The Mehras host friends on a luxurious cruise - but what happens when the hosts discover another journey?
Straight away, Dil Dhadakne Do redefines the Bollywood family drama. Millionaire Kamal Mehra (Anil) faces bankruptcy. To shore up credibility, Kamal and his wife Neelam (Shefali) invite their rich friends on a luxurious Mediterranean cruise, joined by son Kabir (Ranveer), daughter Ayesha (Priyanka), her pompous husband Manav (Rahul), his complaining mother (Zarina Wahab), the gentle Mehra dog Pluto - and lots of bitchy buddies.
What happens when tension between Kamal and Neelam becomes obvious? When Kabir refuses marrying heiress Noorie because he loves dancer Farah (Anushka)? And when Ayesha's attractive ex Sunny (Farhan) joins the cruise?
Dil Dhadakne Do goes behind the glossy grins of Indian family life, presenting screaming, sobbing dysfunction, heart-ripping extramarital affairs, bitter gender discrimination and heavy parental control. Yet, it has a light hand, not preachy but breezy while sensitively making modern points.
Family scenes - Kamal sourly taunting Neelam's weight, Kabir silently supporting Ayesha, Neelam weepy binging on chocolate, Kamal tackling bills with pills - are little gems, capturing the daily friction, the deep hurt, the bonds and binds families represent.
Performances impact - Anil Kapoor is terrific as dominating, steel-haired, stressed-out Kamal, Shefali as stiff Neelam, whose coldness to her daughter chills a Turkish hamaam, whose plasticly response to her son's worries is, "Awww, cheese toast banwayun?" Priyanka Chopra presents a finely tense Ayesha, building a winning business - but crumbling under a miserable marriage, her last straw being Sunny (Farhan, who smolders satisfactorily).
The revelation however is Ranveer Singh in a new avatar - his Kabir is unsure, vulnerable, sometimes weak. Combining gentleness with slow grit, Ranveer makes this family saga also about a boy.
Hilariously, another Indian 'family member' appears - the aunt, several sparkling entertainers on board, gossiping, judging, surprising partying progeny whose guilty drawl, "I was hanging out..." meets an outraged, "Hanging out what - clothes?!"
Cameos, clashes, confessions - and the pulsating long-take 'Amritsari Chooriyan' - crescendo in a climax when an 'amargancy' forces the Mehras to sink or swim.
With her quirky third, Zoya Akhtar further sharpens her oeuvre - the stylish ensemble tale, where journeys take over destinations. On this ship, a few bolts could be tighter. The Kabir-Farah track over-extends while British Farah's Indian accent and Indian Ayesha's American accent should'vie been ironed out.
But these are fleeting clouds on an otherwise beautiful sea, hosting a cruise which hilariously combines butter chicken with bruschetta while searching beyond Bollywood's emotional Botox for a family's warts - and its heart.