The previews make the movie look comic, male-centric, realistic, and relevant. It turns out Dil To Baccha hai Jee (DTBHJ) is relevant, but not overly realistic, and not particularly testosterone-driven either. But it is the “comedy” part that lets you down. Director Madhur Bhandarkar’s critically-acclaimed Chandni Bar (2001) raised expectations that his new release doesn’t quite manage to reach.
Bhandarkar is known for his cinema verite takes on urban life, be it the depressing existence of bar-dancers, the double lives of the Page 3 glitterati, or the sordid truths behind the glamorous world of fashion, and though DTBHJ is billed as a comedy, Bhandarkar can’t let completely let-go of his penchant for exposing the anomalies of lives of the rich and famous, which prevents the movie from being the laugh-fest it could have been.
The movie starts breezily enough, with three very different, not-so-young, roommates, Naren, Abhay, and Milind. Naren (Devgn), is a banker on the wrong side of forty. His marriage, is like “overused chewing gum—you can’t swallow it, neither can you throw it away.” He finds himself falling for June (Padamsee), an intern at his office, who is 20 years younger than him.
Abhay (Hashmi) plays a rake, a role that he can and does sleepwalk through, who finds himself falling in love for the first time with his boss’ daughter (Haasan). And then there is the sentimental poet, Milind (Vaidya) who ends up falling for a wannabe-actress (Das).
The relationship that is the most watchable is the one between Naren and June. The director throws in sweet scenes that underscore the age gap between the two. A truly funny moment is when Devgn breaks into an old melody at a get-together to find everybody staring; no one else at the gathering was even born when the song debuted. Devgn is in top-form, perfectly in-sync with his aging-but-wanting-to-stay-young character, and Hashmi is passable in a typecast role. Vaidya’s South Indian accent jars, since he plays a Maharashtrian.
To the director’s credit, DTBHJ is about real people, situations, and problems. But instead of emphasizing the comedy in these realistic situations, and the movie gets mired in the three love stories—three very slow love stories with a frustrating climax. The camaraderie of the three men is never fully exploited, but the few scenes they share are very nicely done.
Bhandarkar weaves in the expose of social hypocrisies that he is famous for, like fake mourners and their gossipy “networking” at a funeral. But one can’t help feeling that perhaps he should have paid more attention to the comedy, given that is what the film is supposed to be. The dialogues are forced and risqué enough to have earned the movie an “A” certificate.
Despite these shortcomings, the movie may well be worth a multiplex ticket because of a breezy first half and some good performances.