(This has first published on Firstpost.http://www.firstpost.com/bollywood/dil-dhadakne-do-review-zoya-akhtar-one-of-bollywoods-finest-but-the-movie-is-shallow-2281500.html)
When a camera does an almost a single-take waltz, around a brilliantly choreographed song with an infectious rhythm, and Ranveer Singh, Farhan Akhtar and Anil Kapoor grooving with hardcore filmi desi gusto, it’s both a treat and a feat. In Dil Dhadakne Do, this is achieved by one of Bollywood’s best directors, Zoya Akhtar.
There are few directors who add meaning to feelgood cinema. Akhtar and Raj Kumar Hirani are the top contenders in that arena. Akhtar’s Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara remains the finest in several aspects of filmmaking. There’s unusual casting; a screenplay as smooth as a BMW ride; grand visual imagery and above all, Farhan Akhtar’s witty one-liners, which leave you guffawing along with pranksters who add ‘bwoys’ to the dictionary.
Dil Dhadakne Do is the story of a family celebrating the parents’ 25th wedding anniversary on a luxury cruise around Europe, and it is an ambitious and well-intended attempt to sail around unspoken territories. It’s a sincere attempt to go deep, which in the entire first half ends up dragging under its serious tone and humourless weight. The film just about stays afloat with the help of three winsome actors: Farhan Akhtar, Anushka Sharma and Shefali Shah.
Ranveer Singh’s energy and chemistry with Sharma are welcome sparks and a lifeboat for the boredom that threatens to sink this lavishly-mounted film. His and Sharma’s self-choreographed dance, with its shades of Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence’s wild moves in Silver Lining Playbook, is a joyous, invigorating break from the monotony of a squabbling family.The Mehras are a wealthy Punjabi family of five: Kamal (Anil Kapoor), Neelam (Shefali Shah), Ayesha (Priyanka), Kabir (Ranveer Singh) and Pluto. Pluto is not just a pet. He has a voice (Aamir Khan), he thinks and he gives us the lengthy lowdowns on how this family. The Mehras hide their true feelings and shy away from real communication. As Sharma’s Farah puts it, “Tum log baat nahin karte?” So it is left to Pluto to do all the talking and philosophising. Guess Khan is a pro after preaching his way through PK.
The one who makes brave attempts to talk is Kabir. But first he must fly aircrafts when depressed. And then lie cheerfully to make sure his plane isn’t sold by his dad. His sister, Ayesha, has been married off to the stuck-up Manav (Rahul Bose), so that she does not elope with a manager’s son. Boy and girl discrimination rules both households and Ayesha is the silent victim whose pouty lips are sealed despite her education and business acumen.
Meanwhile, Kamal is on the brink of a bankruptcy and secretly takes anti-anxiety pills. Neelam constantly swallows his insults by stuffing her face with cakes. (Watch out for each of their solo scenes in the privacy of the bathroom. Shah can evoke tears without shedding one herself.)
Kamal and Neelam, stereotyped to a fault, dominate the story with their controlling ways. On board with them are equally stereotype uncles and aunts who also rule over their own children. Except for a nice moment with the aunties sitting in a row at a kitchen table and one of the quipping, “But who will give us a job?”, they all serve as prettily dressed props with identical handbags, lining the deck.
With the middle-aged parents crowding the ensemble plot, Kabir and Ayesha are rendered puppets who entertain when they dance and swing; and engage when they eventually shout and scream. You are left wanting to see more of Akhtar and Sharma, the only outsiders to the rich and closed community. Unfortunately, they remain on the periphery. So does the humour surrounding the film’s issues, which don’t come across as real when flushed with the gloss in costumes, make-up and the locations.
Kapoor is in his full element as the cold and ruthless businessman, husband and dad. Shah takes the cake, literally, with her chin-up act. Singh many not be King but is quite charming as the sulking prince. Chopra tries so hard to be perfectly made up that her looks constantly distract you from her performance. She saves herself with the right submissive expressions of a long-suffering wife in bed. Bose as her husband is decent in his indecency. Zarina Wahab as his controlling mom has some great lines and she delivers them surprisingly well. Sharma sizzles and Akhtar shines in their cameos.
When Dil Dhadakne Do’s chaotic climax comes, the shift in characters and dynamics don’t matter. Not even the lifeboat used in the end can rescue Zoya Akhtar’s brave Titanic cruising on shallow waters. Perhaps Ranveer Singh put it best when he joked in an interview that was the making of Excel Travel and Tours. It’s exotic, but not rejuvenating.