Word on the street was that Do Aur Do Paanch (2 + 2 = 5) was not so spectacular. Apparently despite having a title that Radiohead and George Orwell would be proud of, it just did not have panache. No chutzpah. No je ne sais quoi.
Well, PPCC readership, the PPCC must disagree with the word on the street, because we just loved it! Maybe it was presentation. Our copy of Do Aur Do Paanch has no DVD menu, no censor board blurb, nothing. Instead, as soon as you press play, it unceremoniously BLASTS out with the psychadelic, Pink Panther-inspired cartoon opening, and away we go! Things become more and more surreal as the movie progresses, until, as others have commented, the end just clatters up like a broken-down machine. But the first half is delightfully entertaining; it's comedy in the same self-aware, absurdist vein as Namak Halaal, except we liked Do Aur Do Paanch more (we spent much of Namak Halaal going, "Wait, what?" and it was only with several viewings that we could relax into the surreal). It made us all tickly and giggly.
Much of the humor, fortunately or unfortunately, is self-referential. For example, consider Shashi Kapoor's character assuming a very Shashi Kapoor-like role of the Handsome Romantic Lead With a Tragic Past. The fact that he is faking it, and that he is teasing an archetype that he largely defined in the 1970s, makes his scenes with Hema Malini wonderfully satirical for those in the know, and just standard funny for those not. For this reason, we might not suggest Do Aur Do Paanch as an initiation masala film for the virginal Bollywood viewer. It's probably more enjoyable for the seasoned veteran.
Our beloved Om Prakash makes a brief appearance.
Shashi, teasing the earlier roles he played with Hema Malini.
The plot: two criminals (Amitabh Bachchan and Shashi Kapoor) are always in and out of jail, and always in each other's way. They hate each other, and yet they always end up together as they go for the same bait. One day, they discover a plot to kidnap a rich man's (Shreeram Lagoo) young son, Bittu (MASTER BITTU, OF ALL PEOPLE*). The ransom, rumor has it, is like a billion kajillion rupees, because said rich man is very rich and loves his son very much. He loves little Bittu so much that he sends him to boarding school, in the hope that he will be safe there. Amitabh and Shashi naturally get wind of this news and both arrive at the school in the guise of new teachers: the lanky Amitabh as Ram the Gym Teacher, and the delicate Shashi as Lakshman the Music Teacher.
Clearly the fact that they have picked the names Ram and Lakshman is no coincidence, and their upcoming switch from enemies to brothers-in-arms is now inevitable for anyone familiar with the Ramayana. Indeed, while they spend a lot of time falling over each other in their desperate attempts to get Bittu, and while they both catch the eye of a beautiful lady (Parveen Babi for Ram, and Hema Malini for Lakshman), eventually they uncover an even more sinister plot to kidnap Bittu and decide to:
1. Unite forces.
2. But first get wasted and have an emotionally candid confessional.
3. Get dumped by the girls.
4. But then ask for their help.
5. And finally save Bittu.
The PPCC's favorite scene, where Amitabh and Shashi get drunk and become friends.
Note the Bruce Lee posters on Amitabh's wall. Note also Amitabh's sweaty, teary "drunk face". The PPCC doesn't like Amitabh's "drunk face".
Not that Shashi's is any more flattering.
This is all no surprise. A masala criminal is not evil at heart. If anything, he is misguided. Emotionally immature, perhaps a little selfish. But never beyond redemption! (Examples abound, but PPCC favorites including Vinod Khanna in Chor Sipahee, Amitabh in Kasme Vaade, or Amitabh and Shashi in Immaan Dharam.)
The joy of Do Aur Do Paanch comes from the sparring between Amitabh and Shashi. The film constantly contrasts and compares them; at times, they are identical (how they are dumped), at times, quite different (Amitabh macho, Shashi fey). As die-hard fans of Amitabh and Shashi, we obviously cannot get enough of this. Their chemistry is just wonderful.
And they play funny tricks on each other...
Like force-feeding. Amitabh grois.
Unfortunately, the joy of Do Aur Do Paanch is only that. So if, by some severe head injury, you do not like seeing Amitabh and Shashi together or separately, the film will feel indulgent and flat. If you also enjoy seeing strong female characters, this film is not for you. Hema and Parveen - two wonderfully cheeky, charismatic superstars in their own right - are relegated to the most menial of supporting roles. They serve as merely decoration, and even then, decoration that you rarely see. Everyone else is marginal or forgettable, with the possible exception of Kader Khan (who is always a joy). Also - and other reviews have noted this - after Ram and Lakshman unite (as expected), and after a wonderfully evocative and masala-style humanistic scene of friendship and vulnerability (Amitabh was scared of Shashi! Who knew!), things just degenerate into bizarre tragicomedy. It's almost as if the directors, foreseeing the success of Ram and Lakshman's quasi-serious confessional scene, decided to try and push the drama a bit further by... poisoning all the children (?!). This, of course, works for no one, and it casts a weird, sinister, silly vibe over the proceedings.
Silly or sinister? (The only song the PPCC had to fast-forward through.)
Sinister of silly? Note Kader Khan's mod haircut.
Speaking of weird and sinister and silly (but in a good way), the music is fab! What with the creepy windchimes that accompany Kader Khan's every move (or motion, piece of dialogue, or reference), and the beautiful little number Shashi sings to win over Hema's heart, the PPCC was left wondering: why not more music? The first song comes after an hour. WTF? We wanted more! And sooner! Also, the cinematography was amazing, especially in the kinetic, slapstick, surreal fight scenes between Amitabh and Shashi - and when the background music of handclaps of rhythmic breathing kicks in, who can't love this? It's like a modern art installation halfway during the movie!
The fights were like modern art.
With kickin' music.
And awesome camera angles.
All in all, the PPCC loved it, but only because it reaffirmed all that we love of Amitabh, Shashi, and masala movies. A better introduction to these three things can be found in the rollicking Suhaag (no, we still haven't reviewed it, and now we're almost too intimidated to do it!) or the more socially-aware and serious Kaala Patthar. Do Aur Do Paanch was just one of the last, wheezy huzzahs of that great decade of Bollywood, and the genre's decline shows in the moments of rickety, self-congratulatory tone and the slightly saggy leads. We love 'em, but we loved 'em before this.
* Master Bittu is one of the few Hindi movie child actors that the PPCC intensely dislikes. For a long while, we were unsure of his gender, as our first introduction to Master Bittu was as young Pinky, the daughter, in the dismal Mukti. Admittedly, Mukti forgave no one, and no one emerged unscathed from it - even our beloved Shashi. Bombay producers apparently saw something in little Bittu despite Mukti, or maybe he was just someone's son, but he went on to torment us in Fakira, Chori Mera Kaam, and now this. Oddly, we kind of liked him in this. Perhaps he was outgrowing his awfulness.