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Movie Review: Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani

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“Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani”: mixed and matched conventions, often bungle up the most unpretentious of enterprises.

To be traditional Bollywood, or stay idiosyncratically new age; choices, choices…

The genetics of “Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani”, the new romantic, coming of age drama, makes it as confused as its central youth, Bunny (aka. Kabir Thapar, aka Ranbir Kapoor) – a self-centered free-spirit whose chief inspirations in life are international cities and travel guides. Bunny, although a loveable lad, is immune to the feelings of others and eight years later – post the film’s interval – his self-importance is as much in bloom as it was when we last saw him (which was, maybe, minute before the interval).

The problem then, is one of two things: either Bunny hasn’t learned anything; or the screenplay didn’t transition enough to make a difference.

Let me summarize this: Bunny, Aditi (Kalki Koechlin) and Avi (Aditiya Roy Kapur) are childhood friends who meet Naina (Deepika Padukone) – an old school acquaintance – on a getaway trip, that’s more or less a full-on product placement job from MakeMyTrip.com.

Bunny is a flirt with the desire to travel, Aditi is a semi-punk-goth with a surprising sense of astute and un-confessed love for Avi. And Avi, well, Avi’s a borderline drunk with a serious tick to gamble. Naina, meanwhile, has been a nerdy recluse, who hides behind her spectacles. The trip turns into a growing (and at times, an undistinguished) experience, and eight years later, the film turns into a mellow version of its original promised premise: A semi-Bollywood wedding (including two impromptu dance routines), egoistic clashes and edgy moments of empathy.

Basically, it’s a Karan Johar movie (the film is, by the way, produced by Mr. Johar) with a deep-seated dash of director Ayan Mukherji’s directorial staple (Mr. Mukerji also wrote the screenplay, and last directed “Wake Up Sid”, also staring Ranbir Kapoor). The oscillation between Mr. Johar’s feel and Mr. Mukherji’s straight-laced poignancy creates imbalanced entropy, making the fluxes dastardly when they happen. And the song’s don’t help; much.

An early item-number by Madhuri Dixit – “Ghagara” – shows us why Ms. Dixit is who she is (re: insert wide-eyed fanboy expression here). “Badtameez Dil” works out fine, as does “Illahi”, “Kabira”, and “Subhan Allah”. “Dilli Wali Girlfriend” is somewhere between fine and dandy, with “Balam Pichkari” being the so-so number of the filmed soundtrack (the choreography is by Remo D'Souza, Ganesh Acharya, Farah Khan, with lyrics by Amitabh Bhattacharya and Kumaar, and music by Pritam).

While Bunny is written well enough, Mr. Kapoor’s performance is an aimless affair; Mr. Kapoor, almost always great in any role, never seems to find the blatant extravagance of a cocky women charmer. Mr. Kapur, playing Avi, has his part chopped off in frames, thereby eliminating long passages of character connection with the audience. On the women front, Ms. Padukone handles Naina’s maturity with subdued panache, living her up with the right amount of sensitivity when scenes call for them. Meanwhile, Ms. Koechlin delivers a class-act, besting the entire on-screen talent of “Yeh Jawaani”, with a swipe of brilliantly performed balance of ruggedness and sagacity.

There’s a certain allure in the way Mr. Mukherji grounds people in his films; they work, but only when they’re left independent to their individuality. When they – and Mr. Mukherji’s screenplay – deviates to incorporate the cliché of the box-office formula, that’s when they really mess up. Big time.

“Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani” is released by IMGC Global and UTV Motion Pictures, who Produces in association with Dharma Productions.

The film stars: Ranbir Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, Kalki Koechlin, Aditya Roy Kapur, Kunaal Roy Kapur, Evelyn Sharma, Farooq Sheikh, Tanvi Azmi, Dolly Ahluwalia, Poorna Jagannathan, Rana Daggubati, Madhuri Dixit.

Directed by Ayan Mukherji; Produced by Hiroo Yash Johar and Karan Johar; Music by Pritam; Lyrics by Amitabh Bhattacharya and Kumaar; Choreography by Remo D'Souza, Ganesh Acharya and Farah Khan; With Cinematography by V. Manikandan and Editing by Akiv Ali.

The film is rated U/A – there’s nothing offensive, unless you count the single-mindedness of the lead character.