Sunday, June 02, 2013

manic pixie dream boys and girls who wear glasses: thoughts on Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewaani

[Written communication and I are not getting along very well this weekend, so I am surrendering and making a list instead of struggling with paragraphs and transitions and proper writerly things like that.]

[Vaguely spoiler-y, but it's a mainstream Hindi romance, so really, you already know.]

  • Is there anything as lovely and wonderful as being told someone values and likes you just the way you are? I think not. It is the best thing. 
  • Related: it is bittersweet as an audience member to witness what feels like a real-ish, if brief and fleeting, conversation that acknowledges that loving each other may not be enough for a successful relationship if you want different things out of life or are in different stages or versions of maturity or self-awareness. 
  • Recognition that someone can be quiet and reserved but still brave and silly is very refreshing. Similarly, while we see it more often than we do the former, I think, it is very nice to give the smooth and flitty person some intellectual and emotional depth.  
  • Film philosophy breakthrough: you can be an academically talented woman who wears glasses and keep both them and your career through the whole movie while still getting a romantically happy ending! It does help to look like Deepika Padukone, to have worn short skirts with bare legs from the get-go, and to have your glasses off in key scenes, but still.
  • Seriously what is with the way these people packed for a Himalayan trek? There must have been a Tardis on that donkey to fit all the zillions of coats and booty shorts. 
  • Deepika is growing on me as an actor. This might be the best thing I've seen her do? 
  • The character of Lara—hot, dumb, and infantile—feels like an exploitation trick (or gambit, to be generous) of including something mockable in order to get the double payoff of both titillating by showing it and earning brownie points for critiquing it. Maybe she's there as a signifier of the not-fully-matured mind of the hero in his 20s, but she did not sit well in a film that I otherwise found to be more thoughtful and subtle than I was expecting.
  • Beware the Beard of NRI Discontent: Ranbir's Parisian facial hair is seriously awful, but it suits  the sense of "something is not quite right" when he is most disconnected from heart and metaphorical home. 
  • Just as I was tiring of 20something silliness, Ranbir's character showed some depth. And just as I was tiring of 20something everything, the movie leapt forward to 30somethingness. 
  • Immediately expressing selfish, sort-sighted, and ignorant opinions about your friend's good news makes you a bad friend. It's not your fault you didn't know he wanted to go to journalism school, but the thing to do if you're surprised is express just that, not criticize him and imply he's the new poster boy for the death of good times. (And if Northwestern University sends official paperwork in colored envelopes, those envelopes would surely be purple, not blue.)
  • What a pleasure it is to have seen Farooq Shaikh triumph in three different roles within a year (Shanghai, Listen Amaya). I spent the last 15 minutes of the movie quietly crying under the combined effect of Ranbir's regretful face, Farooq's paternal love, and Tanvi Azmi's bridge to what had not been understood. 
  • What is going to happen to this couple long-term? One of them says something to the effect of "Marriage isn't trying. Once you're in it, you're in it," which runs exactly contrary to everything every happily married couple I've ever met says. There will have to be compromise for these two to last, and I didn't get any sense they were going to know how to address that need. He begins it by turning down a travel job in order to stay in India for an undisclosed amount of time and says he wants to include her in his dream—and, I think more significantly, his way of life—but I didn't hear her say she was game to join him. I raise this as a critique not because it's unique to this film but because the characters themselves are so cognizant of how different some of their priorities and preferences in life are. They are both introspective and self-aware and don't seem nearly as likely to be able to fool themselves as other romantic pairs might. Maybe their smarts, building off of their affection, will see them through. I hope so. 
  • The subtitles translated Kalki yelling at the two boys to stop fighting with "Hey Karan! Arjun!" as "Hey Beavis! Butthead!" Heh. Heh heh. 

16 comments:

paayaliya said...

Re: What is going to happen to this couple long-term? Dolce-Namak and I were talking about this yesterday, that so often in movies choices are presented as either-or: either he pursues his career or he has a relationship with her, either he lives outside India or he never leaves it. But in real life that's not the case. I mean, if he wants to work in television and as a photographer, he can do that kind of work in India. And he can travel for work, but now he'll have her to come home to, or they can travel for leisure together which, considering this is a woman who decided to go hiking in Manali on a whim, she probably won't be averse to. Anyway, the point is these kind of compromises are possible but showing a couple actually having a practical conversation like that probably isn't considered too cinematically compelling.

Beth Watkins said...

Yeah, I guess not, though given their brief but insightful exchanges over the general topic earlier, I feel like there might have been a way to work in a sentence or two - and I think that's all it would take to suggest that they were looking ahead with the awareness that they have of their present. Not a crucial flaw, of course.

karrvakarela said...

Is there anything as lovely and wonderful as being told someone values and likes you just the way you are? I think not. It is the best thing.

It is the best thing and you put it so well. However, Deepika Padukone's wooden performance did nothing to convince me that she's an introvert. She just dialled down the volume a little. This role would really have come alive with a more capable performer, like Ayesha Takia, for example.

karrvakarela said...

