Direction: Ayan Mukerji
Actors: Ranbir Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, Aditya Roy Kapur, Kalki Koechlin
Rating: ** 1/2
Name this film. A boy and a girl take a life-altering holiday together. She is mousy, studious, bespectacled. She doesn’t drink, smoke and has never been kissed. He is a reckless charmer who flirts outrageously. Love blossoms, for her at least, but they must part and then reunite in the foreground of a big fat Indian wedding.
Are you thinking Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge? Actually, I’ve just described the plot Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, which liberally echoes DDLJ and every other major romance to come out of Bollywood in the last two decades. So we get the journey, which is both literal and emotional; the friendship that slowly shifts gears to love; the wounded looks; the teary separation; the wedding naach-gaana.
What we don’t get is parental opposition. This is 2013 and that’s just too old-school. Instead, writer-director Ayan Mukerji gives an internal conflict. Bunny, played by Ranbir Kapoor, is an adrenalin-junkie. When Naina, played by Deepika Padukone, asks him what he wants from life, he replies: pagalpan. This is not a man willing to settle, as he puts it, for the dal-chawal of marriage, children, home and hearth.
It’s a perfectly valid problem but Ayan’s rendering of it is half-baked, too long and largely unconvincing. The characters in this film talk in Hallmark homilies so, at one point, Bunny is on a boat, staring at the water. His colleague asks what he is looking at. He replies, “Waqt guzarte hue dekh raha hoon.” Later in the film, Naina teaches him the value of stopping to smell the roses. She explains that we can’t ever do it all and the important thing is to live in the moment.
However, these banal exchanges are leavened by gorgeous, foot-tapping song and dance numbers. And the lead pair is very easy to watch. Deepika is both supremely attractive and genuinely likeable, which is a unique combination and Ranbir turns on the charm full throttle. Ayan creates some lovely, deeply moving moments between them. He also creates a convincing camaraderie between the four friends — poor Aditya Roy Kapur seems doomed to drink on screen but Kalki Koechlin is wonderful as the feisty Aditi. And above all, there’s the exquisite Farooque Sheikh as Bunny’s father. Sad, wise and tender, he steals the few scenes that he has. Ultimately, there is enough eye-candy in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani to see you through, but I wish the film had more meat and less dressing. I’m disappointed because there is a truckload of talent here. What rankles is what might have been.