Dil Dhadakne Do review: A terrific movie about rich people problems and no, it's not corny
What makes Dil Dhadakne Do so enjoyable is not just the dysfunctional family plot, but the likable characters
In Dil Dhadakne Do, a bunch of incredibly rich folks go on a foreign trip, trying to find themselves, and indulge in some thumb wrestling in the process. This could come across as corny rather than heartfelt. It certainly did in director Zoya Akhtar’s last film, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, which felt like the Bollywood definition of First World Problems. Being from the third world, it was difficult to give a damn about the people in the film.
However this time, in DDD, nothing seems corny. The conflicts in the film are authentic and they’re rendered with genuine emotion. Rich people have problems too, and Dil Dhadakne Do proves that if written and directed well, it is possible for a First World film to connect with Third World audiences.
The Mehras are a leading business family. Pappy Kamal Mehra (Anil Kapoor) is the quintessential patriarch business magnate, acrimoniously married to Momma Neelam (Shefali Shah). Their daughter Ayesha (Priyanka Chopra) runs her own business successfully while their son Kabir (Ranveer Singh) is to inherit the Mehra empire. To say the Mehras don’t get along would be a giant understatement, and Akhtar milks their dysfunctional qualities to hilarious effect.
Mom and Pappy spit fire at the dining table while the son sits helpless in between. The parents realize they are being insensitive when they spit the aforementioned fire, but they can’t help themselves because getting back is guilty pleasure. Because Pappy’s word is always set in stone, the children have little say in their lives, so they’re passive aggressive in their own ways.
The farcical nature of the family reaches breaking point when they embark on a cruise through Turkey and Greece to celebrate the senior Mehras’ wedding anniversary. Throw in a marriage breaking apart, a marriage forcibly arranged and an ex turning up, and you get a cocktail made in hell.
What makes Dil Dhadakne Do so enjoyable is not just the dysfunctional family plot, but the likable characters. There’s something memorable about nearly everyone in the film. Even the scumbags are interesting. Akhtar, having already proved in Luck By Chance that she is great at finding ‘moments’ in a film, strings together episodes that showcase every character’s issues. There aren’t too many big narrative twists, but all the moments are either really fun or earnest. There’s no fluff, it’s straight up good direction seen through good acting and without the spoon-feeding of an emotional background score during the big confrontation scenes.
The film also raises a few bold topics, like the plight of a woman married to a rich man and being stuck in the marriage even if she’s unhappy because she has nothing else but her marriage as security. There’s a hilarious little bit where a bunch of stereotypical bitchy housewives are told to get a job and they’re gobsmacked. “Get a job?” one of them asks perplexed. “As if we’re qualified to do such a thing!”
Repeatedly, Dil Dhadakne Do mocks the way the privileged take themselves too seriously. For instance, there’s an attention-seeking auntie who complains that she can’t hold a wine glass for long because of arthritis (she’s a hypochondriac, in case you were wondering). There are many such subtle jabs in the film, and these little moments lift DDD above the familiarity of the story.
The film also looks terrific, thanks to Akhtar’s grasp on aesthetics, Carlos Catalan’s camerawork, and of course the gorgeous Turkish locales. Shankar Ehsaan Loy’s songs are fun too, the highlight of which is an incredibly-shot single take number that culminates into the whole gang converging at the bar. Ranveer Singh and Anushka Sharma, who plays his crush, get to dance to a number reminiscent of the practice regimen from Silver Linings Playbook.
Anchoring the film is Anil Kapoor in the performance of his career - he’s incredibly funny whether he’s irritable or just plain nasty. The look of incredulity on his face when things fall apart around him is priceless. Shefali Shah almost matches Kapoor in both hilarity and drama, while Singh is his usual goofy self and Chopra is terrific in an emotional scene. Rahul Bose plays Chopra’s husband and he makes a decent impression as does Sharma in her extended cameo of a role. A mild downer in the film is Farhan Akhtar because he once again plays Farhan Akhtar. There’s no change in his mannerisms and the brief appearance of a beard isn’t much by way of a useful addition.
The only genuine complaint of the film is that it is long. The first half of DDD moves at a sluggish pace. A tighter edit could probably have made this film even better. It hardly matters in such a likable film though and it’s great to see such a mainstream film with such a huge star cast deliver with such ease. Faith in Zoya Akhtar has been restored.
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