Farooque Shaikh and Tanvi Azmi were amazing. They brought such grace to their performances. It's interesting how Ayan Mukherjee chooses such accomplished actors for the bit roles (Anupam Kher and Supriya Pathak in Wake Up Sid!, Farooque Shaikh and Tanvi Azmi in this one.)

Amey said...

Re: subtitles, I noticed quite a few places where the subtitles intelligently changed the references to a more US setting. Well done! BTW, did you get subtitles during the Madhuri Dikshit item song? We didn't see them.

And wife and I agreed that it was pleasant to see there were no last minute shenanigans during the wedding and it went through perfectly well. That felt like both the characters had matured and not regressed to their 20's.

Maya said...

The film was just a mix of older, better films & cliche's for me. And RK & DP were just so remarkably unimpressive that I can't muster any sort of reaction apart from, "Bleh."

Bollyviewer said...

Deepika is growing on me as an actor.

Me too! She reminds me very much of Hema Malini, so I am always surprised to see that she can actually act! And I do think she is improving as an actor.

I watched this yesterday with a bunch of friends and it was funny how opinions were divided along gender lines - the guys all thought the movie was awful and the women were all drooling over Ranbir! :D

bogeyno2 said...

Great observations Beth and I agree with most of them, totally agree about the subtitles which clearly had transcripted by someone on crack or a vendetta against Dharma but even that couldn't dull the shine of the film! :-)

Mansi said...

love your little observations
1) "Beware the Beard of NRI Discontent: Ranbir's Parisian facial hair is seriously awful, but it suits the sense of "something is not quite right" when he is most disconnected from heart and metaphorical home."

2) "The character of Lara—hot, dumb, and infantile—feels like an exploitation trick (or gambit, to be generous) of including something mockable in order to get the double payoff of both titillating by showing it and earning brownie points for critiquing it. Maybe she's there as a signifier of the not-fully-matured mind of the hero in his 20s, but she did not sit well in a film that I otherwise found to be more thoughtful and subtle than I was expecting."

Anchal. said...

I love your blog, and the insights that you capture here. (I also love that someone takes bollywood as seriously as I do!)

Also, I finally (since I'm between jobs and have some free time) took some time to write down my thoughts on YJHD and wanted to share them with you. Once I wrote them and read your post, I was amused by some of the overlap in our thoughts. Mine can be found here...

http://orangelenses.blogspot.ca/2013/06/association-with-karan-johar-by-default.html

Beth Watkins said...

Karrvakarela - I have no doubt Ayesha Takia or others could have done the role better but I really thought Deepika was pretty good. Half of that may be just keeping her eyes open and letting the camera do some work in presenting them as sad etc, but still. Good point about the parental actors - they really help fill out the emotional and psychological depth/meaning in films like this.

Amey - I don't think we had subs on any of the songs? This really was a more mature film in some ways - or at least it depicted more mature lead characters. That's a benefit of jumping the story forward, isn't it? You can still have the zany antics at 23 but then can be more dramatic at 30. (Though they had some nice exchanges in the younger phase too, which helped it all seem consistent.)

Maya - Sorry to hear that! I gather you are not alone in this opinion, though I have not been reading many reviews.

Bollyviewer - I am surprised the guys weren't sufficiently distracted by Deepika's legs. Certainly plenty of opportunity.

Bogey - I loooved the subtitles. At least they were energetic!

Mansi - Thank you!

Anchal - Oh you will find MANY people who take Bollywood seriously - but thank you. :)

fictionkahaani said...

What a movie , i was searching for a strong concept throughout. Today's youth is not distracted and drunk 24*7 as shown in the movie ...

Tobi said...

Agreed, agreed and agreed! I felt like a bit of a killjoy at the end of this movie cos instead of 'love conquers all' I felt like 'er, what now?' for the Bunny-Naina relationship. I don't need movies to be wrapped up in a big shiny bow before the credits roll but I felt like the issues stopping Bunny-Naina from getting together were unresolved. Even a half-assed 'ah, we'll work it out somehow' conversation would've been enough for me. That aside, I could watch Ranbir dance all the life-long day, altho I crushed hardest on Bunny's adorable dad and Aditi's adorkable hubby!

Beth Watkins said...

Hi Tobi - More Ranbirdancing. Always. :) And yes, Farooq Shaikh (Bunny's dad) always makes my heart go flipflop even when he's playing a baddie. SQUEAK!

Aparna said...

Haven't seen the movie - having a 5 month old has totally got me out of movie theaters except for a couple of English ones that hubby and I managed to sneak in to during weekdays when the Nanny was around.

But I loved the songs, especially the lyrics. It's very rare nowadays that lyrics can be simple, rhyme so effortlessly and convey so much.

Thanks a lot for the review Beth, as usual, love to read your take on movie!

Sharicespieces of thought said...

On my list of movies to watch.

Thanks for the review :>