Movie Review: DIL DHADAKNE DO (2015)
‘Dil Dhadakne Do’ is the best Bollywood movie in recent times that deals with family dynamics, without having to portray the characters as cartoonish caricatures. The film relies on the incredible performances of its leading cast and tells a story that is realistically endearing at times and comical at others. Read on for my almost perfect Movie Review of ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’.
The dysfunctional family comedy is a Bollywood trope that has been exhausted in the industry. The characters are almost always portrayed as being 1 dimensional sterotypes with comical characteristics. Family dramas are no better as they demonize everyday people as conniving villains in order to provide an antagonist for the purposes of creating a conflict. While ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’ has a premise almost like that, it’s able to keep things very grounded with a sense of realism that is absent in most commercial Bollywood cinema.
The story never loses focus from it’s core group of characters, an affluent nuclear family with deep seated issues formed over years of seflishness, neglect and a lack of communication. The story follows the business woes of the head of the family Kamal, played wonderfully by veteran actor Anil Kapoor who, despite his decades in the industry, is still able to surprise the audience with a powerfully arrogant portrayal. Kamal’s financial problems are nothing compared to his marital ones, something the couple ignores for the sake of keeping up appearances for their elite social circle. While the matriarch of the family, Neelam, played gracefully by Shefali Shah, tries to hold things together, despite severe self esteem issues and a possible eating disorder. The depiction of a marriage long past its breaking point is done superbly by the two actors, but even better written by writer / director Zoya Akhtar & writer Reema Kagti.
‘Dil Dhadakne Do’ is writer/director Zoya Akthar’s third directorial following the success of ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’ (read my Review here) where she was praised for creating realistically believable relationships between the characters, and building on them with conflicts that provided great emotional story arcs. She pulls off the same here with a drama that works on multiple levels despite dabbling in a genre that’s quite common for a Bollywood movie.
While every performance is uniquely amazing, Anil Kapoor & Priyanka Chopra stand out among them all. Kapoor gives a brutally hard portrayal of a horrible father treating his children like assets and his wife as a business partner. Kapoor shines in the 3rd act when his set-in-his-ways Kamal has to face how he’s treated his family and is absolutely crushed by the error of his ways. The issues of the parents spill into the children, as eldest daughter Ayesha (Priyanka Chopra) attempts to come to grips with her loveless marriage, and son Kabir (Ranveer Singh) tries to find his place in the world, while having his father always berating his ineptitude of ever being capable to take over the family business. The conflicts between each member of the family is as hilarious as it is heartbreaking. The film is properly able to portray the awkwardness of heated words exchanged during family arguments, and the comedy of experiencing the situation from the outside, as the audience does.
Chopra is just stunning as an independent woman bogged down by traditional Daddy issues while contemplating divorce. Despite the characters’ liberal attitudes and influential lifestyle, the idea of divorce is shown as being an turning point in one’s life and not as a melodramatic plot device. The movie treats Chopra’s storyline as significantly as, if not more so, than the others’. What makes her story stand out as well is the complete lack of demonization of Ayesha’s husband, played by Rahul Bose. The relationship is never shown to be strained or overtly terrible, despite their issues, but mostly an internal conflict for the character herself. Ranveer Singh puts in a performance that is probably one of the most restraint of his career. Having no funky facial hair or crazy hairstyle to add to his performance, Kabir’s self doubt and self realization is all Singh and he does it with slightly less flair than usual, but still good.
Along with Zoya Akthar, ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’ has been co-written by Reema Kagti, an impressive director in her own light with the thriller ‘Talaash’ to her name. (My Review here) Together, both writers are able to pen a story that never diverts away into becoming a love story, or convoluted side character ridden mess. The movie centers its focus on the 4 main characters, despite the inclusion of pretty decent performances by Farhan Akhter as Ayesha’s long lost love, and Anushka Sharma as Kabir’s new found love. Not that the film isn’t devoid of sub plots. There are very minute nods to Kamal’s mistreatment of his younger brother, a subplot between two other characters’ rivalry due to Shakespearean-style family drama and a third love story amidst it all, all of which are resolved by the end of the movie. While the ending is a little rushed and devolves into a mad-cap frantic dash to resolution, it can be excused given that an emotionally grandiose gesture by the characters is necessary to overcompensate for their mistreatment of others for years.
A lot of ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’s back story between the characters happens off screen through references and alussions instead of flashbacks, like Kamal’s extra marital actives and the past relationship between Ayesha & Farhan Akthar’s Sunny, which fleshes out the lives of these characters so much more, while still keeping the entire setting of the film restricted to the confines of a cruise ship. The back stories are so rich that it makes one even want a prequel to see the conventional ways that those histories developed.
‘Dil Dhadakne Do’ is an excellent example of a realistic family drama, where the characters lives and problems aren’t limited to the 170 minute screen time that the audience is exposed to, but one where the characters are complex and flawed and aren’t fully redeemed by the end of the story either. The film is able to take the stereotypical Bollywood family movie cliches and repurpose them in a hyper real manner where the fights aren’t full of melodramatically tear jerking one liners, (thanks to the dialogues written by Farhan Akthar) but instead are frustratingly unresolved yelling matches that go nowhere; while entertaining as hell to watch unfold.
For audiences that love Bollywood glitz and escapism from their real problems, ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’ may not be their kind of movie. But if watching your favourite actors on screen dealing with problems that you can relate to, with family that seems exactly like yours, while getting you to laugh the entire time is something that interests you… then this is a must watch! The film can easily stand up against other quirky Hollywood family dramas such as ‘The Family Stone’.