Dil Dhadakne Do: A Wodehousian Cruise


Hello, hello, tu posts hai padhne aayi, so let me introduce you to some new friends I made this weekend on a cruise. Meet Kamal Mehra (Anil Kapoor) who’s the CEO of Ayka Industries, staring at an imminent bankruptcy in his business, an underachieving son, an overachieving daughter, a part-of-the-furniture wife, and a thirtieth wedding anniversary. None of this does anything to calm his anxiety or his frayed nerves. Anil Kapoor is absolutely top of the charts, as he deals with his familial struggles, tries to mix business with a marriage proposal for his son, and put his daughter in her place. And as none of this works, he works up a character so flawed, so hollow, and yet so believable, his anguish is right there in your seat. His scenes where he confronts his son and his daughter are a study in expressions – bewilderment, anger, scorn, and finally, the courage to stand up and do what’s right.

Meet Kamal’s wife, Neelam Mehra, played with simmering anger and frustration by Shefali Shah. All through the first half, as her marriage anniversary celebrations end up on the cruise, she’s a stone-wall of emotions, her engagement with her high falutin friends as airy and snarky as they get. Until she begins to face the detritus of her marriage portrait, and then Shefali simply amazes as her personality and mask melt away. It’s a pity we don’t see more of her at the movies.

Anil Kapoor and Shefali Shah crackle without chemistry
Anil Kapoor and Shefali Shah crackle without chemistry

Up next, Kamal and Neelam’s son, Kabir. As Kabir, Ranveer Singh is possibly the leading light in this cruise. As someone upon whom the family business is thrust and who has to run business meetings, he’s so out of place, you want to take him out for a drink. Note the scene where he walks out of a disastrous presentation, shoulders hunched self-deprecatingly, hoping the receptionist doesn’t know how he ate crow inside, looking at the company logo and wondering how he ended up here. As he finds love and realizes just how badly his sister is treated, he becomes a little assertive, but in a vulnerable that- only -sensitive -people –can way. Ranveer’s sprinkles his scenes with everyone with a dash of genuine affection, camaraderie, and likeability.

Then, come meet Ayesha, Kabir’s sister, played with immense restraint by Priyanka Chopra. She’s on the Forbes list, runs her own company, calls the shot in her business, but her father glosses over this fact and waits for her brother’s turn to prove himself. Ayesha’s planned the entire anniversary celebration on the cruise, but there’s no acknowledgement of it from her parents. Plus, she’s forced to face her own marriage and her old love who comes sailing in a superbly made scene that’s an epilogue to an equally entertaining semi-farcical scene with her family. Priyanka gives depth and personality to every facet of role she plays – wife, daughter, and sister. And the scenes between her and Ranveer are sparks of genuine sibling affection; especially when the family’s arguing and they look to each other for support. There’s a superb scene where Ranveer pulls up a chair in the hospital room, his grand gesture of defiance when ordered to leave the room by his mother. Priyanka looks at him, and then jumps and sits on the platform as her grand gesture of support. There’s another smashing scene in which she volleys out all her frustration in a dialogue-less tennis match with her husband. That’s when she scores in a loveless match.

Anushka Ranveer dance their hearts out
Anushka Ranveer dance their hearts out

There are other members too, who come in, interact, and collide with the mad, whimsical world of the Mehras. Here is the sparkling, zesty and completely in charge of her life Farah Ali, played simmeringly well by Anushka Sharma. Anushka lights up Kabir’s life and gives it purpose. She also lights up the screen when she dances in the superbly choreographed “Girls like to swing” and the self-choreographed “Pehli baar” with Ranveer. Rahul Bose as Priyanka’s uptight, superior-male species, husband’s –mission- is –to- give- permission is fantastic. There’s Sunny Gill (Farhan Akhtar) who, as Priyanka’s “used to be best friend” flame, removes all remaining doubts from her mind. About herself, her life, and her relationships. Farhan is smooth, crisp, likeable, and waltzes through his role with his usual flair for dry humor and debonair presence. Just like the dialogues he’s penned for this movie.

Family that cruises together
Family that cruises together

There’s a huge supporting cast, all of whom fill up the gaps in the plot that may seem a little too overcrowded for some. But you can’t miss Parmeet Sethi, Manoj Pahwan, Zarina Wahab, Ridhima Sud, Vikrant Massey, Divya Shah, and others. Plus, Pluto the dog, who’s thoughts sound like Aamir Khan, but just only so, thanks to a nice narrative effort by the latter.)

Shankar Ehsan Loy churn out some snappy numbers – the frolickingly  picturized “Gallan Goodiyaan”, the punch-beat “Pehli Baar”, the swinging jazzy “Girls like to swing” and the maddeningly catchy title song.

Finally, it all fits nicely into writers’ Reema Kagti and Zoya Akhtar’s world of dysfunctional, upper crust (and crusty) society. To me, it all appeared very P.G. Wodehousian, especially the climax where one character has to do something mad for everyone else to jump into action and forget their differences. But amidst all this, director Zoya Akhtar also reminds us that the rich and high-flying might not have khaps amongst their midst, but they certainly have their own little panchayats in their posh cruise liner rooms, when a girl dares to speak her mind and think the unthinkable.

Who knows, I just might visit my new friends again to see how they’re doing.

@DDDTheMovie @ @ @AnilKapoor  @aamir_khan @ShefaliShah_ @priyankachopra

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Official trailer, Dil Dhadakne Do: