05 June 2013

Yeh Jawaani Hai Dewaani

Directed by: Ayan Mukerji

I've not been excited for an Indian film in so long I almost cried when I saw the first teaser for "Badtameez Dil" a couple months ago. Finally, I thought, a super happy, super bubbly Bollywood blowout! 

I managed to make two viewings on the opening weekend despite every showing in NYC being sold out for 4 days straight, and I will admit I was unimpressed the first go through, thankfully the second time charmed me. Overall, I was impressed by this film and the strides it made in its storytelling.

The caveat, of course, is that I was very frustrated by a few things that cannot be overlooked:

1.  In NO world and under NO circumstances can I tolerate or condone a group of eight-year-old girls dancing to “Desi Girl” and doing mini-thumkas.  I don’t care if it’s at a sangeet, I don’t care if it’s supposed to be “cute”—it’s distasteful and unfortunate that little girls are entertaining a crowd by shaking their hips and proclaiming themselves to be “the hottest girl in the world”.  

2.  “Lara the rhinoplastied sex object. I understand that some women are flirts and they are just… like that. We all have our moments of being the Walking Stereotype of Feminine Idiocy but to write in a character that is nothing but a vessel for sexual objectification is disgusting.  

While I had a handful of other feminist objections those two stood out as most offensive to me. 

Issues aside (and they should not be discarded lightly), YJHD did a lot of things right.

Naina (Deepika Padukone) is an introverted, study-minded med student. Instead of focusing on a pre-glasses, post-glasses physical makeover YJHD gracefully allows the character to grow personally, watching Naina "find herself" and become comfortable in her own skin was as refreshing as watching half of the film from her perspective. Use of a female narrator is not commonly used in commercial Indian Films and it was absolutely brilliant. I never feel as if I know who the women in films are--and thankfully--I was able to really meet and understand Naina. Deepika--whom age favors--pulled out an amazing performance. 

"Bunny" (Ranbir Kapoor) represents the person we all want to be--the go getter, the man who has it all, who achieves all of his goals--and the total opposite of Naina.  The second half of the film is dedicated to Bunny's growth and humanization. Switching the POV to him suddenly before intermission was clunky and awkward but allows us, sadly, to segue into the more traditional male-focused love story. While I won't deny that Ranbir Kapoor does a fine job I do think that Bunny's "second half" is less developed and full of abstract staring into space. A lot is sacrificed by taking power of narration away from Naina--but alas: it's a Hero's world. 

As a couple Bunny and Naina felt real, and thankfully they were allowed to be together after they had both become their own, independant person. They brought out the best in each other and realized that what's most important is not how different they were but how they felt together, which was happy. The takeaway line in this film is (paraphrased): "sometimes just being with one person makes everything better"and both Naina and Bunny realized that.

A short note on Kalki Koechlin: I am in love with this woman. I haven't always felt this way but I thought she brought a very centered element to the screen with her "Aditi". While Bunny and Naina can feel like characters of two extremes I found Aditi to be the normal element for them to both bounce off of and humanize them. 

As was to be expected from a Karan Johar backed flick you get tastes of all of his films. Wouldn't it be nice if, for once, a director stopped sucking up to KJo's dick ego and made a film that supported itself? I'd love that.

(Karan, I love you.  Mellow out.)

While I won't call Yeh Jawaani Hai Dewaani the next DDLJ I do think the film has an important role to play in the development of new films. Give me more movies from the perspective of women and tons and tons of over the top RomComs. I'm drowning in a sea of Police Flicks and I can't stand it.

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