Well, what else can I say? You have a very jawaan director, Ayan Mukerji, who has assisted on ‘Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna’ and showed traces of undoubtable talent with his writing and directorial debut ‘Wake Up Sid’ who then goes completely deewana with his second solo venture! What happened here, dude?!

This is a three-hour long movie that could have been slashed by a goodly hour so firstly, editing is way off and here is another hugely talented jawaan (editor Akiv Ali) giving me a shock, and then the story is bouncing along a potholed road in fits and starts. At the end, I’m confused – is this a story about young friends or young lovers? ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ and ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’ – meet shades of KANK and ‘Love Aaj Ka’, etc etc.

So – Aditi (Kalki Koechlin), Kabir aka Bunny (Ranbir Kapoor) and Avi (Aditya Roy Kapur) are firm college friends, who decide to go off on a Manali trekking trip. They are joined last-minute by another classmate, the studious Naina (Deepika Padukone) with stereotyped geek look of outsized spectacle frames, minimal makeup, boring clothes – although this geek also wears short skirts on a trekking trip!! thus showing off those long tanned legs to perfection. Go figure!

Right, back to what’s there of the story. So Bunny, we’re told, in this hastily bunged in scene which is mainly to introduce Madhuri Dixit’s dance number, is an aspiring journalist or rather, photo-journalist (gotta get these facts in order, Ayan, there IS a difference between the two breeds, you know!) Another splotchy scene tells us rapidly that Farooque Shaikh is Bunny’s goody, long-suffering daddy, while Tanvi Azmi is the wicked stepmother – who actually does everything BUT play wicked! There is a lot of footage given to the Manali trip. Then Bunny decides to go off and follow his American dream; Naina, we’re shown, has kinda fallen in love with him but then we don’t know much else of what happens to her in the eight long years Bunny is away. Suddenly, Aditi is about to get married and her best friend, who apparently hasn’t really kept in touch through the better part of a decade, decides he simply has to rush to India and be at the wedding and there we have Bunny making a grand appearance Shammi Kapoor ishtyle with the eminently hummable ‘Badtameez dil.’

Wokay. Another botched angle to the story tangle thus far is Avi being mad at Bunny for not staying in touch.  Then the archetypal Karan Johar style mehendi scene with Naina in a gorgeous hot pink and orange number but – is that a bikini with a ghaghra?! Never mind, by now I’m numb and shock-proof. She dangles her feet in one of Udai Vilas’ numerous little pools and plays coy, but the minute the guy says ‘I love you, Naina’ she’s out with the Big Q, yaane ki, shaadi; tell you what – if I was a guy and the girl was to mention marriage with the first “I love you” I’d skip for the nearest hills like a lamb in springtime! Really, Ayan?? That how it goes?

It appears to be a trend for hitherto leading ladies to perform these “item” numbers and that’s supposed to make a movie a hit these days. Madhuri Dixit looks good; svelte and very much in shape. The cynic in me can’t help wondering how much of this is due to the scalpel and soft (camera) lens magic! She manages step for step with the much younger Ranbir and the dance is a delight to watch. However, like I said in the beginning, her introduction into the story is so weak it’s non existent.

Koechlin surprisingly does a creditable job with this movie; although she needs to work much, much harder on the facial expressions, nevertheless she doesn’t grate, particularly in the bravado scenes on the Manali trek. Which, by the way, is another scene with an abrupt ending after an endless chase with some local baddies – a Hindi film prerequisite. Yet another staple for a “hit film formula” is the Holi song; did anyone else notice ‘Balam pichkari’ has strains of ‘O Radha teri chunri’ from ‘Student of the Year?’

Padukone is just – there. Certainly no heart (!) and soul; she’s done her job and walked her way through the movie. Err – just how and when did the demure medical student morph into this décolletage revealing doctor?! Also, the caterpillar eyebrow look just doesn’t work on her mobile face with those beautifully expressive eyes.

Ranbir Kapoor is his ebullient, mischievous self but he hasn’t gotten under the skin of the character the way he did with ‘Wake Up Sid’ or ‘Barfi.’ Undeniably graceful dance moves. Of course, how can a movie these days be considered complete without the quintessential close-up shot of a liplock, supposed to tell us, the audience, that this indeed is true love, as opposed to the buzzing bees and flowers-in-full-bloom shots of yesteryears!

If Kunaal Roy Kapur (Taran)  is not careful he will soon get branded with the bumbling buffoon kind of roles. As for younger sibling Aditya Roy Kapur, he has claimed in interviews that he is not a trained actor. Well buddy – it shows! ARK tries hard but in many places the facial expression does not match up to the words, and the dialogue delivery is faltering.

Old timer Farooque Shaikh is such a delight. The scene where he tells his wife the roof afza is nice, just after the stepson has lambasted it, is so sweetly done, so effortless.

Call me a prude, but insulting dialogues such as “andar se jitna haraami hai chehre se utna shareef hai” do not a hit film make; tsk, tsk, Hussain Dalal. It must be said that some of the other dialogues are peppier, however, lack the punch to make them forceful enough. The Oberoi Group must be thrilled to bits – extensive footage given to Udai Vilas at Udaipur. Cinematography by V Manikandan is spellbinding; almost the entire film is shot in gorgeous, seldom-seen locales of India.  The musical pairing of Pritam and Amitabh Bhattacharya gives rise to several delightful melodies such as the aforementioned ‘Badtameez dil,’ ‘Kabira,’ ‘Ghaghra’ and ‘Delhi walli girlfriend.’

Naaah. Only a deewana would spend 350 bucks to watch this offering.

*This review is written exclusively for The Film Writers Association of India.

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