Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani: A Review
Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani – Dir: Ayan Mukherjee; *ing: Ranbir Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, Kalki Koechlin, Aditya Roy Kapoor
Deewani? Meh, not so much
Eight years ago, reformed con duo Bunty and Babli (Abhishek Bachchan and Rani Mukherji) begged their captor/savior DCP Singh (Bachchan Senior) to rescue them from their life of dull, small-town domesticity, and take them along on his exciting hi-jinks. “If I have to make one more jar of mango pickle I’ll kill myself,” declared a desperate Babli.
Well, it’s telling that in 2013 Bollywood’s erstwhile happy wanderers are shown obediently opting for the opposite: 9-to-5 conformity over the spirit of adventure, and, even more telling, the movie is apparently saying to the audience, you’d better follow suit because anybody not toeing established societal lines, is screwed. Case in point: Avinash (Roy Kapoor), the one character who chooses not to go down the ‘accepted’ career path, is bankrupt by the end of the film, as well as a booze-hound and crummy gambler. Whether this is an anomalous narrative choice, or a sub-conscious alignment with conservative trends the world over, well, one could conjecture till the cows come home, but suffice to say that YJHD wraps its ‘wanderlust is for losers’ message in such a bubbly, insidiously effervescent little package that you could be forgiven for imagining that it might have a point there.
By now Ranbir Kapoor can play a boyishly charming, roguish twentysomething with one cheeky grin tied behind his back, and he does so here for the umpteenth time, as Bunny, a boyishly charming roguish twentysomething with a penchant for mountain climbing, photography, and general tomfoolery. Pitted against Kapoor, most leading lady types can appear lackluster, but poor Deepika Padukone does one worse and comes off positively comatose. As Naina, a shrinking violet and geek-in-training (denoted by the wearing of spectacles, naturally), the actor strikes a single note through the film and that too off-key. Now when your stereotypical Bollywood free spirit and repressed geek meet cute, you know full well which way the film is headed, it’s just a question of getting there, and YJHD takes an awful long time doing that, filling out the time with a whole lot of fluff. Koechlin, easily overshadowing Padukone in her supporting role as feisty Aditi, is along for the ride as our four main characters navigate the twists and turns of their youth. What none of Bunny’s posse can seem to stomach, including his parents, is that the aspiring photographer doesn’t want to be tied down to a conventional life of home, hearth and job, and instead, wants to explore the world and the possibilities that it has to offer. ‘Selfish little git,’ they all seem to be muttering under their breath, looking at Bunny’s desires through the prism of how they will be affected by them, and then accusing him of being self-involved.
This tug-of-war between Bunny’s quest for individuality and everyone else’s determination to turn himinto a zombie homing pigeon forms the basis for all the other shenanigans that make up the story of YJHD. If it sounds slight, it is. Yes, there are clever lines, colourful musical numbers, groovy songs (with all the singers auto-tuned halfway to strangulation), and a radiant Madhuri Dixit putting young women half her age to shame with her dazzling moves, but at the end of it all, one feels slapped around with a righteous-stick. We’re apparently supposed to cheer as Bunny’s self-centred girlfriend tightens the dog-collar around his neck, asphyxiating his dreams, but imagine if Christopher Columbus or Vasco De Gama had been guilt-tripped by their lovers thusly – ‘why do you have to go traipsing around the world, can’t you just be happy here with me, herding sheep?’ So it should hardly count as a spoiler if one reveals here that Bunny clicks the heels of his ruby slippers three times and declares there’s no place like home. In a manner of speaking. But yes, he decides he’d rather witness random childbirth in Mumbai than see the Arc de Triumph in Paris.
Cult: Bunty Aur Babli (2007) – Revisit Shaad Ali’s cunningly crafted and brilliantly acted ode to taking the path less travelled.
Current: Race 2 – Watch Deepika Padukone be wooden in yet another big-budget extravaganza!
Coming Attraction: Bhaag Milkha Bhaag – Any film about running should serve as a nice anti-dote to YJHD.