Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani is a bright, breezy and brassy film designed for easy consumption. What it certainly is not is ballsy. For all the big ideas about life and the dilemmas of youth that it tosses up in the air over a runtime that’s 20 minutes shy of three hours, it always opts to play safe, vacillating between thoughts of rebellion and acts of conformity.
The characters spout familiar platitudes to each other: live your dream, get a life and move on, stop pitying yourself and learn to love thyself…We have seen and heard it all before.
In the first half of the film, four happy-go-lucky school buddies with superficially defined traits reunite to go on a trekking trip to Manali and beyond.
Bunny (Ranbir Kapoor) is footloose and dreams of exploring the world. Aditi (Kalki Koechlin) is wild and fancy-free. Avi (Aditya Roy Kapur) is a drifter happy to blow up his cash on cricket bets.
Naina (Deepika Padukone) is the odd one out. She is a bespectacled and sedate medical student. She joins the gang in an act of impulsive defiance but cannot break away from her neuro-immunology textbook even as the rest of the traveling party live it up on the road.
By the end of the adventure-filled sojourn through the ups and downs of the undulating landscape, each of the four is transformed a little, but only to go his/her way.
Eight years later, one of the two girls in the group, Aditi, decides to marry a straight-laced engineer (Kunaal Roy Kapur) and her old friends descend on a resort in Udaipur for the grand betrothal.
And like they did the first time around, they come and go talking about love, friendship and the need to grow up even as they consume a whole lot of liquor.
Between the swigs, love and friendship do happen, but the quartet does not quite grow up.
The high-flying Bunny, after several years of globe-trotting as a television cameraman, talks of the pleasure of watching Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. In response, the more rooted Naina extols the joy of seeing Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge with a tub of popcorn at Maratha Mandir.
Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani is clearly more of the latter than the former although it does occasionally betray the ambition to be larger in scope than what it is capable of.
It is a mildly diverting film at best. Its musical set pieces are robustly staged and with Ranbir Kapoor at the centre of them all, they are fun while they last.
The characters are rather sketchily etched and the psychological bends that they encounter on the way to self-realization are far too simplistic to catch the audience by surprise.
Neither the romance nor the drama that the film seeks to whip up can salvage it from being just another harmless romp aimed at an undemanding audience that is comfortable with swimming at the shallow end of life.
There is no denying, however, that Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani is gorgeously filmed, the locations are eye-popping, and the guys and dolls that people the tale are a bunch of attractive people.
The two lead actors, Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone, do make a fetching onscreen pair. And they are well complemented by Aditya Roy Kapur and Kalki Koechlin.
It is the erratic narrative arc that is a letdown. Overlong, sluggish and fluffy, it meanders through varied locations as the young lovers/friends seek to reconnect with each other after a few years of being apart.
The song and dance routines, no matter how foot-tapping they are, do not quite possess the kind of infectious energy that can offset the clichés around which they are wrapped and turn the film into something more than just superficially enjoyable.
Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani is a mix of Dil Chahta Hai and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, with dollops of 3 Idiots thrown in for good measure. It is all served up in a Karan Johar-style concoction where the backdrops – both indoors and the locations – are infinitely more expressive than the inner worlds of the young characters.
The impulses of the quartet of friends, who predictably include one couple that is on the verge of a lifelong relationship but are either unable or not keen enough to express their love for each other, are hardly explained in logical and convincing terms. As a result, the fragmented storyline hurtles forward only in fits and starts.
The heroine is head over heels in love. The boy she is smitten with is averse to making a commitment. The girl is unable to communicate her true feelings. So you know exactly what the outcome is going to be. They will keep crossing each other’s path until true love is found.
Director Ayan Mukherji, who gave an impressive account of himself in his debut film, Wake Up Sid, appears to have allowed the skills that he displayed the first time around to go into deep slumber.
Not that Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani is a sleeping pill. It is not. But it could certainly have done with a little more narrative verve.
Do make it a point to get into your seat before the show begins. Madhuri Dixit’s item song plays out ten minutes into the film. Watch Ranbir Kapoor match steps with the still-lustrous diva and you know why this guy is special. Watch Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani for him.