MUMBAI — There are some films that seem (or should the word be “seek?”) to be "real" but are just a more polished form of escapist entertainment with a message or two coming in. Zoya Akhtar’s “Luck By Chance” was good fun during the first watch, but the jokes were not quite as funny the second time around, and trouble was in store when during my second watch in a theater, audiences just did not seem to get the punchlines. 

Despite the conceptual similarities, “Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara” did not quite make it into the same place in our hearts as “Dil Chahta Hai,” directed by her brother Farhan, did. But Zoya evolves immensely as a director in this fun drama and with co-writer Reema Kagti, treads the safer terrain of wholesome, progressive family entertainment, with messages and homilies delivered even amidst the illogic (a near-bankrupt tycoon financing his 30th wedding anniversary celebration on a 10-day international cruise for dozens of friends, associates and family members!). In "Dil Dhadakne Do," Zoya gets the emotions right by making the entertainment riveting and the experience full of many perceptive insights into basic relationships among parents and children, husband and wife, friends and lovers and more.

Perhaps taking a leaf out of Madhur Bhandarkar’s “Page 3,” she incorporates some biting satire on the hypocrisy of the super-rich, makes a case for following one’s heart so that the brain helps and being bold and assertive with (over-) demanding parents and more. The ace in her narrative is the dog Pluto Mehra, who is like a family member whose contribution is brilliant and whose character helps Aamir Khan and Javed Akhtar enter the film in a unique way.

The dysfunctional Mehra family, which consists of the parents, two children and a dog, go on a cruise and learn things about life and relationships. That is the two-line story of this wonderful entertainer.

The minus points: the music  is the first one (I think Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy never fulfills their creative potential with the Akhtar brother and sister — “Dil Chahta Hai” and the four songs in “Rock On!!” are the exceptions). Though the Akhtars may not realize it yet, this will lead to a substantial drop in the box office collection of “DDD.” Secondly, the 170-minute length could have been shortened by 20 minutes to prevent the script from getting involved with too many characters too often. Not that the film drags or bores, but it could have done better financially if its final edit was crisper.

Finally, while the numerous casting changes were happening (Madhuri Dixit Nene was approached for Shefali Shah's role, Ranbir Kapoor / Ranveer Singh and Kareena Kapoor Khan / Priyanka Chopra), the writers had time to perfect the glaring errors in their script (like selling a small plane to help a company settle multi-crore liabilities!), which could have helped the film to become more sensible.

Carlos Catalan’s camerawork is, as always, divine, and mention must be made of the film’s biggest ace — Farhan Akhtar’s dialogues, which bring to life so many key situations only thanks to their minimalist substance. The same cannot be said about the non-specific mediocre lyrics.

“Dil Dhadakne Do” happily boasts stellar performances. Topping the list is the nuanced, magnificent work of Priyanka Chopra as Ayesha. Her tiny expressions and nuances, as well as her vocal inflections truly bring her character alive. The next rank goes to Ranveer Singh, who is ever-animated but superb, even in the serious scenes. The third rank goes to Anil Kapoor, who gets into form only in the second, much more animated half. Shefali Shah is truly commendable in all her layers — warm, motherly, incisive, nasty, helpless and more. Farhan Akhtar, Manoj Pahwa and Parmeet Sethi are first-rate and so is the actor who plays Anil’s brother. The young lovers are good and so are all the gossipy ladies. Rahul Bose is rightly hateful as a chauvinistic husband, prone to making nasty barbs.

Zarina Wahab is miscast and ineffective, and Anushka Sharma does not get much scope but is her usual free and likable self, though she does not make any special effort.

For the final analysis, yes, the film will lose money and get a mixed reception (the North is not going to be kind to its progressive ideals, put forward in a very realistic, head-on manner), and it does have a good share of flaws, but a movie experience is about enjoying, laughing and coming out happy. This is a film to be enjoyed with the heart. Some films are not supposed to be analyzed with logic and intelligence. Go buy a ticket, have fun, take home some pointers to make your own and your family’s lives better and happier with this simple philosophy, “Live and let live.”

Rating: ****

Presented by: Excel Entertainment

Produced by: Ritesh Sidhwani and Farhan Akhtar

Directed by: Zoya Akhtar

Written by: Zoya Akhtar, Reema Kagti and Farhan Akhtar, with input by Javed Akhtar

Music: Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy

Starring: Anil Kapoor, Shefali Shah, Priyanka Chopra, Ranveer Singh, Anushka Sharma, Manoj Pahwa, Parmeet Sethi, Zarina Wahab, Ridhima Sud, Vikrant Massey and others

Special appearance by: Farhan Akhtar

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