Directed by: Ayan Mukherji
Sometimes there’s nothing quite like a regular Bollywood romantic comedy musical, and no one really does them better than Karan Johar. Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani is Ayan Mukherji’s second film, after Wake Up Sid, and it’s a little more ‘typical’ Bollywood, but that’s in no way a criticism. YJHD is a few original ideas, put together with a number of tried and tested ones, making a sweet, entertaining film, matching the usual high standards of Dharma Productions.
If you’ve read the music review for the film, you’ll know the ‘Kabira’ encore is my favourite song from the album, and so having the film open with it was kind of bittersweet. It works really well, but in that moment I felt the song had been wasted. Thankfully, it comes properly later, and I was satisfied. The opening has such a Karan Johar-feel to it, probably because it reminds me of how Johar wanted to open his debut Kuch Kuch Hota Hai with part of ‘Tujhe Yaad Na Meri Aayi’, pictured on Rani Mukherji’s character’s godh bharai (the Indian equivalent of a baby shower), only to be told by Aditya Chopra that it was a terrible way to start a film. Any Bollywood fans who hasn’t seen the deleted scenes from KKHH really need to do so.
From opening so well, the film has it’s first major hiccup within, ten minutes, in the form of Madhuri Dixit’s item song, ‘Ghagra’. It’s not the song itself that’s the problem, or the picturization of it, or the fact that Madhuri is dancing with Ranbir Kapoor, when she used to be cast opposite his father in films with my lifetime. The video of the song as a whole is quite enjoyable. The issue is that the song is there. It has no relation to the rest of the movie, and it comes too soon into the running time. Item numbers are meant to serve as a sort of ‘song break’, but we really didn’t need one at that point. Someone must have really wanted the song in there, because surely someone involved in the production at some point before release must have realised it’s completely unnecessary.
The film recovers from its first major hiccup, into quite a sweet film of a bunch of schoolfriends going on a trekking trip together. Not much happens really, and in typical Bollywood style, the pre-intermission half is mostly set-up for the proper story in the second half, but I didn’t mind it at all. There are some really funny moments, the music is good, though again most of the songs are not really necessary to the film as a whole. Ayan Mukherji makes good use of the songs, though the background score, also by Pritam, was overbearing in many places. It was a little distracting, and often didn’t seem to fit the moment quite as well as it should. The songs have grown on me even more since seeing them in the film, and even their silly lyrics, like ‘lattoo padosan ki bhabhi ho gayi’. Apparently, it means the padosan ki bhabhi (neighbour’s sister-in-law) went crazy over the jeans mein thumka. For a while I thought lattoo was a person, but I’m told that’s wrong.
The second half is really where the film, and Ayan, are at their best. He’s one of those directors whose ideas and choices come across quite clearly, and it what makes the film what it is. There are quite a few directors in Bollywood who seem to rely on a number of other things to make a film appealing, but thankfully he’s not one of them.
Ranbir Kapoor follows great performances in Rockstar and Barfi! with a slightly more conventional role, but is equally good in it. The character of Bunny isn’t the stereotypical Bollywood hero, but he is still sort of clichéd. Not wanting to get married, or be in a relationship, being ignorant of his parents, travelling the world, living his dreams at a cost, it’s all things we’ve seen and heard before. There is this matter-of-fact-ness that Ayan manages to achieve though, which I quite liked. He is a little bit of a grey character, but we don’t go into the detail of how he got to that point. People are who they are in Ayan’s world, and that’s okay. There’s a lack of melodrama, which is rare in Bollywood, and it’s what I liked about Deepika Padukone’s character, Naina, as well. She’s in love with Bunny, and knows he’ll never reciprocate that love, so she just deals with it. There’s noover-the-top drama. Deepika is growing on me with every film, but there is really very little she can do as an actress. What she can do, though, she does very well. I was actually quite surprised by her goofy school-girl in love act. I was almost sold that she was the shy nerdy school girl type. In the second half, though, she wears some seriously skimpy blouses, which made me wonder what Manish Malhotra thought happened to her character in the 8 year jump. Just because they go with saris, they don’t make her look like the good-girl she’s supposed to be. Kalki Koechlin and Aditya Roy Kapoor play the friends, Aditi and Avi. Neither give amazing performances, but they’re fun to watch. Kalki really can’t dance though.
No film is without it flaws. I’ve already discussed, in more detailed than probably necessary, one of them. The editing isn’t great, but I don’t think the average Bollywood cinema-goer would mind. There is one major continuity error, but for people who care, it may be a bit of a spoiler, so all I’m going to say is: Paris. It seemed like a very big thing to get wrong. Like ‘organising an entire shooting schedule in the wrong country’ kind of big.
There have been many many Bollywood films on friendships, and holidays, and heroes who don’t want to get married, and of course, many many set at weddings. Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani fits under all of these, and it doesn’t necessarily do much new with any of them either, but there is something current, and fresh about it. It says a lot about Ayan Mukherji as a director, I think. Ranbir is great in it, Deepika is more likeable than usual, but neither of them would have made this as great as it is without Ayan. There have been other Dharma productions that have a Karan Johar-feel to them, without being directed by him, but Ayan Mukherji seems a naturally perfect fit to the kind of films I think Johar wants coming out of Dharma.
Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani is out now.
- Music Review: Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (maahinandfilms.wordpress.com)
- Bollywood Song Promos – Kabira / Tum Tak (maahinandfilms.wordpress.com)