Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani feels schizophrenic. Like the movie has a bipolar disorder. A large part of it is predictable fare- full of Bollywood clichés but there are some parts which are refreshing in their realism. In a way it is exactly what you would expect if Ayan Mukherji and Karan Johar made a movie together!
The movie’s story is pretty much what you see in the trailers – Ranbir Kapoor is Kabir a.k.a. Bunny, a youth bitten by wanderlust who wants to live every moment chasing his dreams of travelling to all corners of the world. Deepika plays Naina, a shy, geeky, ‘scholar’ type who is preparing to be a doctor. Avi (Aditya Roy Kapur) and Aditi (Kalki Koechlin) are Bunny’s devil-may-care friends. The lives of these four intersect when Naina impulsively decides to go with them to Manali, tired of doing what is expected of her all the time. On the trip, she falls in love with the effervescent Bunny but realizing that their paths are different, she doesn’t tell him and makes her peace with it. 8 years later, the four meet again at Aditi’s wedding in Udaipur – Aditi’s wedding not to Avi as one had been half-expecting but to Taran (Kunal Roy Kapur in a delightful cameo). At this wedding, the friends clash, make up and come to different realizations about themselves and each other. Bunny has to decide whether he will continue on his chosen path or whether his dreams have now changed.
The movie has none of the subtle nuances that characterized Ayan Mukherji’s earlier work, Wake up Sid. Where that was a growing up story with a beautiful romance woven in and a very relatable set of scenarios and characters, YJHD is much more larger than life. Here you have stunning landscapes, foreign destinations, big fat Indian weddings and the usual KJo style opulence thrown in. This is a movie where the awkward, scholarly, conventional Naina wears hot pants in Manali. She is afraid of attending a party where she doesn’t know everyone but dances like a maniac during a Holi song. And yes, 8 years later she is wearing bikini cholis that look in danger of causing a wardrobe malfunction. Aditi, the tomboyish rebel eventually transforms into a girly girl who wants to have a lavish wedding (Kuch Kuch Hota Hai deja vu). Bunny, I am sorry to say, is the least endearing Ranbir character I have seen so far. He is portrayed as a selfish boy who grows into a selfish man and his decision to make some changes to his lifestyle at the end appear more a sacrifice to the demands of passing time than any real transformation
There is a strong streak of practicality in all characters in the movie – Naina accepts quite calmly that she has fallen in love but lets it go because they both want different things, Bunny understands that time is running out for him and he has to make some changes whether he likes it or not, Aditi realizes that her love for Avi is one-sided and she finds a more meaningful relationship with Kunal and Avi is okay with telling Bunny quite bluntly that they are no longer friends because he was not there for him. This is both refreshing in its honesty and also sometimes a bit depressing in its very transactional nature. Much like relationships today.
Some of the more entertaining sequences and dialogues in the movie – such as when Bunny and Avi try to wake up Aditi by singing Jumma Chumma or when Bunny spies on Kunal’s dance routine and calls him a ‘bhabhi’, or Aditi calling Bunny and Avi ‘Karan Arjun’ - do feel new and real. However there are still several times when it feels like the scenes are falling flat and the actors struggling to convey more than the material they have been given. Deepika has done a fairly good job and come a long way since her flat dialogue delivery days. Ranbir surprisingly was unexceptional and did not stand out as much as one might have expected him to. Kalki did a good job as usual and was helped by getting perhaps the most grounded and interesting character. Sometimes indeed the Aditi-Avi angle was more interesting than the Bunny-Naina one.
The songs are a clear win for this movie - from the completely gratuitous Ghagra where Madhuri looked fantastic, to the get-up-and-dance-in-the-aisles Balam Pichkari, to the Ranbir showstopper Badtameez Dil to the liquid melody of Kabira and Ilahi.
Overall, YJHD is still a growing up story but more in the vein of an Imtiaz ‘Love Aaj Kal’ Ali than an Ayan ‘Wake up Sid’ Mukherji. Go for it to enjoy some super songs, some decent performances and some genuinely good moments. That's equal to getting a lot from Bollywood these days.