A movie directed by Zoya Akhtar and starring an ensemble cast of some big Bollywood stars. One would be forgiven for presuming the movie to be ‘Zindagi Naa Milegi Dobara’ from the one-line description. However, the movie in TFI’s firing line today is ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’.
After riding on the success of ZNMD, Zoya Akhtar decided to take things a notch further. A cruise ship in the Mediterranean Sea became the focal point of the movie with the entire publicity of the movie surrounding this plot device.
The story is fairly simple, and nothing different from what hasn’t been played on the cinema screens hundreds of times before. And while the set pieces are gorgeous, they are not enough to salvage what is a trainwreck of a movie.
Getting down to brass tacks, unlike the yellow page journalists who dubbed the movie as ‘breaking the glass-ceiling’ in their reviews, due to its emphasis on feminism and women empowerment — a second viewing makes one wonder if the critics had their blinkers on at the time of the penning the review?
Anil Kapoor runs a company that is nearing bankruptcy. He is a serial-cheater who cheats on his wife, who apparently knows about it but is too ‘weak’ to confront him and instead chomps on depression pills to drown out her misery. Anil is the epitome of a pervert, and remember this point dearly for it will be important in the latter part of the review.
Anil Kapoor’s two children – Ayesha (Priyanka Chopra) and Kabir (Ranveer Singh) have their own problems with the former in a difficult marriage while the latter is worried sick that his father would sell his precious private jet.
Other characters are Farhan Akhtar who plays the role of a broody ”know-it-all’ investigative journalist, and Anushka Sharma who is a dancer on the cruise ship and the love interest of golden-heart Ranveer Singh. All this is narrated by the family dog ‘Pluto’, which has rightfully been dubbed by Aamir Khan.
Feminism as the core point of the movie:
The movie is nothing but a farce when it comes to handling a critical subject like ‘feminism’. It uses the classic yet stale trope of running down the opposite gender into the ground to make the other gender stand out.
There is a reason why there is a growing contempt for feminists across the board. Some radicals of the movement believe that stomping down upon men is what feminism is all about.
Moreover, Rahul Bose (Manav) is painted as the outright villain who controls his wife and is ostensibly an incarnation of the anti-Christ when it comes to the rights of women.
While Manav certainly has flawed ideas about feeling superior for doing the ‘bare minimum’, it’s Priyanka’s character that needed some fleshing out.
A morally disruptive character that plays victim all the time:
Priyanka Chopra is clearly unhappy with the marriage, still harbouring feelings for her old flame (Farhan Akhtar), and yet when her husband wants to have a baby, she refuses to tell him why they cannot conceive. She is secretly popping contraceptive pills, keeping her husband in the dark. Moreover, Manav is ridiculed for his intellect throughout the movie.
In a particular scene, while talking about constellations (Saptrishi), Manav is painted as a weirdo, which presumably shows the moral arc of the creators who just needed an opportunity to strike down the character into a pulp. He is also ridiculed throughout the movie for being a ‘Mama’s boy’.
In a particular scene, Farhan Akhtar gives a supposed ‘befitting’ reply to Rahul Bose by preaching him about Feminism and equal rights. Farhan Akhtar later forms the major reason for the acrimonious divorce of the couple. Talk about a white knight, trying to earn the ‘good boi’ points by talking up a woman, only for his own benefit.
Meanwhile, Ranveer Singh’s character openly instigates one of the characters to commit suicide. Even if the dialogue was intended as a comic relief, a topic like suicide could have been handled maturely. Moreover, all throughout the movie, Ranveer’s character is nothing but a hollow figure, dancing and gulping down alcohol, only fixated on Anushka Sharma and the jet.
The movie is truly a waste of Ranveer’s potential and even after a second viewing, it is rather hard to comprehend what his character brought to the table, other than setting up the final third act.
Contradictory ideas pushed by the writers:
The writers of the movie weaved the narrative according to their convenience. Their ideas were muddled, chaotic, abrasive, and at times contradictory. Remember how Anil Kapoor was a pervert who cheated on his wife?
By the end of the movie, the writers seemingly forgot about it. Anil Kapoor simply apologizes to his wife and all is hunky-dory as she forgives him and they live happily ever after.
While Priyanka comes through the supposed systemic patriarchal oppression, her mother, who has a husband openly committing adultery becomes the good guy. And the movie goes to great lengths to redeem Anil Kapoor’s character.
Compare this to the character of Manav and one can understand how the writers were fixated on making a character do the heavy lifting that hypocrisy became the by-product. As explained earlier, Manav’s character is flawed but he didn’t cheat on his wife and tried to keep his children in shackles. On the contrary, Manav’s wife cheated on him by kissing Sunny. And yet, the movie wants us to believe that it’s the upper-cast, rich, cis-het males that are the problem.
A bad marriage does not entail one to cheat on their partner. A bad marriage does not mean that you cannot communicate your priorities about things as important as ‘having a kid’ to your partner. However, the movie certainly has different ideas about what is oppression and how to get away from it.
Dil Dhadakne Do is a classic example of what is wrong with modern-day Bollywood. The writers have a surface-level idea of basic world topics and instead of exploring them in a nuanced manner, they remained fixated on using the ‘Bollywood level drama’ to induce the cringe-fest masquerading as a movie. Only if they had clear ideas for their characters, plot points as they had for their production design, which was spectacular, to say the least, the movie could have been tolerable.