The best part about Zoya Akhtar’s brand of cinema (yes after three films I can confidently say that she has a brand of her own making) is that size or style is never made to substitute for substance in all her films. Whether it was Luck by Chance (2009), Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011) or the just released Dil Dhadakne Do (DDD), Akhtar always has an incisive non-formula story to tell. Both Luck by Chance and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara had these little tales of human whimsy that warmed our hearts and Dil Dhadakne Do is no different. In fact DDD has complex family situations arising out of adultery, marital incompatibility, moral values, personal sensibilities, love and faith fighting for your attention, something that most of us can effectively relate to.
The Mehra family helmed by patriarch Kamal Mehra – a self-made Delhi based business man (Anil Kapoor in top form here) and his somewhat rebellious wife (brilliantly played by Shefali Shah as the woman who holds her head high even in tumultuous times) has been pushed to the brink of bankruptcy. Not only is his married life in shambles, he also has to pay off a crushing mounting of debts. To deflect the humiliation it would bring on the family, and also celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary, the couple decide to invite their family and friends for a fully paid, no-holds barred 10-day cruise vacation to Turkey and Greece.
Except that the invitees are a motley group of his immediate family members (including his dreamy go nowhere son – Kabir Mehra played by Ranveer Singh and his smart, super successful and married daughter Ayesha Sangha played by Priyanka Chopra), friends, business associates, and rivals all with vain egos, and care-a-damn attitudes. Resulting in simmering tensions, seething animosity, verbal outbursts and some gregariously funny situations that keep you hooked to your seat for the entire duration of the film. As Ranveer Singh’s character rather dismissively says in the film,” You guys are in a very bad space” not knowing fully well what is to ensue in the days ahead.
In these days of stick-figure icons, Anil Kapoor’s strength lies in his absolute willingness to place his bets on the long shot at immortality and keep reinventing himself. DDD is a step in that direction. Shefali Shah is undoubtedly a brilliant actress and among all, I found her character in DDD to be the most true to life – snappy, yet sincere and a little self-absorbed. Notice the scenes where she rather casually tells her two children – Har shaadi mein problems hoti hain – so what, while effectively hiding her own insecurities and frustration. The chains of matrimony sometimes feel like heavy fetters that bind one to desires and passions long drained and forgotten.
Caught between his physical and meta-physical urges Ranveer Singh who has definitely come some way since his debut film essays his role with a comical agility choreographed to perfection. While Priyanka Chopra repeats her memsaheb act, Anushka Sharma has nothing much to do in the film except lock lips with Ranveer. Though some credit must be given to Priyanka (she manages to shine in the few scenes depicting marital infidelity with screen husband Rahul Bose) despite this largely being an ensemble film.
And yes, a special mention to the dog Pluto (a key member of the Mehra family) who helps create a context right from the very beginning (effective voice-over by Aamir Khan) Sadly most of the action in DDD happens indoors and that to me was a little disappointing. Frankly speaking, I was expecting to see more of Turkey and Greece, having already visited these places and therefore looking forward to relive some of the memories. However except for Taksim Square and a glimpse of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul and some portions of Greece, travel-wise, the film didn’t have any visual treats to offer. Wish Zoya could have captured the breath-taking sunset of a Mykonos or a Santorini, but I guess that is fine since travel is merely a back-drop for the film.
DDD is then a valiant effort by Zoya Akhtar, a film that remains with you long after you’ve left the theatres. a film that is different and definitely one that holds immense repeat value.
Watch it atleast once!
Credits: Ameya Bundellu – a PR professional, budding Bollywood historian and a world traveler!