Notes on Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani

Posted on July 31, 2013


Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani seems to have started life as a perfectly respectable coming-of-age film. But along the way, somebody decided give the film some “treatment” and “styling” and forgot to stop. The end result is a film in which empty, plastic style overwhelms almost every frame to the point where you begin to feel you are watching not a movie but an elaborate lifestyle manual, designed to send you to the Jabong website or book a holiday (preferably through MakeMyTrip) or plan a destination wedding. To be fair, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani is not the only film, and it certainly won’t be the last, where style dominates; but in this film, it is a shame because an opportunity to tell an interesting story has been lost or rather squandered away.

It is not hard to imagine what the film would have been like if it were made on a smaller budget. If this film is any proof, I am perhaps not wrong in thinking that big budget is the enemy of creativity. Some films don’t need a mega budget, they need conviction and thought. But the big Mumbai studios and producers, like the true businesswallas that they are, put in money to make more money. They latch on simple ideas and stories and make them on big budget, which typically translates into young stars, foreign shoots, elaborate song and dance sequences, lavish sets and costumes, marketing tie-ups and what not — all the ingredients for a marketable film. That’s the nature of the beast, I suppose but it’s poor consolation. Anyway, the strategy has worked. The film may have been terribly excessive and hollow (for the large part), and quite deliberately so, but it has earned an obscene amount of money and is one of the year’s biggest hits.

Yet, for all its excess, there are moments in the film when you can see what it was originally meant to be. I found the ending of the film to be quite remarkable because of what it doesn’t do. A perfect resolution and happy ending is something of a norm in mainstream coming-of-age films. In Ayan Mukerji’s previous film, Wake Up Sid, Sid’s problems solve themselves; there is no genuine struggle or dilemma. The happy ending is handed over on a platter. Not so in this film. Avi and Aditi are weary and unfulfilled in their own ways and what is surprising is that they have learned to live with it. In some other film, Avi would have realized his love for Aditi and would have made a grand declaration at her wedding, prompting Bunny and Naina to get together as well. But not here. As the credits rolls, Avi still has a failing business to deal with and a drinking problem to acknowledge. Aditi, the outspoken one, doesn’t have the courage to admit her feelings to Avi and decides to settle for less. Is this passive-aggression directed at herself? It seems so. Even the lead couple, Bunny and Naina, don’t fully resolve their issues. Bunny’s decision to reject the job offer and stay back and particularly, the final shot of his face as he embraces Naina is restrained and cautious. We know right away that it is going to be a lot of hard work to keep this relationship going, given their respective ambitions and attitudes to life.

Speaking of Bunny, there is a deeply selfish and unpleasant side to him. While the film does try to balance it out, the unpleasantness is not entirely glossed over. It lingers and leaves a bitter aftertaste. He is highly individualistic and pretty unapologetic about it. He has a very definite vision of what he wants out of his life and he isn’t going to let anyone get in the way. Early on, we see Bunny as the glue that holds the group together. He is the natural leader, pushing and getting his friends to fall in with his plans. But more importantly, and even if he doesn’t realize it, he is the emotional anchor for his friends and not surprisingly, they never quite recover from his rejection and abandonment of them. I think being a middle-class kid Bunny is more ambitious and driven than the rest. If I were to stretch it, I would say that his character can be seen as a subtle critique of the middle-class drive and ambition to live the glamorous life and travel abroad. I mean, what better way to announce that you have truly made it big than to declare Venice the “Dharavi of Europe”. Yet all his travels and experiences haven’t made much of an impression on him. Whatever realization he comes to in the end is because he falls in love with Naina and now has to reevaluate his life and make some important decisions as a result of that fact. As for Naina, I wish the film had done more with her. After the first half, the film loses interest in her as if the end of the Manali trip is the end of her growth as a character.

So there it is: a handful of potentially interesting ideas buried under a tonne of batameez dil and diliwali girlfriend and trekking in miniskirts.

PS: Never quite got the logic behind the title of the film. I guess it was chosen because it has a happy, energetic vibe to it—never mind it makes no sense in relation to the film. Or perhaps it was chosen to go with the Batameez Dil song.

Posted in: Miscellaneous