In the Indian feature "Dostana," two straight men pretend to be a gay couple to live in a luxurious Miami apartment. When they realize their new roommate will be a gorgeous (straight) woman, the charade immediately becomes more complicated. The film projects a fairly benign, effectively neutral attitude toward gay life, but homosexuality remains officially illegal in India, making "Dostana" playfully rebellious if not exactly a grand social statement. Rather, the film mines the situation as a freewheeling comedy of manners with an appropriate touch of weepy melodrama and, this being Bollywood, songs, songs, songs in the darndest places.
The film is the first feature for director Tarun Mansukhani, working with the successful producer Karan Johar, and "Dostana" feels like the product of a fresh sensibility overseen by a sure hand. Just in case the three leads -- Abhishek Bachchan, John Abraham and Priyanka Chopra -- don't project enough eye-catching charisma for audiences (which they certainly do), superstar Shilpa Shetty appears during the musical number that runs under the opening credits.
At times, it seems as if Mansukhani is using the Miami locale to goof on the imagery of American directors like Brett Ratner and Michael Bay, and the film is invested with a cross-cultural media savvy. Besides one moment that riffs on the chest-waxing scene from "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," the film includes a lighthearted discussion of which characters from well-known Indian films might have been gay, and a romantic dance choreographed to match up with the hit movie "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai" playing in the background.
Running just shy of 2 1/2 hours, the film has too much of everything, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. By turns exuberant and goofy and mushy and yearning, "Dostana" plays like a super-sized pilot episode of "Three's Company: Miami" with crack tunes and jampacked with fun.
Olsen is a freelance writer.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times