Film Review: 'Dil Dhadakne Do'
Opened: 5 June 2015
Cast: Anil Kapoor, Shefali Shah, Priyanka Chopra, Ranveer Singh, Anushka Sharma, Farhan Akhtar, Rahul Bose, Zarina Wahab, Ridhima Sud, Vikrant Massey, Parmeet Sethi, Aamir Khan
Director: Zoya Akhtar
Producers: Farhan Akhtar, Ritesh Sidhwani
I'd heard some quibbles on various social media outlets about how Dil Dhadakne Do is solely about rich people made for rich people. Really now. Not every film has to be a socio-economic documentary on the common man or an outcry to avert political warfare and poverty or to encourage world peace. By that account, Hollywood's biggest blockbusters are about rich people (think Titanic, Iron Man to cite a few recent examples), and well, doesn't everyone have their share of problems, regardless of which socio-economic group they belong to?
Zoya Akhtar's contemporary take on the modern Indian family is a far cry (and quite frankly a welcome change) from the families depicted in Sooraj Barjatya's fairy tales, where women hide their coy faces behind 'dupattas' and make the perfect 'jalebis' for their extended families every night. But the root problem with both types of families is the consistent need to bow down to societal norms and worry about what your relatives and 'chachis' might bitch about when it comes to your financial status, crumbling marriages or thinking outside the box and wanting to break free. Akhtar's film is FAR from perfect but its beauty lies in its subtle, deft writing which handles complex issues with a dash of self deprecating humour and that's what ultimately turns out to be its trump card.
Set predominantly atop a plush cruise liner, Dil Dhadakne Do revolves around a well to do Punjabi family headed off by Kamal (Anil Kapoor, outstanding) and Neelam Mehra (Shefali Shah, poised) who take their high society fickle friends and their son Kabir (subtle and brilliantly underplayed by Ranveer Singh) and daughter Ayesha (Priyanka Chopra, disarmingly fragile), who's caught in a loveless marriage, on a Mediterranean holiday to celebrate their wedding anniversary. On the surface their lives are perfect, but beneath all the brands and designer gear are four people who come with a wad of baggage, which comes to the forefront when Kabir falls for a free spirited dancer, Farah (Anushka Sharma, lovely and effervescent in a brief role), and when Ayesha's past catches up with her in the form of Sunny (Farhan Akhtar, cool and suave, but criminally wasted).
At a near three hour runtime, one could argue that Zoya and her team could have trimmed the film slightly with all its indulgence, but honestly? These characters make you empathise with them so much that the film never really drags purely because you invest in their plight, however perfect their lives may seem at the onset. That's not to say that the film is flawless. Far from it in fact. Whilst fleshing out the Mehras, both Sharma's Farah and Farhan Akhtar's Sunny, are woefully underutilised, however, they do well in whatever little scope they get, and Sharma's chemistry with Singh is nothing short of electric, so it's not all bad news. The music of the film too, whilst decent, isn't really up to standard with the rest of the package.
Those flaws aside, Zoya Akhtar's film is embellished with some top rate performances, a deadpan, witty script, masterly direction, beautiful locals and some stand out set pieces which easily make it one of the better films I've seen in recent times.
Kapoor is awe-inspiring in a role which easily could have made you despise him but AK expertly adds nuances to it that will immediately make you empathise with his character. And. I dare anyone to NOT spot an essence of their own dads in his part. Shah too handles her part with utmost dignity and it's not a part that's easy to pull off by any means. I loved the way she gets her own quiet moments which convey her pain even as she struggles to project a facade as the perfect mother and wife. Chopra, meanwhile, conveys the turmoil of torn between being the perfect, obedient daughter and the longings of her heart with a quiet grace that we haven't seen from her in some time. In fact, the scenes where she breaks down in front of the mirror and the one where she breaks the news of her divorce are one of her finest and this performance is right up there with her best work. That she looks eye wateringly gorgeous too goes without saying and her camaraderie with on screen sibling Singh is definitely one of the strengths of the film. Singh, on his part, can do subtle too, and is undoubtedly one of the best things about the film, handling even the most comical scenes with poker straight facedness, whilst struggling with the fact that he's nothing but a disappointment to his father and the business empire he's built. I found the father-son equation so relatable purely because, nothing the son does is really ever good enough. In fact that's the beauty of Zoya's film. We will easily see ourselves in one of the characters, and seriously how many films can we say that about these days?
The supporting players too each get their moment to shine. Aamir Khan's voiceover as Pluto is a little gimmicky, but a nice touch and his commentary on erratic human behaviour is something we could all learn a thing or two from. Rahul Bose as the cad of a husband is a little one dimensional, but Bose lends gravitas to the part and salvages it from being a caricature while Zarina Wahab, Ridhima Sud (in her debut), Vikrant Massey and Parmeet Sethi are all decent in their parts, each of which add something to the plot and are never really redundant.
Despite all it's excesses and oft playing out like an entire season of a popular American sitcom (think Gossip Girl which revolves around New York's elite), Dil Dhadakne Do is easily one of the more entertaining films I've seen in a while. There are characters here that we've all interacted with at some point or another, and its not every day that we see such an ensemble cast, each of whom get their own few minutes to sparkle. For that alone, its razor sharp wit and its bubbly charm which masks quite a few pertinent issues in society, Dil Dhadakne Do is worth your while and the perfect weekend watch. Thank you Zoya for not letting us down!