Raaj Shaandilyaa’s Dream Girl was a massive box-office hit as it featured a cisgendered heterosexual man working at a call center meant exclusively for “romantic” and “intimate” conversations by pretending to be a cisgendered woman. It tried to talk about loneliness caused by our overdependence on social media and urged the characters and the audience to invest in real-life relationships instead of fake ones. I’m not sure what people took from that advice, but I found it hard to digest because, ultimately, said advice was coming from a person who spent most of the movie’s runtime faking his identity. On top of that, he gaslighted everyone into thinking that he was a victim of circumstance and that everyone was wrong for being in love with an imaginary, fake, pretentious person. I didn’t have high hopes for Dream Girl 2, especially after seeing the promotional material, and the good thing about having no expectations is that nothing can disappoint you. There are no guarantees about being bored and exhausted out of your mind, though.
Raaj Shaandilyaa’s Dream Girl 2, which he has co-written with Naresh Kathooria, is a “spiritual sequel” to Dream Girl. I know Bollywood keeps using that term, but it’s just a lazy way of saying that the makers couldn’t come up with a way to continue the character arcs and narrative from the first film. So, they are depending on the success of that first project to make a completely different thing. Every time Bollywood says that it’s doing a sequel, there’s a good chance that it’s a reboot. Anyway, this time, Karam is a part of a religious dance troupe who wants to wed the daughter of a lawyer, Pari. But Pari’s father wants a wealthy son-in-law, and Karam and his father, Jagjit, don’t have a lot of money. So, when Karam’s friend, Smiley, advises him to dress up as a girl and dance at Saajan Tiwari’s bar, Karam agrees to do so and starts earning money. But then Smiley reveals that he wants to marry Sakina, and Sakina’s father, Abu Saleem, won’t let her marry Smiley until his son, Shahrukh, gets married. When Smiley tells Karam that he can get paid Rs. 50 lakhs to marry Shahrukh by pretending to be Pooja, he agrees to do that too, which leads to all kinds of “hilarious” complications.
I say “hilarious” because there’s nothing funny about the premise or the dialogue writing in Dream Girl 2. It genuinely seems like the lens through which Raaj Shaandilyaa and Naresh Kathooria view the world is The Kapil Sharma Show. Just imagine for a second that you don’t get your info about the world from newspapers, news channels, or social media. You don’t watch movies, TV shows, or short films. You don’t interact with human beings or any other living organism. You have one audiovisual device, and it only airs The Kapil Sharma Show. Celebrities appear there. Kapil Sharma and his team crack jokes. They sometimes refer to things with significant cultural or political impact. Several members of the cast partake in cross-dressing. Everyone laughs at even a hint of a joke. Just for safety, there’s a laughter track and sound effects to train your mind to cackle. And then you are told to write the script for a feature-length film while having access to The Kapil Sharma Show only; that film is Dream Girl 2. I kid you not when I say that there’s a joke in the film where Abu Saleem says that if the criteria for letting Sakina marry a person was their ability to make Sakina laugh, Kapil Sharma would’ve been the perfect candidate.
As mentioned before, Dream Girl tried to make a statement about loneliness. For Dream Girl 2, it doesn’t look like Raaj Shaandilyaa and Naresh Kathooria really have anything to say. They are busy coming up with “wacky” and “quirky” scenarios so that the whole concept of cross-dressing comes off as a joke. Despite not having a lot of knowledge on the subject, I know that cross-dressing isn’t something that should be trivialized, especially by a team of cis-gendered heterosexual men. I can take jokes from men who crossdress or go out in drag. But when the whole act is treated in a way that makes it seem that cross-dressing isn’t a part of their personality and that it’s just something that men can switch off when they need to be a cis-het man, it doesn’t sit well with me. Typing that sentence out pretty much underscores how problematic this film is, but I guess it’s more important to crack BTS jokes and make yet another Bollywood reference. On top of all that, the plot is so overstuffed! It almost feels like the writers are trying to overwhelm the audience with information and WhatsApp humor so that they don’t understand if the writing is good or bad. Well, if that works, I don’t know if the joke is on them or us.
Coming to the visuals, apart from the song-and-dance sequences, Dream Girl 2 looks so flat and busy at the same time. Here’s how. Everything from the costume design to the production design is full of patterns, colors, engravings, and embossed stuff. However, the lighting and the camerawork are so static that the overall presentation feels quite unappealing and boring. There’s no variety when it comes to conversation sequences, especially since they take up 99 percent of the film’s running time. Either it’s a series of shot-reverse-shots, or the actors are made to stand in a line and talk. There’s hardly any space for physical comedy or slapstick gags, and even when there is one, it’s so predictable that it becomes unceremonious and, hence, unfunny. The pacing is absolutely garbage. Despite being a nearly 2-hour-long film, it feels like you’re stuck in a time loop listening to the most juvenile jokes in existence while people who are easily titillated by such bottom-of-the-barrel comedy laugh their lungs out. I suppose that this is what we deserve when we don’t appreciate good comedies like Kathal, Monica O My Darling, AK vs. AK, Lootcase, and Govinda Naam Mera and relegate them to OTT-exclusive releases. I want to be hopeful that things will change, but as long as the keys to the comedy genre are in the hands of “artists” like Raaj Shaandilyaa, the situation is not going to improve.
Ayushmann Khurrana is known for films that are “different” and for taking up projects that a lot of mainstream stars won’t do. He has portrayed himself as a feminist and an ally of the LBGTQ+ community while highlighting less talked-about issues that men suffer from. But then, what is he doing in Dream Girl 2? His portrayal of a cis-het man pretending to be a cis-het woman is stereotypical. There is no substance to it. There is no depth to it. The whole oscillation between Karam and Pooja is a joke. At the end of the day, the whole process of cross-dressing is discarded so that Khurrana can awaken his inner Kartik Aaryan (who has grown out of his monologuing days) and mansplain how Karam is right and everyone else is dumb and wrong for doubting his intentions. I say this as a fan of his previous work: this whole thing is pathetic and sad. Paresh Rawal, Rajpal Yadav, Seema Pahwa, Anusha Mishra, and Abhishek Banerjee’s portrayals of the Muslim characters aren’t as caricaturish as they were in Dream Girl. However, as you can see, the casting of these actors gives the impression that there weren’t any Muslim actors in the industry who could’ve given these characters some depth with their lived experience. It had to be this crop of actors, right? Funny, very funny. Annu Kapoor and Manoj Joshi’s performances are plain bad. Vijay Raaz is poorly used. Manjot Singh is tolerable, and, surprisingly enough, Ananya Panday is the only one who is taking her job seriously. Ranjan Raj is just there. Good for him for bagging a role in a “big movie.”
If it’s not clear already, let me explicitly state that Dream Girl 2 is one of the worst movies of the year. Instead of wasting your time and money on this, please read up on cross-dressing, its rich history, the stigmas surrounding cross-dressing, and the Kottankulangara Festival (which is about cross-dressing). Seek out movies and documentaries that sensitively portray the world of cross-dressing. Dream Girl 2 has an extended joke about how public restrooms meant for women are susceptible to infiltration by cross-dressing men. How in the world do you expect me to recommend it when that is where the makers’ heads are? But, hey man, it’s your money, and it’s your time, and what you have just read is my opinion and my opinion only. If you want to form your own opinion, feel free to go to the theater and watch Dream Girl 2, and then share your thoughts with the rest of the world.