abrupt introduction of Raj Randhir Bakshi (Shah Rukh Khan) at the start of the film, you realize there is a violent backstory that brings an additional layer of drama to the film.
Raj and his younger brother Veer (Varun Dhawan) own an upscale garage where they repair and sell expensive cars to rich clientele. When Veer falls in love with Ishita Dev Malik (Kriti Sanon) and seeks to marry her, Ishita's sister Meera (Kajol) forbids it. Veer and Ishita soon learn that Raj and Meera have a romantic past which went sour. Determined to find a way to be together, Veer and Ishita try to reunite Raj and Meera. Because of their shared history, this is more difficult than anyone anticipates.
In Dilwale, Rohit Shetty uses cars as if they are characters in the film. There are cars, cars, everywhere. From the local gangster's favorite car to Raj's unique ride to Meera's simple VW bug, director Rohit Shetty makes sure you notice the cars. Car chases and crashes are integral to the love story of Raj and Meera. Years later we find Raj repairing and reworking cars - perhaps a metaphor for repairing and reworking a broken heart.
There are several hand-to-hand fight sequences and shootouts which are sometimes so fast and furious that it is difficult to catch what just happened. Just like the car crashes, these altercations are important to the storyline and Shah Rukh Khan steps into these action sequences with ease.
Despite a seasoned supporting cast, much of the humor may generate a smile, but there are few memorable laugh-out-loud moments. Boman Irani and Johnny Lever share one of the truly funny scenes in the film as they sit around a suspect bonfire. The interactions between older brother Raj and younger brother Veer provide some amusement. Sanjay Mishra as Oscar is so quirky that you can't decide whether to laugh or groan. For those familiar with Bollywood films and Indian television, the scene featuring Raj's friends and henchmen (Mukesh Tiwari and Pankaj Tripathi) incorrectly describing the romantic history of Raj and Meera is hilarious; however, for those new to Bollywood, much of the humor of this scene is definitely lost.
Some of the scenes have a "been there, done that" feel to them as they seem to be inspired by scenes from Love Actually, How I Met Your Mother and Mission Impossible 2.
Varun Dhawan is great as the younger brother Veer who adores and respects his elder brother Raj. Veer is naive yet often full of piss and vinegar which sometimes causes problems for his brother. Kriti Sanon's Ishita is somewhat naive as well, but is willing to question authority and stand strong against injustice.
While Varun Dhawan and Kriti Sanon do a decent job with their characters, it is the performances of Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol that steal the show. When they are on screen the whole tone of the film changes. Their musical numbers are as romantic as you would expect for this jodi. Their on-screen chemistry remains strong, so when betrayal spoils their love story it is particularly heart-breaking.
Kajol returns to the screen with all the glamour and confidence you would expect from a star of her caliber. But this time she is also cold and calculating ... and dangerous.
Shah Rukh Khan's character is just as dangerous and very complex. The actor nails this character complexity in one scene in particular. When Raj learns of the identity of those responsible for a violent attack on his brother Veer, he stares at the floor. His demeanor quietly changes as his features noticeably darken and harden. In a few short moments, Shah Rukh Khan transforms Raj from the caring older brother into Kaali, the aggressor. It is a subtle shift, but a powerful one.
It is performances like this that explain why, despite releasing the same day as Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Bajirao Mastani, Dilwale had a packed house in our theater on the outskirts of Washington, DC.
See Dilwale for the action. See Dilwale for the romance. But above all, see Dilwale for Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol.
The following video playlist features the Dilwale trailer and making of videos.
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