Exotic outdoor locations, designer clothes, impeccable make-up, good looking actors make a good-looking film, not necessarily a good film. But then, who has the time to peel the enamel exterior to look at the rotten reality? Yet, Zoya Akhtar’s latest directorial venture is so languidly directed and so leisurely written that it leaves enough time for the audience to stare hard at the shallow emptiness of not only the film’s characters but also the film itself. The film primarily revolves around the four members of the Mehra family- the pretentious and loveless marriage of Delhi’s business tycoon Kamal Mehra (Anil Kapoor) and his wife Neelam Mehra (Shefali Shah), the unbefitting heir Kabir Mehra (Ranveer Singh) and unhappily married and entrepreneur daughter Ayesha Mehra (Priyanka Chopra). The location is a Turkey and Greece bound cruise, the occasion is the 30th anniversary celebration of the Mehra family and the motive is to resolve the financial crisis in Ayka Industries through the marital knot between Kabir and Noorie (Ridhima Sood). Before one discredits the un-entertaining portions of this reel, it would be worthwhile to credit a few moments that worked. The romantic number between Kabir and Farah choreographed literally in the dance hall is an innovative and endearing (though cost effective) idea. The moment when Neelam swallows a piece of cake along with her dignity, effectively capture her emotional suppression and the tyranny of her rich life. However, the credit in both these cases goes to the actors and their sincere rendition of the emotion for the moment. The same intensity is seen in Kapoor’s projection of the arrogant, self-serving businessman. Now for the derailed routes this candy floss lookalike persistently takes. At a time when Indian cinema is setting its eyes on global awards and accolades, to see contemporary directors like Akhtar take the support of voiceover narration is more than a disappointment. What is more distressing is the purpose of the voiceover. When the immensely romantic encounter between Kabir and Farah is shot in the nocturnal setting in the luminous swimming pool, an obvious verbalization only serves to ruin the moment. When the key characters are introduced and if the voiceover is made to spell out the characteristics, it wrongly assumes the intelligence of its audience. When the final moment of the film uses the metaphor of sea as life, the director underestimates the power of visual story-telling for even here, the audience is verbally told what to think. It seems like a gross disrespect for the medium. There is further injustice done to the medium of art when the two strengths of an Akthar film are blatantly compromised upon- lyrics and dialogues. The powerful and colorful dance moves and the impactful screen presence of few of the finest actors are wasted when not anchored in soulful lyrics and effective dialogues. The cracks in the polished frames are visible in the weakly stringed plot. Plot by its basic definition implies action. The makers of Dil Dhadakne Do seem to have missed this fundamental understanding. Be it Ayesha’s divorce/consummation of true love or Kabir’s successful love story, Farah’s journey of independence or Noorie’s successful defiance, Kabir’s master plot or the Ayesha-Sunny love story – all plots and sub-plots are simply spoken about; neither lived by the actors nor experienced by the audience. This gives rise to the presence of an absence of emotional connect. The characters are physically on a
cruise journey but the audience has failed to travel their emotional journeys in the course. The captain of the ship seems to have assumed that she can wave a postcard before the audience and demand them to imagine it to be real life. Reel lives have to feel real in order to garner acceptance and appreciation. Bollywood directors are increasingly creating fiction out of the comfortable familiarity of their real life experiences. Anurag Kashyap with Gangs of Wasseypur, Anand L Rai with Tanu Weds Manu and Vikramaditya Motwane with Udaan are points in case. While these offer authentic and sincere narratives, there is the fear of repetition. With the Akhtar siblings, this has become a living reality. Their privileged cocooned spaces with the central narrative of self-discovery and parental pressure have become saturated spools of scripts. The film ends with the message of appreciating individual uniqueness. Ms Akhtar, Bollywood is done applauding yours for now.