Dil Dhadakne Do, directed and co-written by Zoya Akhtar, revolves around an upper-class Punjabi family on a cruise trip. The father, Kamal Mehra (Anil Kapoor), is a self-made businessman who is married to Neelam (Shefali Shah), a housewife. The couple have two children, Ayesha (Priyanka Chopra) who is married to Manav (Rahul Bose), and Kabir (Ranveer Singh) who is a bachelor. The cruise is planned by Ayesha and Kabir to celebrate their parents' 30th marriage anniversary. However, Kamal is facing bankruptcy, and, being a shrewd businessman, he sees the cruise as an opportunity to revive credibility by selling off 49% of his company's stake to a powerful adversary, by hook or by crook. Soon things begin to take an ugly shape as Kamal's ambitions once again come in the way of his children's happiness.
The story revolves around rich people, their extravagant lives, scandalous affairs, and the problems that surround them. Reema Kagti and Zoya Akhtar must have had the Indian diaspora in their minds while devising the movie's script.
"[T]he movie could have been much more than a clichéd melodramatic family affair had the makers given greater importance to storytelling than merely trying to accommodate a stellar ensemble cast in the screenplay."
Since Independence, Hindi cinema has played an instrumental role in highlighting the issues of national importance; time and again, it played a pivotal role in eliciting a strong feeling of patriotism that kept the nation together in times of need: be it war or natural calamities. But, it all began to change around the 1990s as Nehruvian socialism made way for liberalisation, globalisation and privatisation. As the Indian economy slowly opened up, Hindi cinema began to experience an Anglicisation of sorts with the growing influence of the Indian diaspora, which is best demonstrated by films like Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Pardes, Namastey London, etc. Bollywood started catering more and more to English-speaking Indians . While some recent films have shown a change in this trend, many major production houses are still sticking to the time-tested formula of making films that cater to the Anglophonic tastes of the ever-expanding urban middleclass. It can be said with absolute certainty that Dil Dhadakne Do is targeted towards the very class of audience.
Bringing to the fore the issue of marital incompatibility, Dil Dhadakne Do addresses a topic that's seldom been touched upon in Hindi films. Even modern Indian families haven't yet fully come to terms with the important issue of gender equality even if they do enjoy greater liberties than previous generations. For all important matters (like marriage, family planning, work, etc) women must seek permission from their fathers/husbands. Then there is the persistent fixation on having a male heir to take forward the family legacy. Why can't a daughter assume the mantle, if she has both the interest and the qualifications? It is questions like these that lie at the heart of Dil Dhadakne Do.
"While Dil Dhadakne Do lacks a universal appeal... anyone who is somewhat interested in rich people's problems can afford to give it a try."
The movie also poses some important questions about life: Why do we humans, despite having the gift of speech, fail to communicate our innermost thoughts to the ones we love? Why do we spend most of our time doing things that have little relevance in the larger scheme? Why do we allow our egos to come in the way of our love? Why do we complicate the lives of the ones we love and care about instead of showing them the right path? Most of these questions appear in the form of voiceovers, brilliantly delivered by none other than Aamir Khan.
Overall, Dil Dhadakne Do is redeemed by a rainbow of touching performances. But, the movie could have been much more than a clichéd melodramatic family affair had the makers given greater importance to storytelling than merely trying to accommodate a stellar ensemble cast in the screenplay. Dil Dhadakne Do can be watched for the performances and the scenic locations (although these are quite underwhelming especially when compared to Zoya Akhtar's Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara). This critic, for one, certainly expects more in the creative department from the talented duo of Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti.
Speaking of performances, the sizzling romance between Ranveer Singh and Anushka Sharma proves to be a major highlight (it's their first outing after a long hiatus following their break up). Also, it's good to see Priyanka Chopra and Anil Kapoor bring their A-games to the table. While Farhan Akhtar puts up a rather sedate show during his special appearance, Rahul Bose is solid as ever in the role of a chauvinistic husband. One particular scene between Bose and Chopra wherein the husband-wife duo plays tennis is both funny and intense--the sequence brilliantly sums up their rather lopsided relationship. Amidst a series of solid performances, it's Shefali Shah's portrayal of a troubled housewife that stands out.
While Dil Dhadakne Do lacks a universal appeal, and will best be appreciated by the Anglophone urban audience, anyone who is somewhat interested in rich people's problems can afford to give it a try.
A version of this review was first published at A Potpourri of Vestiges)