Bollywood delivers the Desi Boyz
It may have been dubbed the Hindi version of The Full Monty, but Desi Boyz isn't just about comedy, its lead actor Akshay Kumar has said.
"It has a storyline, it has a lot of drama ... and there are subtle kinds of comedy, but it actually has a lot of depth and has a lot of meaning to it," Kumar said on Tuesday, at a press conference in Dubai to announce the release of the film across the UAE today.
"The comedy is just one side of it," he said, refuting the comparison to the 1997 British film.
Co-starring Deepika Padukone, John Abraham and Chitrangada Singh, Desi Boyz follows the story of Nick Mathur (Abraham) and Jignesh "Jerry" Patel (Kumar), who find themselves down on their luck in the UK during the 2009 financial meltdown.
Just when they think they're sitting pretty on the situation, the rug is pulled out from under them when Nick is suddenly fired from his high-paid investment banking job and can't bail out Jerry anymore. Social services then inform Jerry that his nephew and ward Veer might be taken into care if he doesn't find a steady job. And so the two men are forced to find another way of making a living.
The outcome of their choice has repercussions and tests everything they have - including the strength of their friendship.
Padukone plays Nick's fiancée Radhika Awasthi, who lives in a dream world where a perfect boyfriend, perfect wedding and perfect honeymoon form her idea of romance. She doesn't understand Nick's relationship with Jerry and resents him for using her fiancé.
Tanya Mehra (Singh) has bloomed from the overweight girl at school to a successful economics teacher at Trinity College, Oxford. Singh plays Akshay's love interest in this, her first commercial film.
Shooting on location in London and Oxford was something the two leading ladies both appreciated. Having shot four films in London, Padukone admitted she wanted to show her fellow actors around the city.
"I had this chip on my shoulder when I was shooting with these guys because I was kind of saying 'you're with me, I've shot here [before] and I know which restaurants to go to!' I feel familiar with the city now," she said, adding that her favourite place in the capital was the American cake chain The Hummingbird Bakery.
Likewise, for Singh, shooting in Oxford brought excitement for a different reason.
"Of course we were in Oxford and we got the opportunity to shoot in the same dining hall as Harry Potter was shot … it was good to know you were in the same place," she said, during an interview with her co-star Kumar.
While Padukone and Singh are every bit as glamorous as the beautiful women they play, Abraham seems far removed from the rich investment banker character he plays.
He describes himself as a "simple man" who doesn't wear branded watches, clothes or accessories - a change from his previous time spent as a model.
"It's a way of life - I dress very simply and I don't carry too much baggage with me. I like to live my life as a simple man. I don't own too much. I just prefer this lifestyle," he said. "It's easier."
Having been shot in England, the film contains a certain amount of English in the dialogue. Hindi, however, was Kumar's preferred language during the press conference to announce the film's release in Dubai. His decision to speak it, even when addressed in English, was not a "publicity stunt", he said.
"It's my national language, so I will speak it," he said. His statement does not signal the end of his English-language acting career, however. The seasoned actor will appear in "anything and everything", he said.
Kumar's experience in the industry proved a support to Singh during filming.
"I was a bit anxious to work with him in the beginning because I'm in awe to star opposite this big star. But he's very supportive, he's very encouraging. He doesn't impose himself, but if you do want help, go and ask him and he's there to help you," she said.
"To star opposite him for my first commercial film is just fantastic. I just had a great time and it was lovely," she continued.
Despite Kumar's emphasis that Desi Boyz is not a comedy, Padukone described the film as a "romantic comedy" with a lot of comedy in the first half, but with "a lot of drama, a lot of emotion".
"At the end of the day, the idea is to entertain and I think as actors being a part of this film we've achieved to entertain the audience for those two hours. And I feel as though we've made a film to remember - that's a huge achievement," Padukone said.
Rohit Dhawan, at 27, makes his directorial debut with Desi Boyz, following in the footsteps of his father, comedy director David Dhawan. While he previously said the film was not vulgar or obscene, it has been given an "A" certificate (for adult) from the Central Board of Film Certification.
Despite its certification, Singh stressed the film's appeal to all. "I think it's a great family entertainer," she said.
Desi Boyz also stars Omi Vaidya (3 Idiots) and features veteran Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt in a cameo role.