Zoya Akhtar made one of the best debuts as a filmmaker in Hindi cinema with ‘Luck By Chance’ (2009). The film was an authentic portrayal of the way the Hindi Film Industry functions. It was a warm, engaging and poignant cinematic effort. Zoya’s second film ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’ (2011), though good, had a very inconsistent storyline and could not match up to the standards of her debut venture. Her latest ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’ is about a dysfunctional family belonging to the upper strata of the society. Zoya has explored different themes in each of her films and one can see her taking a more commercial approach with each film. From the looks of it, ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’ seems to be her most commercial project till date.
Kamal Mehra (Anil Kapoor) is a Delhi based businessman who lives with his socialite wife Neelam (Shefali Shah) and son Kabir (Ranveer Singh), who does not seem to be very interested in the affairs of his father’s business. Kamal is a highly respected businessman but his company has been going through losses for some time now. Kamal and Neelam have a daughter called Ayesha (Priyanka Chopra) who lives with her husband Manav (Rahul Bose) and mother-in-law (Zarina Wahab). Unlike Kabir, Ayesha has a knack for business and she has successfully managed to carve a niche for herself in the business world. A cruise has been planned to commemorate the thirtieth wedding anniversary of The Mehras and while it’s Ayesha who plans everything, her name goes missing from the list of family members listed in the card. Kamal is someone who believes in giving preferential treatment to his son. He forces his disinterested son to join the business but does not take any advice from his daughter who is a successful businesswoman. To save his company and to get rid of his financial burden, Kamal decides to get Kabir married to Noori (Ridhima Sud), the daughter of business tycoon Lalit Sood (Parmeet Sethi). The Mehras, along with some of their family friends, get aboard on the cruise liner. On the cruise, Kabir comes across a free spirited Farah (Anushka Sharma) and Ayesha crosses path with her ex-flame Sunny (Farhan Akhtar).
In her last film ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’, Zoya had introduced us to characters that were interesting but not memorable. The characters had their set of issues but one failed to sympathise with them. Even though this film is about people who form the elite class, one identifies with them. The problems that they go through are something that anybody could be afflicted with. The film addresses several issues but it never gets preachy about them. It talks about the discrimination that women in the country go through. Watch out for the scene in which Sunny and Manav have an argument which eventually results in Sunny proving his point to him. There is Ayesha who comes from the crème de la crème of the society and yet is forced to honour a marriage which is not working. Farah who presumably, does not boast of a privileged upbringing, has gone through her share of trouble too. Born in a conservative family, she was discouraged from pursuing her passion for dance and was told that women are only fit for raising a family. It also throws light on the shallowness of relationships that seem normal from the outside. People are busy flaunting their status and living up to their reputation while completely ignoring the cracks that have appeared in their families and the various personal issues their family is going through.
As stated earlier, the film never gets preachy and delivers the message subtly and in the simplest possible manner. The film never wears a somber colour and is filled with several light hearted moments that engage you throughout its duration. The witty dialogues and the dark humour ensure that there are smiles all around. Then, there are certain scenes which are filled with tension and drama and they have been handled adequately by the director. The only complaint one has with the film is that the climax, though exciting, seems a little convenient and rushed up. The drama, leading to the culmination, could have been built up a little more.
Zoya Akhtar’s direction is flawless. She has done complete justice to the screenplay which she has co-written with Reema Kagti. There is hardly anything that one can complain about the water tight screenplay written by them. The dialogues (Farhan Akhtar; additional dialogues: Javed Akhtar) are very memorable. Apart from being witty at places, the lines also touch your heart at the right junctures. Carlos Catalan’s cinematography captivates you from the first frame. The film has been shot throughout several countries and Carlos’s camerawork captures the eye filling locations effectively. The songs (Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy) are very catchy and have been picturised well. “Gallan Goodiyaan” which has been shot in long and continuous takes, deserves special mention. The background score (Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and Jim Satya) is impactful. The production design (Neil Patel) and art direction (Chandrashekhar More) help the film attain a rich look. Though the film is close to three hours long, it never seems stretched thanks to the way it has been edited (Anand Subaya).
Anil Kapoor, as Kamal Mehra, plays an ‘elderly’ character for the first time. His character has grey shades to it and the actor gets sufficient scope to perform. Kapoor does a very good job as the patriarchal figure and his look goes well with his character. Priyanka Chopra’s character has a vulnerability to it which she brings to the fore effectively. Shefali Shah’s beautifully transforms her character from being a slightly indifferent person to someone who carries a heart full of pain and anguish. Ranveer Singh gets to play the most affable character in the film. He is endearing and is immensely likeable. After experimenting with serious roles in her past few films, one gets to see Anushka Sharma getting back to her bubbly and vivacious avatar. Although, she does not get much screen time, she gets some very good scenes to perform and memorable dialogues to deliver. Farhan Akhtar gets as much screen time as Anushka. Although his performance is good, his character is not a very well written one. Zareena Wahab is excellent as the cunning mother-in-law. Ridhima Sud makes a good debut as Noori. Parmeet Sethi is good and one wishes to see him on screen more often. Vikrant Massey is seen on the big screen after a while since he made his debut in ‘Lootera’. He is good as the suave Rana Khanna. Ayesha Raza is hilarious in some scenes. Aamir Khan adds star value by lending his voice to Pluto Mehra, the dog.
‘Dil Dhadakne Do’ is a wholesome entertainer that also compels you to think about various issues. Zoya had already proved that she understands human emotions well. It would not be fair to put ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’ in the same league as ‘Luck By Chance’ but it is a far more superior film than ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’, her last effort. It is a film in which you have characters you empathise with. You laugh at the humour and you feel the emotions. Watching this film is the most fun I had in a theatre in a long time.