Sunday, June 7, 2015

Dil Dhadakne Do Movie Review

The easiest escape route for the middle-class of our country has always been to simply go to a cinema-hall. For three good hours, in a dark hall, forget the darkness of real life and imagine yourself in the place of the hero/heroine romancing in the lush, and make yourself feel good. Hindi Film Industry has grown on this business of selling dreams. Zoya Akhtar is one such businesswoman. For a price of a movie-ticket, she takes you to countries one could imagine to be in only in dreams. Only her idea of feel-good has changed from the films that started this business. As much as you want to roam in sunglasses all the time and drink wines and champagnes like her characters do, it is also affirming, at the same time, that they have the same troubled souls and broken hearts as we do.

Baradwaj Rangan in his review of Piku (another film about a dysfunctional family on a journey) wrote: "Sometimes we go to films to forget what life’s like. Other times, we go to remember", Piku, obviously, falling in the latter case. Dil Dhadakne Do, despite of lacking the slice-of-life realism of Piku, transcends from being the film of first to the second kind. My problem with Piku of characters subconsciously knowing that they are dysfunctional is somewhat resolved here. Technically, the characters here aren't dysfunctional; they are as flawed as any real world character. It is the fact that each of the family members are so flawed that makes their dynamics dysfunctional. But my problem is worse here. If not the human characters, there's a dog who knows that they, together as a bunch, are not normal- because he, obviously, is not a human. And the dog, Pluto Mehra, keeps reminding us that constantly, disturbing the film's light tone with its verbosity. (And who better- or, worse- than Aamir Khan to do this preachy job of voiceover narration?). In an early scene when we see the Mehra couple fight on the dinner table, after one or two exchange, it cuts to Pluto to let him summarise and tell it for us. I wanted to listen to their entire banter and make sense out of it myself, rather than being spoonfed. It is not just lazy writing but it also comes at the risk of audience feeling underestimated.

The film begins with the perspective of Pluto finding humans in this world and then characters in them. Going by Pluto's bullet point notes about them, heavy chance that they might come across as cardboard caricatures from their first appearance. Gradually, thanks to their gravitas, the actors with their quirks make characters come alive with heart that beats... albeit broken. Once you start identifying with them, looking beyond their inherent richness and affluent appearance, you realize that their problems aren't really that of the first-world people: Patriarchy has seemed to seeped in even in the upper-class section of the society; marriage that doesn't put the two involved in equal status is a faux institution. These are the problems in any Indian society irrespective of the socio-economic context. And the liberal young souls in such societies rebel their way out to liberation. Dil Dhadakne Do addresses them acknowledging the traditional family values. This is more or less the same worldview that Karan Johar propagates through his films, though his characters are as fantastical as the world they live in, unlike Akhtar's who are real living in a fantasy world.

The liberated characters in Zoya's films seem to have an artistic inclination in them- be it Naseer's painter in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara or Sunny Gill (Farhan Akhtar) as a journalist and Farha Ali (Anushka Sharma) as a dancer in this one. Both these characters have shorter roles and are only for the purpose of resolving the conflicts of the other leads. This does tell me something about Akhtar siblings who have grown up in the family of celebrated artists. No wonder the posh world and conflicted, artistic characters come easy to them.

Just like acknowledging traditional Indian family values in the progressivism of film's heart, it is good to see that Akhtar does not disregard Indian traditional naach-gaana in her filmmaking which is as modern as Wes Anderson's or Woody Allen's. Just when the younger audience on the cruise were getting bored with an old-school opera jazz, they break out into a choreographed Punjabi bhangra (breathlessly shot in a single take). Even climax goes a bit over the top traditional to Hindi films. But I like the way the film ends, which is though typical of all the Akhtar's  films- the resolved character in motion and an abrupt cut to the end credits. Here the family is on a much smaller boat now than the cruise, on a journey to resolution which is the understated obvious and we are spared to see that (otherwise that culmination would cost another three hours of dramatic storytelling). Such subtlety makes the humor shine through rest of the parts too. In a sequence, that proves to be a wonderful juncture in the narrative, when Kamal Mehra (the family patriarch, solid Anil Kapoor) is taken to the medical center after what seems to be a heart-attack but turns out to be a mere gas problem, Kabir (his son, super fun Ranveer Singh) reveals the harsh truths that has been suppressed within the family and when asked to leave the room by his mother, he pulls out the chair comforting himself and discomforting others. In this tensed situation, the sister, shocked Ayesha (subdued Priyanka Chopra),  quietly makes herself comfortable sitting on the table, and this little gesture brings out the loudest laugh in the film.

It is in these moments that the film establishes its point; and a film that looks like a gorgeously decked up wedding cake also revels in dark moments that involve cakes. Neelam Mehra (Shefali Shah, even more brilliant in this scene) eats them secretly in depression while her husband Kamal must be popping anxiety pills elsewhere.

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