Director: Zoya Akhtar
Rating: 3 stars
Cast: Anil Kapoor, Shefali Shah, Ranveer Singh, Priyanka Chopra, Anushka Sharma
There’s a scene in ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’ where a love struck Ranveer Singh tries to coax Anushka Sharma to take the day off and he would compensate the pay cut she’d have to suffer. She tells him, “Money can’t buy you everything.” That could well sum up Zoya Akhtar’s latest offering, a glamorous family drama that gently rips the glossy wrapping paper to expose the cracks underneath. By way of story, DDD is quite commonplace with the basic premise of a high-society Delhi family whose business has fallen into hard times. Their efforts are concentrated on making their only son a successful, if not worthy heir to their empire, their daughter has long been married and packed off. Her husband is domineering and egotistical while her mother-in-law is perennially complaining. Their circle of friends constitutes scheming, gossiping business rivals and their wives and third cousins. There’s also Pluto, the family dog and a rather introspective one at that.
What prevents this stereotype-laden ship from sinking is the way the characters are fleshed out and performed. The run-time is a massive 170 minutes and Zoya Akhtar seems in no hurry, especially in the first half, when we go about getting introduced to this stinking rich bunch. Which is not always a good thing. The initial lack of pace weighs down the story considerably and there are times when it seems an overcrowded ensemble of sub-plots. However, one doesn’t have to dwell in the dull moments for long because the principal actors Anil Kapoor, Shefali Shah, Ranveer Singh and Priyanka Chopra (in that order) ensure smooth sailing of proceedings, riding on some brilliantly written sequences. And also because, everything looks so lavish and picture perfect in Carlos Catalan’s painterly cinematography, it allows you to ignore the chinks now and again.
The film triumphs in the way conflicts are introduced and allowed to grow organically. You are not just told (by the narrator) that Anil and Shefali (Kamal and Neelam Mehra) are an unhappily married couple, you can see what exactly is wrong in their lives. And it is a cluster of so many things that you cannot put a finger on one. Their strenuous relationship is beautifully explored through a series of snide remarks when they are alone, a cheesy champagne toast in public, and how even in conflict, they conspire to make use of others, including their own son to save their business. The anniversary cruise they plan to mark 30 years of pretense and compromises is actually one part of their giant scheme.
Squished between their parents and their own issues is sibling duo Ranveer and Priyanka (Kabir and Ayesha), who helplessly see through the pretense and play along until they don’t. Each member of the Mehra family owns their character to an extent it’s hard to imagine them outside of it. Anushka Sharma is convincing as Farah Ali, a free-spirited dancer on the ship, who Ranveer falls for and their chemistry is at its peak. Her lips continue to play spoilsport though. Farhan Akhtar’s entry adds to the photogenic bunch, the actor is his usual angsty, husky self, sporting a stubble, and stirring the pot of complexities further. Unlike others, Rahul Bose’s character remains a caricature but he plays it with full earnestness. Zarina Wahab as his hypochondriac mother provides a few laughs.
They are all deftly supported by a secondary cast which includes a delightful Ayesha Raza as the gossipy aunt and Ridhima Sud as a crafty daughter. Given how the carefully constructed conflicts keep the ship afloat for over 90 minutes, it's unfortunate to see a hurried climax steer it into choppy waters. It’s seemingly open ended but sigh, Dil Dhadakne Do is no Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. Which is excruciating, especially after you have seen a standout family melt-down sequence, which in this reviewer’s opinion should have been the curtain call.
However, DDD gives you enough and more moments of brilliance. Anil and Shefali are a treat to watch, the latter can teach a thing or two about playing the ‘maa’. She has few lines and she shows how she doesn’t require any more than that. Anil rocks the salt n’ pepper hair and pink tees and chequered golf trousers wrapped in a brash, elite Punjabi swagger. Also watch the film to see how the usually over energetic Ranveer Singh skillfully plays a silent observer. The actor’s a revelation.
The music is peppy but doesn’t blend in with the narrative, unlike Zoya’s previous works. And the voiceover dog’s philosophies get a bit much at times. Maybe they should have named him Plato and not Pluto.
Don’t go looking for the Zoya of Luck By Chance or ZNMD. A few loose ends aside, DDD is a well-bolted vessel. Come aboard.
Watch the trailer here:...