Hindi cinema has never been short of movies which abound in humour. In fact, there's a barrage of funny films these days. Whether it's the gentle humour that keeps us smiling constantly [on the lines of Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Chatterjee's films] or the incisive and sharp wit of Tere Bin Laden, Do Dooni Chaar and Phas Gaye Re Obama or the boisterous laughathons attempted by David Dhawan, Anees Bazmee and Priyadarshan, we've enjoyed our share of laughs. But I genuinely feel that the comedy scene in Bollywood is slowly, but perceptibly changing, veering more towards realism and this is exactly what we get to watch in Madhur Bhandarkar's new outing Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji.
Okay, okay, so we associate Madhur with somber/serious cinema, tackling issues that concern us, right from Chandni Bar to Jail. By now famous for his socially relevant, hard-hitting films that take potshots at the upper crust, Madhur changes tracks with this one. Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji is a light entertainer at heart, but there's something about the landed gentry in this one as well. It exposes the dual lives they lead.
Without beating around the bush, let me pronounce that I was skeptical about Madhur's abilities when it came to handling light films. Oh yes, he has a terrific sense of humour in real life. On reel, he's synonymous with hard-hitting movies, isn't it? So what prompted this National Award winning film-maker to enter a new terrain - humour? I am sure, it has something to do with discovering newer horizons and taking on unexplored territories. So does the gamble work? Are Madhur's claims - of following Hrishi-da's footsteps with this one - mere hollow words or does he deliver?
Much like Madhur's earlier films, Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji is about real people, situations and problems. Except that the emotion isn't sorrow and the theme isn't dark this time. Irrespective of how his films are received, the one thing Madhur is known for is the unconventional story he wants the viewers to absorb. Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji isn't about three couples and how they discover love, it's about how these three guys who find love, but… let's leave it at that! Else, the twist in the tale will be in public domain.
The camaraderie between Ajay, Emraan and Omi and the unpredictable storyline post intermission is the driving point of this motion picture. In fact, if the first half is laced with light moments, the second half is where the twists-n-turns crop up and each of those stories get nurtured in the process. But there's a flipside too and that's the choice of actors in the finale. Ideally, the makers could've done with known faces in the end. It would've only been an icing on the cake. Also, there are a few rough edges in the narrative, but not the type that would make a big dent.
Also, I'd like to state, it left me wondering as to what prompted the censors to pass the motion picture with an 'Adults Only' certification? I would say that some of the recent films have had far more objectionable and explosive content than this one. Besides, Indian television is full of repugnant and obnoxious material which everyone has free access to. I guess, our censor board needs to be a little more liberal in view of the fact that times have changed and it's about time their attitudes towards cinema also changes.
Final word? This one is amongst Madhur's most accomplished works!
Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji is a slice of life film revolving around Naren [Ajay Devgn], Abhay [Emraan Hashmi] and Milind [Omi Vaidya] and their encounters with love.
A listless Naren, well in his thirties and going through a divorce [Rituparna Sengupta], falls in love with a vibrant and bubbly June [Shazahn Padamsee], who has just stepped out of her teens. Milind, a poet and an idealistic lover, is enamored by an ambitious and practical Gunjan [Shraddha Das], who is determined to follow her dreams. A charming casanova Abhay starts feeling an alien emotion called love when he feels increasingly drawn towards Nikki [Shruti Haasan], a modern girl who knows her needs and speaks her mind.
With its real characters and relatable situations, the film takes a witty look at love and the extent people will go to evade it or attain it.
Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji seizes your attention gradually. One of the reasons could be because Madhur narrates three stories concurrently. Ajay, who portrays the life of a harried bank manager going through a 'mid-life crisis', is very compelling. Watch him in sequences when he sets his eyes on his new office assistant [Shazahn]. Consider the character of Omi, a true-blue romantic, working as a matchmaker, who has never been able to find a soul mate himself. One comes across such people in real life as well. And, of course, there's Emraan, who uses affluent and well heeled women as a stepping stone to attain the resources and luxuries of life. His sequences with Tisca Chopra add spice to the proceedings. Ditto for the women in the film. Especially Shraddha and Tisca, who use men to their advantage. Very real characters. In fact, the variety of love and relationships that we get to watch here is so diverse from what we have been subjected to in Hindi movies since time immemorial. As a matter of fact, each of us must have experienced the varied emotions depicted in this film at some juncture in our lives.
