May 31, 2013
Deepika Padukone, Ranbir Kapoor, Kalki Koechlin, Aditya Roy Kapur, Evelyn Sharma, Farooq Shaikh, Kunaal Roy Kapur, Tanve Azmi, Dolly Ahluwalia, Poorna Jagannathan, Guest star: Rana Daggubati
If you go by writer-director Ayan Mukerji’s two-film-old filmography, he has two pre-occupations: the parents-son relationship and the confusions of youth. Despite the commonalities between his first film Wake Up Sid and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, despite occasional reminders too of bits and pieces of other recent romances, he manages to usher in enough of a difference in YJHD to keep it entertaining and moving. The difference however is not enough to give it an entirely fresh feel or elevate it from “enjoyable” to “excellent”.
YJHD takes us through an eight-year journey in the friendship between Kabir a.k.a. Bunny (Ranbir Kapoor), Naina (Deepika Padukone), Aditi (Kalki Koechlin) and Avi (Aditya Roy Kapur), beginning with a trekking trip they take in Manali as college students. Wake Up Sid’s hero was a layabout who was yet to find his goals at the start of the film, but Bunny is pretty clear about what he wants from life though why he wants what he wants is unclear: as he tells Naina, “main udna chahta hoon, daudna chahta hoon, girna chahta hoon, par rukna nahin chahta.” As in Sid, this heroine too has absolute clarity of thought about her professional goals and personal feelings, and the hero has a troubled relationship with his parents.
Wake Up Sid had a completely original voice and a stronger screenplay though. For instance, we understood why Sid didn’t get along with his parents. In YJHD, it’s understandable that Bunny doesn’t want to spend time with the father he loves (how many youngsters have lived to regret their youthful impatience towards a dear parent!) but his extreme antagonism towards his fond stepmother is inexplicable. YJHD is also confused in its attitude to women. Bunny has a lovely, uncommonly easy relationship with Aditi but his behaviour towards the empty-headed hottie in the trekking troupe - leering at her, mocking her silliness and feeling her up - is decidedly disturbing… It’s not my contention that lecherous men or vapid women don’t exist, but that the film laughs off Bunny’s discomfiting antics in the manner that Bollywood would pass off stalking as courtship until the 1990s. When he’s alone with Naina, I can see why she’d fall for him; when she witnesses his behaviour on that trekking trip though, it’s harder to understand her feelings.
Mukerji also seems to want to drive home the point that sexual harassment lies in the imagination of most women. No doubt there are occasions when women misunderstand male behaviour, but if there are two such instances in a single film it’s hard not to wonder why. And why, after showing such a healthy respect for women in Sid, does Mukerji allow Bunny to get away with slotting women in a stereotypical fashion with statements like, “Tumhaari jaisi ladki ke saath flirt toh nahin kar sakte toh unn jaison se kaam chalaana padta hai,” and, “Tum jaisi ladkiyaan flirting ke liye nahin, ishq ke liye banayee gayee hai.” Of course we’ve met such men in real life, inconsistent in their attitudes towards women they respect and those they don’t. Problem is, in the absence of a countering voice from any other character, YJHD appears to condone the stereotyping.
The film’s primary strength lies in the breezy humour and poignance that Mukerji injects into his dialogue writing at regular intervals and the excellent Ranbir-Deepika and Ranbir-Farooq chemistry. Pritam’s music is a mixed bag: Balam pichkari and Badtameez dil are wonderful tunes complemented by imaginative choreography and stars who seem to invest their heart and soul into their dances; a couple of the songs are dullards doing nothing but adding to the film’s length; and Ghagra featuring the luminous Madhuri Dixit is foot-tapping though it’s disappointing to see the not-extraordinary dance moves given to one of the most extraordinary dancers in the history of Indian cinema. But you’ve got to love the attitude she throws at Bunny when she says: “Tujhe mardon aur ladkon mein fark kaun samjhayega (Who’s to explain to you the difference between men and boys)?”
Trivia buffs may enjoy the glimpse of the word “awara” in the Devnagri script tattooed on Bunny’s wrist post interval, in a bow to Ranbir’s legendary grandfather. Add to the assets side of the balance sheet an overall prettiness to this film peopled with good-looking stars in good-looking outfits shot beautifully at good-looking locations. YJHD’s young leads bring a natural ease to their performances though Deepika is the scene stealer of the lot. She also happens to have a fantabulicious figure – slim yet not skinny, so tiny waisted yet so curvaceous – that’s driven me insane with jealousy. Playing Bunny’s parents, Farooq Shaikh and Tanve Azmi prove that brilliant actors can make an impact even with just a few scenes. Ranbir’s interactions with both of them in the second half of the film reduced me to a sobbing, weepy mess. It’s also nice to see that Naina’s evolution in the film does not follow the cliches of the ugly-duckling-transforms-into-a-swan routine. And nothing in the final half hour of the film is predictable. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a Hindi film that improved as it went along, in which all my problems with the film were over in the first half and it ended better than it started. Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani has its highs and lows, but in the end it left me with a smile and a very wet handkerchief.
Rating (out of five): ***
CBFC Rating (India):
Photograph courtesy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yeh_Jawaani_Hai_Deewani