Director: Farhan Akhtar
It is once again promos versus the actual product. Dil Chahta Hai, in many ways, blunders along the Aks way—while the ads and 'trailers' give the impression of it being a light, breezy, coming-of-age movie about friendship and angst, the real footage is often dour and slow, with too much of grim and 'gray' lighting. The director is obviously out to make a different kind of film—something in the Bollywood avant garde mould, which combines the early Vinod Chopra, Bombay Boys and Raakh, that old Aamir Khan arty adventure. This is art cinema with the new-age, Hollywood-inspired sensibility, but Farhan Akhtar is Javed Akhtar and Honey Irani's son. The father, of course, has long since retired from serious screenwriting, but the mother had been behind the rise of the '90s marka NRI mush. She scripted quite a few of the DDJSs and the DTPHS. The son's debut, therefore, had to touch base somewhere with the origin. So, the new-age story gets the familiar twist towards the end—the 'mod' heroine becomes queasy and traditional, and the climax takes you back to the weddings with long, flowing robes.
Dil Chahta Hai could have been a landmark film. The friendship shown initially tries to break the yeh dosti hum naheen todenge type of mould. Friends act more like real-time buddies. This element of fun, insincerity and male bonding is actually a Salim-Javed byproduct—remember Amitabh Bachchan's mausi scene in Sholay?
Farhan's attempt to revive that strand in a modern idiom gives us attitude-driven images—a cool, gelled, naughty Aamir and a carefree, bemused Saif. Their characters have a novelty reminiscent of the old Amitabh-Vinod Khanna-Amitabh-Shashi Kapoor chemistry. But it also presents a reticent, boring, word-chewing Akshaye Khanna trying hard to be some kind of Bambaiyya Marlon Brando. Clearly, the director is still trying to learn the ropes. Somewhere along, the kid in Farhan also comes out—friends break their bond on silly trifles, characters shout suddenly and situations start getting trite and repetitive. There is a lot of play with mood, the slow pace, in fact, is an attempt to downplay the chutzpah and bring out a dry attitude, but the effort fails to succeed. Chiefly because the director tries to tread the thin borderline of both his parents' legacies. A more consistent adherence to the Salim-Javed ethic would have suited the tough demeanour better, but the invisible intrusion of Honey Irani mars the mood.
Dryness appears devoid of sufficient subject matter—it also remains basically Generation Y's half-baked effort to become men. Then there is no dimension, which underlines the emotion behind the hardiness. Taken from obvious western numbers, music by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy is peppy but surprisingly off-colour in parts also. The choreography and cinematography too give a laid-back, casual look, which, because of the lack of tension, appear flat and listless.