Film: Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, Aditya Roy Kapoor, Kalki, Farooq Sheikh
Director: Ayan Mukerji
In the very last shot of Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani, the camera simply swishes past Naina (Deepika Padukone), the romantic interest and settles on Bunny (Ranbir Kapoor), the leading man who looks straight into the lens with a knowing half-smile. This last shot leaves some room for interpretation. If this were a romance-drama, wouldn’t the two of them have earned a balanced sendoff? No: this film is about Bunny and his life and the decisions he must make in it. Much like Bunny is self-centered and focused on himself, the film is centered around and focused on Bunny.
It’s just that the decisions aren’t always convincing. Why does Bunny break the fourth wall and look at us, the audience? What does he know that he’s not telling? I get the feeling that he is not going to live up to his promise. That he is being insincere. In a way this is good, because it is a rare instance when YJHD offers some depth and raises questions. For all the rest of the 99% of the film you’re in commercial-cinema-in-urban-context 101 mode. If YJHD had released in 2001, a month after Dil Chahta Hai, it’d be no more unique than it is today.
He’s part rebel, part Sufi, and wholly afflicted with wanderlust. He’s also very much a playboy Bunny. She is sheltered, a doctor in the making, and has never stepped out of her city on her own. He teaches her to live, to be alive. She falls in love, but understands that they can never be.
YJHD is cumbersome and too much fat line its edges like low-grade bacon. Why does Madhuri Dixit dance on a garish set within the first five minutes of the film is beyond logic. As you can imagine, it has nothing to do with the already lengthy movie. Why is Naina so religious in the first half – Mukherji goes out the way to build this up – and we see nothing of this trait in any form in the second? This is the kind of film where you have a whole scene on hatching a plan for an impromptu, improvised dance performance and a minute later fifty people and the spotlight crew are in perfect synchronization with a song no one’s ever heard before.
The film itself doesn’t move ahead except for a time jump between the halves. It stays within the quadrangle of its leads and the characters in their orbits. Often there is more to the philosophy of the film than what meets the eye, but it is often masked or nullified by booming Bollywood elements.
It is only in the second half that a plot kicks in and the real conflict finally takes shape about 15 minutes from the end. It’s too late to touch you in a way it could’ve.
Solace may be found instead in key individual scenes, mostly those that are critical in propelling the romance to the next stage. When Naina and Bunny make a sortie up a snowy haunted peak; when they complete each other’s sentences knowing exactly what’s on the other’s mind; when they build a picture of their perfect lives – at complete odds with each other; and dorky characters who’re secret heroes.
Kapoor and Padukone carve a smooth path for the movie to ride on. It is their effort that makes swallowing absurd Bollywood situations easy. Kalki gets a complex, meaty part and pulls it off with a batty quality that she’s always borne. Aditya Roy Kapoor plays his two distinct personas with equal ease. Farooque Sheikh needs all of two scenes to bring tremendous grace to proceedings.
To paraphrase a critical thought in the film, “just because (I may) have a point, doesn’t mean I’m right.” You’re going to watch YJHD if you haven’t already (record breaking box office start, I’m told). You’re going to watch it for Ranbir dancing to the sprightly Badtameez Dil and you’re going to watch it for Deepika in her cutesy glasses. Let’s just say if your expectations are in check, you won’t be disappointed.