While watching Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji, I recalled a much-acclaimed Basu Chatterjee movie Shaukeen, which had three lecherous older men trying to get naughty in their elderly age. Of course, both the films cannot be judged against each other except in view of the fact that both films have three middle-aged men and three elderly gentlemen [in the case of Shaukeen] trying to explore the love and lust aspect of their lives. Even the treatment and conversations in Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji are out of everyday life. It's more like a discussion happening between any three normal, everyday guys even when they discuss the opposite sex. There is no dialogue-baazi as such, it is just a normal tete-a-tete happening.
Madhur's attempt of dabbling in the comedy genre may appear dicey for a lot of his detractors, since he's known to be proficient in the art of creating serious/dark movies. But comedy is serious business and Madhur gets it right on most occasions. Let me add, this is not one of those imperceptive and dull-witted films that make an attempt to tickle your funny bone every five minutes. Madhur has interwoven some serious moments in the narrative, which makes it a slice of life film, but which sticks to the commercial format.
The screenplay writing is absorbing at most times. Having said that, I'd like to add that the writing could've been tighter at places. Shraddha's sudden exit leaves you mystified. Also, the film could've done with better names [read, eye candy] in the finale, when the three guys set out for Goa. The climax was already a highpoint and one definitely expected a better culmination. Also, the film could've been tightened in the editing suite.
The expectations from its music are on the higher side, especially after the success of Pritam-Ajay-Emraan's last venture Once Upon A Time In Mumbai. But the problem is that it does not offer much variety, unlike OUATIM. 'Abhi Kuch Dino Se' and 'Tere Bin' are my picks. Cinematography [Ravi Walia] is up to the mark. Sanjay Chhel's dialogue are witty and just perfect for this genre.
Ajay proves his adaptability and versatility yet again. Having impressed us adequately in the past, Ajay portrays a character that takes you back to a very popular actor of his times, Amol Palekar. Ajay underplays his part effortlessly. Emraan, popular also for his skirt chaser image on screen, plays an obsessive philanderer here and he's electrifying. In fact, he spices up the proceedings every time he appears on screen. The role assigned to him is an extension of what he's attempted in the past, yet he interprets it so differently. Omi Vaidya's character gets subdued initially, but it must be said that the earnestness with which he portrays his part makes him endearing. He's remarkable in the sequence when he breaks down while reading the letter.
Shazahn looks like a doll and gets the character right. In fact, she adds so much freshness to the proceedings. Shraddha gives the right shades to her character. She's most convincing when she takes Omi for a ride initially. Shruti appears late in the film, but she leaves an impact nonetheless. Her scenes with Emraan are amusing. Tisca Chopra is superb, especially in the sequence when Emraan confesses that he's in love with someone else. Mukesh Tiwari is first-rate in a brief role. Aditya Raj Kapoor is fair. Rituparna Sengupta does well. Harward Rosemeyer leaves a mark in the funeral sequence.
On the whole, Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji is a feel good, light-hearted rom-com, a slice of life film which the populace and the regular lay person would relate to. Madhur Bhandarkar changes tracks from his trademark women-oriented movies on contemporary issues to a rom-com, which has the unmistakable Bhandarkar signature to it, and emerges triumphant in his new fangled endeavour. The film carries a tagline that reads 'Love grows… Men don't', which seems most appropriate after one has watched it. Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji, with its bona fide characters and pertinent situations, promises to bring a smile to your face and cheer you up. I strongly recommended it!
Director: Madhur Bhandarkar
Cast: Ajay Devgn, Emraan Hashmi, Omi Vaidya, Tisca Chopra, Shruti Haasan, Shraddha Das, Shazahn Padamsee