Like Zoya Akhtar’s previous film Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Dil Dhadakne Do is also about a trip that changes the travellers’ perspective towards life. Just that this time the journey is long, less memorable, and screeching to a halt often.
The rich have their own set of problems and their lives are as miserable as any middle-class guy’s life. This is the theme of a film which has the Mehras, led by a self-made business magnate Kamal Mehra (a golden-haired Anil Kapoor), at the helm of affairs. The family’s 25-year-old son Kabir (Ranveer Singh) is expected to take over the business from his father, but he wants to add wings to his life: He's more keen on aviation, of all things. His elder sister Ayesha (Priyanka Chopra), we are told has a 'business acumen', but she couldn’t claim the CEO’s chair because she is married and the Mehra household is too fond of their male scion. Kamal’s wife Neelam (Shefali Shah) is a sharp-tongued, insecure woman who is struggling hard to keep up with her husband’s flamboyant image.
The second branch of this 169-minute long saga features a free-spirited dancer Farah Ali (Anushka Sharma) and her roller-coaster romance with Kabir Mehra.
There is a third set too. This set of characters, who make Dil Dhadakne Do a crowded film, include Ayesha’s patriarchal husband Manav (Rahul Bose) and her former best friend Sunny (Farhan Akhtar).
The Delhi-based Mehras look happy and content from outside, but their empire is crumbling. And unlike a conventional business family, what do they do to keep everything floating? Surprise, surprise! They plan a two-week long cruise trip to attract investors.
Just that they have no idea that this trip is about to change their perceptions forever. It’s going to be a life-altering experience for the people who are buried under pressure to behave the way the society wants them to behave.
The duo of Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti has come up with a story that deals with frivolous and almost non-existent issues. It’s hard to believe that the rich and mighty of the Delhi society are so not connected to the ground realities. And even if they are pretentious and pompous, it’s highly improbable for them to be like this confused lot.
The central thread in itself is philosophically disturbing. Here’s a family where everybody knows everybody’s dark secrets, and they have been fairly quiet about it since the beginning. They seem to believe that this is how it’s supposed to be. It appears that their brains are conditioned by the way they are, and that means absolute approval to the existing patriarchal values. Later, when it comes to personal freedom and making a choice, they keep pretending that they are taking a stand without doing anything about the wrongs already done. Kabir knows about his father’s affairs and his mother’s pathetic position in the family, yet he falls back on his father’s shoulder when the family is neck- deep in choppy waters. Similarly, the miserable woman in the body of Neelam Mehra keeps speaking the same language as her husband. In fact, the regret in her expression is quite perceptible when she denies Kamal some playful bedtime moments. In short, most of the primary characters, except Priyanka Chopra's perhaps, are at ease with status quo, still they keep complaining.
Interestingly, a sequence in the film shows Farhan Akhtar indulging in a verbal battle with Rahul Bose over 'women's liberation'. It’s weird, to say least, to see two men debating over giving more power to women, with the woman in their life, Priyanka Chopra, sobbing all through. Woman, wake up, you run a business conglomerate and have just featured in a Forbes’ list. This wasn’t expected of you.
But this is not the only ill-conceived scene in the film. Kamal is admitted in the hospital and his wife tells him that she has always dreaded the day when he would leave her. She very dramatically says, "Tum mujhe bhool gaye Kamal". Within seconds Kamal promises to not tread the ‘morally corrupt’ path and she goes back to her usual self of a doting wife. No agony, no anger, no remorse, nothing.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not against the family values imbibed in our culture, but such docile characters can’t help the cause the director so proudly preaches through a dog Pluto (Aamir Khan’s voice) in the film.
Will this cruise trip give the Mehras a chance to liberate their trapped souls?
The climax is another big let-down. On second thoughts, it’s similar to many other sequences in films that build up just fine in the beginning, only to give it all up at the most critical time. The ultimate moments of DDD are completely out-of-sync with the rest of the film. I don’t want to give out important plot twists but it’s bizarre to see ‘so called, educated’ characters possessing the IQ of a toddler.
People, stop, think and you’d find a better way to resolve things.
There’s another side to the film. There are scenes and smart one-liners which will crack you up. During one of the family counselling sessions, Anil Kapoor asks a disgruntled Priyanka Chopra in a thundering voice: Tum dono young ho, successful ho, Punjabi ho, squash khelte ho…fir problem kya hai? As if being Punjabi was the last requirement to be a happy wife!
Similarly, Rahul Bose sums up the essence of being Kamal Mehra in one sentence: If Lalit Sood is a vulture, then your father is a hawk. You can’t describe a man better who employs his brother as the manager in his private limited, and who bargains with his son about a plane. But, these are very handful in comparison to average, clichéd plots in the film.
Most of the primary actors come across as people desperate to have the upper hand, and Anil Kapoor is the winner of this race. Yes, his character is obsessed with himself but he is so over the top in some scenes that any commoner would call his bluff. His conversation with Parmeet Sethi over drinks is a demonstration of ‘how to kill the other actor’s relevance in the story’.
Anushka Sharma’s cruise dancer’s act needed some fine-tuning. Priyanka Chopra joins her in ‘Girls like to swing’ and the difference is evident. Priyanka Chopra is otherwise graceful, but her rolling eyes during Ranveer’s heated exchange with his parents immediately brings down the temperature of the room and that restricts the tempo from rising to the optimum level.
If you can overlook the growth graph of Ranveer Singh’s character, then he is the one to watch out for in DDD. He has played it gently and with a lot of energy. He has subdued himself at the right points and his comic timing is fantastic. Undoubtedly, he's the best of the lot. Farhan Akhar is a close second. Vikrant Massey also has a charming presence.
Though most of the shots are inside the cruise, the one shot that stands out is a top angle view of the cruise. This is a transition shot but it has been placed so effectively in the story that you cannot help but be a part of the party. It appears right after an emotional conversation between Ayesha and Sunny. The music of the film is another average fare.
There is hardly any takeaway from Dil Dhadakne Do and its characters are not likely to stay with you for long. Also, it would be hard for you and me to identify with the doubts and troubles of the morally ambiguous Mehra family. However, the film has a good starcast and that can dictate the game at the box office.