<Review by: Juthika Nagpal>
Directed by Ayan Mukerji. Starring Ranbir Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, Kalki Koechlin, Aditya Roy Kapur, Evelyn Sharma, Kunaal Roy Kapur
I went in good faith, to watch a light hearted Bollywood KJ stereotypical romance, but walked out scarred from the realisation that, where gender roles and their depiction in media is concerned, Indian cinema is still stuck in the 20th century. I don’t even know where to begin… so let’s put the feminist mode on pause, and start objectively.
Naina (Deepika Padukone) is the chashmish nerd. She’s topped her class all her life, and is studying to be a doctor. Fed up with the boredom that is her life, she sets off on a last minute Himalayan Trek in Manali, along with the ‘cool group’ of backbenchers from her school batch. In the course of the trip she finds her self-confidence and falls for Kabir Thapar aka Bunny (Ranbir Kapoor) who is the coolest of them all – he wants to travel the world and live a carefree life. Alas, the one-week-old love can never blossom, since Bunny is soon to leave for the US and follow his dream. This, amidst the dumb-brunette Lara’s (Evelyn Sharma’s) cooing, the teenage un-romance of friends Avi and Aditi (Aditya Roy Kapur and Kalki Koechlin), summarises the very long and unrelenting first half of the film.
Fast-forward 8 years. They all reunite at Aditi’s wedding. She’s hitched a successful engineer Taran (Kunaal Roy Kapur) who is loaded and drives a BMW. (Yes, that’s all we know about him, but when was anything more ever important?)
Lives have changed, priorities have re-aligned with reality, and the old forgotten Naina-Bunny crush now has one more week to blossom into twuue love. This, amidst more of Lara’s eyelash batting and some Indian-wedding-dancing, captures the very long and unrelenting second half of the film.
Only one thing doesn’t change – Naina’s annoying, clingy, self-piteous sulk of a life.
If there was anything that kept the audience watching, it must have been the half decent production values, bearable acting by the lead characters and some sprinkles of witty dialogue.
Now, here’s my Top 3 Bug-List for a film depicting urban youth of present day 2013:
1. Bunny (to Naina as she smiles coyly): “Those girls are the type one flirts with, you are the type of girl one falls in love with.”
In a round of the drinking game ‘I never…’ it comes to light that Naina has never kissed a boy, never watched porn, never been in love before, never consumed alcoholic beverages… all things that the other girls in the group have done. 20 minutes later the audience witnesses Ranbir Kapoor actually say point #1 aloud, to millions of young impressionable minds across the country (including the poor 12 year old boy next to me whose parents are subjecting him to this nonsense. But that’s ok! The absence of bra-clad mannequins in the city will keep his priorities in order.)
2. Women’s careers aren’t meant to define their characters.
While the careers of all 3 men in the movie have been described as part of their identities and their life struggles, the female characters, even in their late 20s, apparently have no careers worth depicting! Bunny of course roams the world with a TV travel show. Avi owns a bar, and even the seemingly unimportant Taran has some engineer-type career that’s made him super rich. But there isn’t a single sign in the 2nd half of the film that indicates that Naina actually became a doctor. Did Aditi do anything except find the rich engineer to marry? Did dumb-brunette Lara grow up to be a professional eyelash batter?
3. The ‘nerds-always-win’ rule only applies to male nerds.
When Naina has her little speech at Aditi’s wedding, she proceeds to describe how Aditi met the nerdy “engineer-type ka ladka” Taran in an arranged marriage scenario, and a month later decided to marry him. He’s very smart, Aditi says later. Definition of nerd success: 20 minutes worth of screen time in the movie, drives a BMW and has landed the beautiful, way cooler than him, Aditi. However, Naina, after holding on to that big fat book on Neuroimmunology for a whole hour through the 1st half of the movie, and after being called chashmish incessantly, is still, after 8 years, sullen and low on self esteem, without a career worth mentioning, waiting for her true love to come home. Does anyone else see the issue here?
(Homework: Can you all please search for LinkedIn profiles of the nerds you knew and see how frikkin’ awesome their jobs are now? That is… the male AND female nerds.)
To sum it up, the irony of the film is that while the message is clear – we must spend our youth following our dreams and living a life we believe in – we leave the theatre wondering what on earth we’ve just done with the last 3 hours of our lives!