Fun, adventure, romance take precedence over the need for an actual story in Ayan Mukherjee's second directorial venture Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. The need to portray these three elements is so great that a majority of the film is just song & dance.
At the centre of it all you have Ranbir Kapoor's Bunny, a travel-buff, a free-spirit who lives for the moment and the highs from arriving at new places. This is his life's philosophy. He meets Naina (Deepika Padukone) on a trekking trip to Manali. She's as rooted as he's footloose & fancy-free.
A studious girl, she's strong-minded and at the same time wracked by low self-esteem. It so happens that Bunny and Naina were batch-mates in school where he was his ebullient self, while she receded into corners. Over the course of their trek, Ranbir helps her shed these inhibitions and shows it's okay to have fun and that she deserves to. And as expected, Naina falls in love just as it's time for Bunny to say goodbye and head off to university in USA to bring him closer to his dreams.
On the fringe of this 'if you love someone, set them free' romance are Kalki Koechlin's Aditi and Aditya Roy Kapur's Avi. Aditi is the glue that keeps the gang together with her feisty attitude. She's a scene-stealer in the first half as she does everything from spouting kick-ass one-liners to gearing up for a brawl. She's in love with Avi whose sole purpose is to drink and get lucky. And he's completely unaware of Aditi's feelings.
What happens next is eight years later. Aditi's no longer a tomboy and Avi's no longer her object of affection. She is ready to settle. Yep, the lady said yes to an 'arranged marriage'. Now that calls for a reunion. And as is the case with reunions, it's never easy. Unfortunately, it wasn't easy on the viewers either. It just gets too busy (think cameos, wedding festivities and more song & dance).
In the midst of all this, Bunny & Naina's love story moves at snail's pace. As for Avi, he's still about the booze but now he's got some business troubles as well to add some gravitas to his aimless character.
The denouement is something we have trouble making peace with. As the film edged its way to the finish line we hoped that Ayan, who made the very original Wake Up Sid, would dare to refrain from a neatly tied-up happy ending.
Is it wrong to want to travel to various corners of the earth? Is it wrong to not want to put down roots? Naina's reasoning is that Bunny misses so much from friendships to something as important as a last goodbye to his father, just because he's in a hurry to go places. This makes him wonder if he hadn't been on that fateful trekking trip where no could reach him, he could've made it back home on time. But in life there's collateral damage. For all you know, he could've been on a honeymoon on a remote island and this could've still happened. Bunny is a character who had the potential of Maughamesque proportions such as Larry from Razor's Edge.
But what we do like is Naina's restraint. The maturity with which she thinks for two people, her admission of love but also the very real issue of clashing interests. Ayan however, quells all these genuine emotions that make this love story engaging with Bunny's quips and 'hell yeah' attitude. Naina finally gives in and falls for it. But not us.
Pritam's songs that work as the stepping stone in this flat love story, are catchy and boast great choreography.
Ranbir's portrayal of Bunny is spot on. He brings life and energy to the character in a way that there's always a constant state of motion even in Bunny's most tranquil moments, thereby fitting in seamlessly into the garb of a traveler raring to go.
Deepika lights up the chemistry as the geeky-gorgeous Naina. We couldn't help but wonder if she channeled real emotion in some of the passionate exchanges. However, first impressions, had us confused. Sure, Naina is the no-nonsense type, the kind of girl not made for flirtation but 'ishq' as Bunny says. But she's no plain-Jane. Throughout the movie, Naina is decked in stylish clothes from shorts to pretty floral dresses. Which is why we found it pretty jarring when she pulled on a cardigan over her sleeveless dress just cause Bunny entered the room.
Kalki's character falls flat post interval as the bride to be. She's absolutely no fun then.
Anybody could have taken Aditya Roy Kapur's spot. His was a pointless character that did nothing for the story.
The cameo from Kunal Roy Kapur as the groom was so welcome. He warmed up instantly and made up for Avi's lack of presence as the fourth friend in the circle.
Madhuri Dixit opened the film with Ghagra. Evelyn Sharma seemed to have fun playing the bimbette. Rana Daggubati had a walk on-walk off part. Poorna Jagannathan's barely registered.
But it's Ranbir's performance, groovy moves and smart-alec comments that see us through the movie. And if the first-day first-show audience is anything to by, it's strictly for college freshers and teenagers. The title does keep its promise with young stars as its face complete with a catchy soundtrack. But behind that veneer is something a tad preachy that tells us aging is all about slowing down and suggests we try and stick to smelling roses that grow only in our garden.
Watch it if you care for a couple of laughs and Ranbir's hot dance moves.
Rating: Two and a half stars