Film review: Dil Dhadakne Do is sometimes adrift, but not all at sea

Dil Dhadakne Do chronicles the story of the Mehras, a rich family in Delhi working hard at maintaining a facade of normalcy to cover the tension and dissatisfaction simmering underneath.

Anil Kapoor, left, and Ranveer Singh are standout performers as a father and son in the movie Dil Dhadakne Do. Courtesy Excel Entertainment
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Dil Dhadakne Do

Directed by: Zoya Akhtar

Starring: Anil Kapoor, Shefali Shah, Priyanka Chopra, Ranveer Singh, Anushka Sharma, Farhan Akhtar

Three stars

When an industrialist and his wife take their friends and family on a cruise in Europe to celebrate their wedding anniversary, marriages are arranged, business alliances forged, romances struck and relationships built and broken.

Dil Dhadakne Do chronicles the story of the Mehras, a rich family in Delhi working hard at maintaining a facade of normality to cover the tension and dissatisfaction simmering underneath. At the family's helm is the philandering patriarch Kamal (Anil Kapoor) and the socialite Neelam (Shefali Shah), whose marriage is a sham to keep up appearances.

Their daughter Ayesha (Priyanka Chopra) and son Kabir (Ranveer Singh) carry the weight of the parents’ expectations. Ayesha, a successful entrepreneur, is only expected to bear them a grandchild, while the aimless Kabir is uninterested in the family business, even though he is the heir to the empire.

Even as Kamal faces bankruptcy, he takes his entire family and a few strategically chosen friends on an extravagant 10-day cruise for a wedding-anniversary bash, a kind of last hurrah to show his adversaries he’s still on top, while hoping to use the opportunity for a bit of matchmaking. He wants to marry off his son to the daughter of a thriving industrialist in what might be his last chance to keep the business afloat.

Dil Dhadakne Do sees the much-awaited return of Zoya Akhtar to the director's chair for her first full-length release since 2011's Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, for which she won the Filmfare Best Director award. But Akhtar's flair seems restricted here and the simple story, told through a rather laborious screenplay, lacks tight direction and a crisp edit, leaving it to the ensemble cast to keep the film from sinking.

Kapoor and Shah deliver performances par excellence. Kapoor’s comic timing is exceptional and his energy levels and rambunctiousness more than match the young cast he’s surrounded by. Expect to see him on award podiums next year. Shah proves again why she’s counted among some of India’s finest actors today and shines in every scene, especially the one in which she binge-eats in front of a mirror after her husband devotes his attentions to a pretty young thing on-board.

Chopra and Singh are not far behind, displaying an honest sibling bond not seen on celluloid for a while. Chopra sizzles as a self-made businesswoman, juggling career aspirations, family responsibilities and an unhappy marriage. Her husband, the self-righteous, sexist Manav, is played by Rahul Bose, who manages to bring a depth to his character despite not having more than 15 minutes of screen time. But Singh is perhaps the best among the younger actors, portraying a funny and sensitive 25-year-old reluctant to take on the family business.

Then there’s Anushka Sharma in a blink-and-miss-it role as a dancer and Singh’s love interest; and Sunny Gill (Farhan Akhtar), a journalist and Chopra’s ex-lover, who brings colour to the film’s second half.

There’s never a dull moment, thanks to the other characters – gossiping housewives, warring businessmen, young adults in the first throes of romance – who keep the comedy going, but make it difficult to keep pace with all the subplots. A quirky twist in the film is its narrator and moral conscience, Pluto, the Mehra’s family dog, voiced by none other than Aamir Khan, whose witty dialogue is written by Javed Akhtar.

The music, composed by Bollywood's hit-making trio Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, is one of the film's high points. Especially catchy are the tracks Gallan Goodiyaan (sung by Sukhwinder Singh, Shankar Mahadevan, Farhan Akhtar and others) and the title track (sung by Chopra and Farhan Akhtar). The fun song Pehli Baar, set to an impromptu dance by Singh and Sharma, is already in the Indian music charts.

Dil Dhadakne Do stays true to the cruise ship it's filmed on – majestic in its appearance, but not making much progress. Watch it for Kapoor, a consummate actor who's at his best, and the surprisingly versatile Singh, who has finally come into his own.