10 years of Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani: Why Naina and her story deserve your attention more than Bunny
10 Years of Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani: Ayan Mukherji's beloved coming-of-age romance starring Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone has aged delightfully with time.
Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani completes a decade since its release today. If that reminder takes you back to the time when the film released and you watched it with your friends in a theatre: how that theatre itself must have changed, some of those friends are still in touch while some are not, how the circumstances have become vastly different in comparison-- you're not alone. Its a tender, authentic attachment to a beloved coming-of-age film that tries to capture the essence of growing up, from those carefree and restless days of early 20s to the pragmatic search of stability as one inches towards 30. Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani gets hold of that invisible, scary weight of realization very well. (Also read: Ayan Mukerji reveals when people approach him he thinks it's for Brahmastra: ‘They talk about Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani’)
When Naina met Bunny
Back when the film released, even I was one of those people who watched it in a theatre. I distinctly remember how the songs (from Badtameez Dil to Dilliwali Girlfriend) were already big chartbusters, and many were excited to see Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone together on screen. I, for one, had loved Wake Up Sid-- Ayan Mukherji's debut feature, and was eager to see what he did next. So in the scene where Ranbir's Bunny aka Kabir Thapar meets Deepika's bespectacled Naina Talwar on the railway station just before their trip, and says, "Aisha? Hum Tanya ke party mein mile the!" the smart little hat tip to the scene from Wake Up! Sid didn't escape me. Soon, Naina had taken a leap of faith with Bunny and his friends Avi (Aditya Roy Kapur) and Aditi (Kalki Koechlin) for the Manali trek, and her life would change forever.
By the end of the trek, Naina has fallen for Kabir, but he has already taken a step towards fulfilling his dreams. Kabir would go abroad for his studies, and Naina would return to her home. Meanwhile, Aditi would come to terms with the reality that Avi doesn't really have any feelings for her. 8 years pass. Bunny is now busy with his work, travelling from one country to next. Naina is reminiscing about those days, and this is where Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani cuts back to the present in the second half, where Aditi calls back her friends for her destination wedding in Udaipur. There's a reunion, where Bunny catches up on his fractured bonds to see how much he has left behind in order to live ahead.
Bunny's relationship with his father
An important (and quite easily, my favourite) scene occurs when Bunny returns home after all those years to see the stillness he has been running away from. There's a flashback sequence with his father, which is played by the great Farooq Sheikh, where we, the audience really get to see the wind that truly enabled Bunny to take flight. Sheikh truly is astonishingly good here, so restrained in the way he gives life to that empathetic, non-dramatic and perceptive portrait of a parent who is aware that Bunny's passion is more important than his own sacrifices. After all these years, I wonder how many mainstream Bollywood fathers have been injected with the same depth and understanding, devoid of unnecessary, filmy dramatics and disapproval.
Curiously enough, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani begins with the narrative voiceover by Naina, and then claims it midway, only to lose it in order to process the development of Bunny. When I first watched the film, Bunny's passion and exuberance were at the forefront of my own understanding of how one can look at life with a sense of wanderlust and longing. He does come around by the end to that one relationship he was too ignorant to notice in the beginning. But with time, age and experience, as I re-watched the film again after 10 years, this time I yearned to know more of what Naina must have gone through in the years in-between.
Did she stay with her parents afterall? Did she move to a new city, and buy a new flat? How did her parents feel? We get to see Naina's father once in the entire movie and then he vanishes to nowhere. She does feel a little stagnant at home when we first meet her. When she returns, what does she do? One deleted scene shows the nurturing bond she shares with her mother, and somewhere there's a mention of a clinic she has set up. Although Naina's glowup felt insincere to me at the first watch, there's a certain sense of agency with which Deepika took home her underwritten part that made her transition feel genuine now. Notice how she's still the same Naina when she's at home, just by herself. Her calmness and poise were always intact, she just learnt how to navigate her way through different place and circumstances. The way she interacts with people is key-- never giving away, but always keenly observant and assuring.
It is Naina that really pulled me back to the charm and generosity of Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, a film that has aged so beautifully in these years. The ferocity and anger of that age is missing, agreeably, as this is a mainstream film with singularly mainstream sensibilities, which wants to locate that feeling called growing up. Focused on people from a certain socio-economic reality, whose dreams and aspirations are supported by their parents. There's no denial of that reality, nor there is an ignorance- which makes Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani refreshingly compatible and disarmingly rooted. The film also shows, with a keen eye, that any place feels as good as the people surrounding us. No wonder life goes ahead and time stops for none, but for that one stop in between, it's okay to walk towards the summit and see if there really was any truth to the story after all. When Bunny and Naina do reach that step, they give out that exalted cry of joy. They both know that more than anything, this feeling is real. In-between all these years, they must have saved a ticket for two to revisit that mountain top after all.