Vipul Shah’s London Dreams released on October 30, 2009 was a trendsetter on several counts.It was the first Hindi movie since Rock On to be based on rock music. It brought Ajay Devgn and Salman Khan together again after Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Hum…Dil De Chuke Sanam. They both played musicians. The film also introduced Aditya Roy Kapur as a curly-haired Pakistani musician.
The film is about two friends Arjun(Devgn) and Manu(Salman) who from childhood share a common dream. They both wish to see Manu become a big singing star.Manu migrates to London with his sullen uncle, runs out of the airport…and becomes a rocker almost overnight! Small and very accommodating world.
The sequence where Arjun now grown into a punk-styled Ajay Devgn sings at Trafalgar Square and within 4 minutes acquires three band members could be a self-defining advertisement for opportunities for Asians in Briton. ‘Visa’ -vis artistic license.
The British soil never seemed more welcoming. Although Salman Khan playing the wild and warm Manu is allowed to make innumerable digs at the Indian revenge on their old colonizers, London seems to say namastey most warmly to all the characters in the film.How is the city to be blamed if the characters secrete a deep dark and negative side to their personality that bubbles to the surface in toxic fumes burning and destroying the music and harmony of the spheres?
Vipul Shah’s London Dreams aims for a more penetrating and profound look at the life of Asians in Briton than Namastey London. The characters here are far more complex and dark. But their presence is constantly challenged by the predictable and often banal narrative.
From the first few frames when we see the two friends in rural Punjab share Arjun’s international musical dreams, we know exactly the way this story is heading. And that includes the love triangle that grows in London among the intense self-flagellating Arjun, the carefree Manu and the happy-go-‘lanky’ girl next-door Priya(played by Asin).
One of the films truly heartwarming sequences shows Asin practising Bharat Natyam in front of her ultra-conservative Tamilian father. The dance steps transform into aritzy jig the minute pop ain’t looking. MTC, here she ‘combs’.Such moments are far too in-between in Vipul Shah’s sober-and-straight narrative. Even when Manu played at a range that goes from jaded to involved by Salman Khan, is being facetious he does it in a clocked and correct way. Spontaneity is at a low premium among these wannabe rock stars.
No matter what the length of the rock band-members’ hair no one is in a hurry here to let their hair down. They’d rather let each other down. The dramatic confrontations work when they’re done unselfconsciously. Some of them, like the confrontation between the two Pakistani brothers in a back -alley of London after the one tells the other about Arjun’s treachery and betrayal, is plainly mawkish.
Because the film forever has its pale heart in the right place the length (nearly 3 hours) is largely excusable. The meandering atonal music score by Shankar-Ehsan-Loy is not.
Why would stadiums filled with gora log be screaming at our rockers singing these listless songs? And what does the dream of the band London Dreams really mean?
Move on to the wider questions of jealousy, malevolence, insecurity and over- ambition….and the film delivers wispy wallops in a steady and honest tone. Though the music is plainly awful the background score by Salim-Suleiman fights a pitched battle against the mediocrity of the songs.