Dil Bole Hadippa is the latest fairy tale from the house of Chopras --Yash and Aditya.
Like umpteen Yash Raj Films, Dil Bole Hadippa, directed by Anurag Singh, is set, in a mythical Punjab where fields are always swaying in the wind, colourfully dressed men and women are always waiting to break out into a vigorous dance, and everyone cheerfully chomps on sugarcane and drinks lassi.
Only this pind (village) happens to be at the Wagah border and has its own cricket team. Every year, the team plays a local Pakistani team for the Aman cup and loses.
In despair, the team’s owner, played by Anupam Kher, turns to his son Rohan, played by Shahid Kapur. Rohan, who plays county cricket in England, is at first reluctant but eventually he takes over as coach and captain.
Among the aspirants who hope to play under the new captain is Veera Kaur, a feisty, cricket-mad-girl, played by Rani Mukherjee. For reasons, I couldn’t figure out why Veera lives with a nautanki company called the Jigri Yaar Dance Company and is adept at costumes and disguises.
She becomes Veer, the most delicate Sardar you’ve ever seen, and joins the team. What follows is love, misunderstanding and of course a climactic triumph of the will.
Dil Bole Hadippa is loosely inspired by the 2006 high school rom-com She’s The Man, in which a girl disguises herself as her brother to get on a soccer team. Of course the story has been thoroughly Punjabified.
The Chopras have long been masters at creating overblown fantasies, which work because they are rooted in an emotional reality. But in the last decade, their strengths as storytellers have calcified into formula.
In Dil Bole Hadippa, Anurag almost seems to be ticking off a checklist: patriotic references to motherland, reference to YRF’s monster hit DDLJ, Punjabi chest-thumping with dialogues like main ek Punjabi baap ka Punjabi beta hoon.
The push-button emotions and plastic environment is only made worse by the appearance of two literally plastic starlets, Sherlyn Chopra and Rakhi Sawant.
But what saves Dil Bole… from being a total write off is Rani Mukherjee. The actress, looking better than she has in years, pours her soul into Veera Kaur. Her performance, like the film, is high-pitched and broad-stroked but she makes it work. She and Shahid Kapur have a nice chemistry.
There is something eminently likeable about both of them. So in the climax, when Veera makes a speech about allowing girls to dream, you are actually moved.
Of course, the film is happy to contradict itself. Veera and her equal-opportunity dreams are given great respect but Sherlyn and Rakhi are unapologetically objectified and ridiculed.
At one point, Sherlyn, who is supposedly Miss Chandigarh, arrives at the cricket pitch wearing a bikini top, shorts and a burberry scarf.
Eventually then, Dil Bole… is worth seeing for the sweetness and charm that Rani and Shahid conjure up. Catch it if you have nothing else going on this weekend. Two and a half stars.