I loved Ayan Mukherjee’s first film – Wake Up Sid. It’s a magnificent coming-of-age film, embellished with scoops of quieter moments that make the film introspective yet not dull; and some superlative performances. So I approached YJHD with huge expectations.
WUS was essentially a small film; neat & compact in its design; and a linear but taut timeline and was essentially without any ‘stars’ (Ranbir at that point was very new!) Perhaps, Wake Up Sid’s surprise success guaranteed Ayaan Mukherjee a bigger budget and a wider canvas, and to incorporate it in YJHD the film stumbles & wobbles.
There are a few recurring motifs in both films : Seeking one’s goal, and reconciling it with one’s loved ones; the father-son conflict that can be best described as ‘generational gap’ or perhaps, better as simply ‘ideological differences’, without any malice and filled with brimming love; friendships turned sour and eventually sweetened by passing time (as said in the movie ‘Thoda waqt do, sab theek ho jaayega’); and the central theme about two individuals who are neither right nor wrong, but just different to each other. Of course, passion for photography is another returning refrain.
However, where the film falters is its wider timeline, geography and canvas – all those perfect locations, flawless dresses, and also the need to incorporate an ‘item song’ (Madhuri Dixit, no less!). Blowing up a photo meant for a smaller bit size will only heighten its pixelated flaws.
Hence, too much gloss and loss of detailing ( why would a so called studious girl like Naina who is so burdened by her studies and her parents’ expectations flaunt perfectly waxed legs in skimpy shorts? Pity, Ayaan resorts to the age-old Bollywood cliché that a ‘studious girl’ means wearing a pair of ugly specs! Or, how did they all manage to finance such an elaborate trip in all those designer clothes? I fondly harked back to the scene in WUS where Ranbir couldn’t even pay for a pizza dressed in a normal crumpled T-shirt! And then Ranbir’s entire so-called ‘journalistic career’ is swept aside in a few hasty montages where all he does is wave about his camera!)
No doubt the whole gamut of gloss & glamor is very eye-pleasing, but it also smothers the film’s soul, which thankfully is very much throbbing & making its presence felt in its own charming but muted way. Especially in the second half.
The first half is wholly devoted to the Manali trip, where Naina (Deepika) and Bunny (Ranbir) meet, and gradually get attracted to each other. They are accompanied by two of their best friends Aditi (Kalki) & Avi (Aditya Roy Kapoor). Aditi has a soft corner for Avi, who doesn’t seem to realize it. In this section, we befriend all the 4 lead characters … especially how their aspirational goals will clash. Bunny is a nomad at heart, and wants to roam the world (and carries an empty scrap book which he wishes to fulfill with his experience); Naina is the rooted one, caught between a wish to break her chains and her inherent sense of practicality. She falls for Bunny but doesn’t express it.
This section also has a short but superbly etched track featuring his father (Faruque Sheikh in an excellent cameo!) and his stepmom (Tanvi Azmi).
Eight years later they meet at Aditi’s marriage – no, not to Avi, who has spiralled downwards to being some sort of a loser, but to a man who looks silly, and is perhaps silly, but as Aditi says ‘with some people you just want to be with’ !
It’s in this section that Ayan’s writing gets razor sharp, and Hussain Dalal’s dialogues very interesting. Here Ayan leaves the geographical widespread, and is now contained in a wedding home, and hence gets his chance to take us into a wider tour of his characters! Perhaps a small canvas is his forte, and he should stick to that!
In this section there are some shining gems: ‘We grew up very fast’ laments Aditi at one stage, shining the torch on what I believe is a complain we all at some point of time carry. The characters for sure do. Here, Bunny & Naina reunite, rediscover each other. And reconcile with each other ( ‘You are not right, we are just different – says the hero; and a few scenes later she asserts ‘You are not wrong, we are just different’ – a mirror dialogue that I just loved!)
Since I am simultaneously reading Khaled Hosseini’s And The Mountains Echoed, there is somewhat similarity between the two …in the sense of a bottomless vacuum that lies beneath the successful facade.
The film’s technical aspects are all first-rate. Attractive costumes (lots of brand placements), amazing cinematography and fairly competent editing.
Pritam’s background score is very good (especially that piece when they are at the mountain peak is absolutely sensational!). His songs are good too, esp Badtamiz dil, Balam pichkari and Re Kabira.
I firmly believe Ranbir Kapoor cannot do anything wrong, and here Bunny is a character made for him, so he is outstanding. Deepika, though, was a very pleasant surprise. And both Kalki & Aditya hold their own fort strongly.
In a way, I empathized & understood Bunny; the character touched a chord inside me – that gnawing urge to follow one’s dreams; to explore the unchartered territory; to not be bound in one place; to not be tied down; to eat at new places; to stay at fresh cities; to see new sights. But as his father says, not all have the guts to pay the price for it. Because it all comes at a heavy emotional cost. Bunny had those guts.
I walked back from the theatre at 2 in the night thinking about Bunny – in the city that never sleeps – cars swept by in their manic rush; a couple sat having tea from a roadside vendor, a few stood around the cigarette stall; a cricket-match was on in one society under faux-spotlights; beggars slept precariously on the road-divider; autos slowed down and then seeing my disinterest sped away ; I reached home, put my laundry for washing (neglected due to my tour); cleared some loose junk lying here and there; kept the rubbish can outside the door for it to be picked up early morning; popped a beer; and sat to write this review. The night outside is heavily quiet; the humidity is oppressive; a drop slithers down the beer can; I like this space; this time with myself; this is my bargain …. random sights random views, but something within despairingly clawed trying to find a hook, a wall- I guess it was just an attempt to patch an incomprehensible hole with a jagged collage of sights & sounds. Much like Bunny. But very unlike him. For I haven’t paid that price. Yet.
In all – An interesting film, if only it had been much smaller in its canvas.
DO WATCH IT.