Thursday, June 6, 2013

Yeh Jawaani Hai Diwaani - Shallow lesson on Life and Love

Ayan Mukerji showed tremendous promise in his maiden venture 'Wake Up Sid'. The heartwarming tale about a youth growing up and discovering his place in the world, struck hardly a false note. Hence the expectations from his second outing were tremendous. Again joining hands with that maverick actor, Ranbir Kapoor and adding to the cast with some other raising talents and a beautiful leading lady,  an intermittently good time is definitely had at the movies if one is looking for some entertainment to accompany their popcorns and soda. But carrying those expectations that I did, I saw a huge opportunity missed and yet another talented director bowing down to commerce.

Three best friends go on a trekking trip to Manali in their youth, when life has no rules and is one big adventure. Aditi (a charming Kalki Koechlin), Avi (Aditya Roy Kapur) and Bunny (Ranbir Kapoor) form the wild trio. Thrown into the mix is their unlikely bookish, bespectacled classmate Naina (Deepika Padukone) who joins them on an impulse. In typical Hindi movie style, Bunny gives life lessons to Naina showing her that her serious ways are so not cool, but she holds a lot of promise if only she would let her hair down. So, ofcourse in the midst of some newfound bravado, Naina loses her spectacles and with it her heart to Bunny, a guy who cannot be chained by love or marriage. He seeks only thrill from life. In the initial hour we are subjected to the foursome doing mindless stuff in the name of camaraderie which do not ring true. Aditi's madcap antics bring a zing to the proceedings and if anything, I was more eager to see the development of her character and her obvious heartbreak over a one sided love for her buddy Avi, who is blissfully oblivious to the hidden affection behind all those caring gestures that she showers on him. But because of the nature of commerce in cinema, the friends are only the sidekick supports in providing means to get the central characters to their destinations.

So, Naina's love remains unreciprocated as Bunny literally goes seeking new pastures around the world. And eight years pass when Aditi gets everyone together once more, under one palace for her destination wedding. And voila, this round Bunny falls for Naina and suddenly domesticity seems a suitable companion with Naina in his arms. An extremely childish story and screenplay is what mars this movie from the get go. There is not a bone of originality with the theme and situations are lifted straight off the bollywood blockbusters that we have been subjected to over the years. The desire to live life on the edge, the transformation of the serious girl into a glamorous diva at the hands of the wild boy and the subsequent taming of the wild boy by the girl's steadfast love is no pathbreaking material. And add to that, the backdrop of an adrenaline rushing adventure and then a big fat Indian destination wedding.

Though Ayan Mujerji breaks no new grounds with the material, the screenplay also reeks mostly of done to death situations with the dialogues between the lead pair particularly stilted and quite manipulative. It was the characters of Aditi and Avi which fascinated me more and I wish there was the scope for these more nuanced people to find a bigger space in the screenplay. Aditi is played to perfection by the tremendously gifted Kalki, who has mastered the art of playing a variety of characters with equal ease. The rumbustious girl ready to take on any and everybody, hides the pain of unrequited love in those marvelously expressive eyes and her growth into a sensible bride who finally gives happiness a chance, is a role Kalki shines in. Avi, with his gambling and drinking streak, was enacted well though this character could have benefited from better development.

Naina and Bunny were played competently by Deepika and Ranbir. After having seen some memorable characters brought to life by Ranbir, this is a character he can sleep walk through and not hit a single false note. Deepika, unfortunately, though a fine looking actress with a body to kill that is shown off to the hilt, is not really a performer. And to be fair, except for a couple of the final scenes, where she does successfully show the pain of a love whose future she cannot foresee, her character seems contrived and done to death.  I have to mention the two heart rendering scenes between Farooque Sheikh and Ranbir which crackle and show what tremendous potential this movie had. Even that fabulous Dolly Ahluwalia of 'Vicky Donor' fame is as vivacious as ever in her bit role. A true delight, she needed more scenes! And a word for our dancing goddess Madhuri Dixit, who appears in a song and shows that she has lost none of her charm or her glorious moves. These are a couple of things the movie gets right. The song and dance routines are a pleasure to the eye and quite catchy.

'Yeh Jawaani hai Diwaani' doesnt work for me precisely why 'Wake Up Sid' did work so effectively. At its heart Mukerji wanted to bring forth another tale of a youth's journey into manhood and finding love. Add to it friendship and his relationship with his father. But barring a couple of scenes which show sensitivity towards the later part of the movie, this one bows down to the dictates of the box office one too many times. The sparks were there in certain scenes of friendship between Avi and Bunny, Aditi's reason for marriage to Kunaal Roy Kapur's character (delightfully played) and Bunny's realization of the loss of his father. But a couple of scenes make not a movie.

This could be the quintessential fluff people are looking for to escape a hot day into the theaters with, but all I could think of was the colossal loss of an opportunity by Ayan Mukerji, whose first movie I can revisit time and again. The business of filmmaking has too often killed its art and 'Yeh Jawaani hai Diwaani' and Mukerji are sure victims.

Originally released in 2013
In Hindi with English subtitles
My rating: 2.5/5

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