Friday, January 28, 2011

Review: Dil Toh Bachcha Hai Ji

Director: Madhur Bhandarkar
Starring: Ajay Devgn, Emraan Hashmi, Omi Vaidya, Shazahn Padamsee, Shruti Haasan and Shraddha Das
Stars: **1/2

Madhur Bhandarkar might think he's made a major departure with Dil Toh Bachcha Hai Ji, a dramedy about three bachelors (Ajay Devgn, Emraan Hashmi and Omi Vaidya) of different temperaments trying to find a mate. The filmmaker's other films have all been based on specific settings (Page 3, Fashion, Corporate, Traffic Signal, Jail) where Bhandarkar focusses on their ugly underbelly through the voyeuristic gaze of middle-class morality.

Dil Toh Bachcha Hai Ji is not too different from these films, except that it is not restricted to a segment of society. It's not so much a comedy, even though it has been billed as one. It has many devices and character-types here that are common to most of Bhandarkar's films. Of course, the one-liners pop up at regular intervals for the laughs. But what is most distasteful about this film is its attempt to extract humour at the cost of gays (portrayed in the most offensive manner)and middle-aged women. The director has always used some of these crude stereotypes in his other films, but when the attempt here is to garner some cheap laughs, it appears all the more pathetic. In particular there is a funeral scene where some shockingly callous remarks are made at the diseased female model. In the bank that Devgan works, you see a plump, regular-looking colleague. For a while, you are fooled into thinking that probably Bhandarkar is aiming for an authentic office environment by having real looking people. But no such luck.

Bhandarkar's insensitive portrayal is extended towards animals also. There's a scene where playboy Emraan is trying to get introduced to a rich socialite (Tisca Chopra) at her pet parlour. He buys a puppy from someone on the road, only to see its mother desperately trying to chase him down. And this is supposed to be funny?

Anyway, one can't help feel that the film would really have been better without some of this offensive stuff, because on the plus side, it is still quite a rooted, situational film, without too much of the loud, slapstick comedies that are getting churned out. Of course, the maker's penchant for drama and twists remains. And what's with the horribly loud background music and cues that are spoon-fed to the audiences at every point?

All three tracks have some decent moments. Yet, the one involving Ajay- Shezahn and Omi-Shraddha Das are the most interesting. The Emraan-Tisca Chopra track is made immensely watchable because of the lovely Chopra, who is reliably solid and believable. Ajay is a divorcee looking at life anew, and his new intern, June Pinto (Shazahn Padamsee), a pretty, giggle-head catches his fancy. Omi is a traditional Maharashtrian boy who falls madly in love with an ambitious RJ, who keeps using him for free booze and so on. Right from the beginning, you sense that these are not workable relationships, but towards the end, you almost expect the director to smoothen the edges and go in for a contrived happy ending. Thankfully, Bhandarkar shows enough sense, and that alone saves a film which would have otherwise appeared extremely lame. Besides, it also stretches endlessly. The track involving Emraan-Tisca-Shruti Haasan is high on drama and coincidence and if your interest is still sustained, it's because of the two lovely ladies. Shruti is a real looker, with a strong personality. Hope she find more roles that can explore her talent.

Bhandarkar extracts good performances from his entire cast. Ajay Devgn, Emraan and Omi are all excellent. Among the women, newcomer Shraddha Das has the least charming part, but she grows into her character well. Shazahn Padamsee is extremely believable as the irritating and perky youngster.

This could have perhaps been a good break-out film for Bhandarkar, only if he has abandoned many of his regular devices and opted for something fresher. As it stands, Dil Toh Bachcha Hai Ji is marginally watchable, but nothing terribly interesting.


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