All about the boy

Ayan Mukerji’s Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani runs on an unmistakable, foolproof formula: The story is secondary; the song, dance, costumes and stars are supreme. When executed cleverly and with good actors, this formula blurs the difference between trash and art. We, unapologetic Bollywood lovers, willingly suspend disbelief and surrender, let Bollywood transport us from the dull funk of life.

There is a wedding, a journey in the snow-capped Himalayas, brilliantly choreographed dances and a lead pair with crackling chemistry—Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani is a mishmash of all the hit romances you have watched, perhaps more than twice, over the decades. The film looks contemporary in the most glossy and lavish possible way. The cinematography by V. Manikandan, which uses plenty of soft lighting, has the signature cosmetic plume of all-expensive romcoms coming out of Dharma Productions, Karan Johar’s banner, which has produced the film.

Bunny (Ranbir Kapoor) is a footloose, charming photographer whose dream is to travel the world. He is the all-too-common commitment-phobic guy. In one scene, Mukerji establishes Bunny’s relationship with his father (Farooq Shaikh) and stepmother (Tanvi Azmi)—he is unresponsive to his father’s affections and has not embraced his stepmother. With his friends Avi (Aditya Roy Kapoor) and Aditi (Kalki Koechlin), Bunny leaves for a trek in the Himalayas. Naina (Deepika Padukone), their long-forgotten schoolmate, joins them on the trip by serendipity. The romance between Bunny and Naina is a foregone conclusion, but it materializes only eight years later when the four meet for Aditi’s marriage to Taran (Kunaal Roy Kapur). Lives have changed, and old friendships and new love are tested.

The film is clearly written for Ranbir Kapoor. His role is the script’s centrepiece and driver. Everything in the story is dependent on what Bunny does and where he goes.

Kapoor devours the possibilities this opens up for him. As usual, the actor has clever control over his emoting skills, making the balance between melodrama and subtle expressions seem like an effortless job. He dances with amazing agility and grace, and plays the self-effacing brat with charm. He is in top form, reassigning himself as the most astute and skilful star in Bollywood today. Padukone has matured as an actor and her role as Naina, who hides a winning seriousness behind her spectacles, is much better than what we have seen before.

Together, Kapoor and Padukone have electric chemistry, although the romance is built on the tested, boring premise of contrasts; that opposites attract. The chemistry solves much of Mukerji’s problem. The story’s thinness and simplistic arc, though evident, become secondary. Koechlin is competent in the clumsy, big-hearted buddy role and Aditya Roy Kapoor is awkward in most scenes. The performances, however, can’t sustain the film’s length of two-and-a-half hours—the last half-hour crawling towards the inevitable.

A lot of Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani is fuelled by the powerhouse charisma of the lead man. Overall it has the easy, comforting charm of all good romantic films. If you have a Bollywood addict in you, watch it.

Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani released in theatres on Friday.

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