The funniest moment in the sporadically amusing "De Taali" is when all torture fails to intimidate a kidnapped Riimi Sen. Then Riteish Deshmukh fishes out a copy of "Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag" and she screams in agony.
That’s pretty much the best in-house joke I’ve seen in a Hindi comedy. E. Niwas not only assisted Varma, he also made a semi-sparkling comedy "Love Ke Liye Kuch Bhi Karega" for Varma before branching out.
Contrary to the promotional campaign, "De Taali" is not a boys-will-have-fun kind of raunchy comedy we had expected. Yes, there are two boys – Aftab Shivdasani and Riteish -both in spirited form as friends, one rich and the other an unselfconscious parasite. They remind you of Amitabh Bachchan and Rajesh Khanna in "Namak Haraam".
Rest assured, De Taali doesn’t aspire to be a serious study of spaces that separate capitalism from serious exploitation.
So relax. Put your feet up in the empty chair in front and let that popcorn do all the talking. Here’s a film that goes from goofy definitions of asexual bonding to purely corny sexual bonding.
The tree-house bonding among Aftab, Riteish and Ayesha Takiya (in ever-sprakling form and showing terrific timing in both the light and serious moments) is punctuated by spasms of satire on bonding among a trio that seems to have borrowed its primary rules of friendship from Karan Johar’s "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai" and then turned it on its head.
Somehow the bondings never get deeper than the shallow and skittish. The dialogues are deliberately casual and trendy. The first-half delivers some tangy tendrils of narration that never quite grow into trees of titters.
The second half, where Riteish and Ayesha kidnap the gold digger who wants to marry their naively sentimental rich friend, gets out of hand and finally runs out of breath. Niwas’s penchant for black humour gets the better of the plot. By the time poor goofy Aftab realises he loves the girl on the tree-top we’re well past the stage of caring.
The sequence where Riteish visits Riimi’s monstrously malfunctional family is so over-the-top you wonder which came first – the family or its psychosis. The jokes on Alcoholics Anonymous are hopelessly inadequate and better left alone.
The talented Pavan Malhotra, who was powerfully perched in Niwas’ "My Name Is Anthony Gonsalves", makes a cameo appearance as a lecherous tutor who gives Riimi lessons on the dining table while she licks an ice cream with suggestive languor – a bit of Amitabh Bachchan’s "Bemisaal".
The Big B pops up ubiquitously throughout the narrative, which includes a fancy-dress party where everyone dresses up as a character from a Bachchan film. And Aftab’s character is even named Abhishek. Cute.
You could enjoy the spurts of wit that keep cropping up here and there. Soon it becomes hard to keep up with the improvisations and innovations in the script. The quartet of principal actors keeps the comedy afloat. Riteish is in specially good form, displaying a razor-sharp comic timing in a crowd of faces.
Yup, this guy has got the ‘it’ factor. The film misses the bus by a wide margin. But nevertheless makes us smile a while.