Given his history of manipulating societal stereotypes in different spheres — from dance bars to traffic signals to Page 3 to fashion all the way to Jail — it does come as a relief to see Madhur Bhandarkar shed his serial-killer pattern in this romantic comedy that tries to pass off another set of stereotypes as realistic portrayal.
If he went after the seamy side of _________ (fill in the blank with the title of the relevant Bhandarkar film), here he gets all cynical about romance. And we rediscover love through the eyes of these guys from three different states of their single status — divorced (Ajay Devgn), commitment-phobic (Emraan Hashmi) and the eternal romantic (Omi Vaidya). The three guys share a roof and bond so that it becomes easy for the narrative to take us from one story arc to the other. The moments of male bonding are the best segments of the film. The actors play off each other really well and manage to bring in the film's only laughs.
So the recently divorced boss is smitten by an intern who is 17 years younger, the eccentric romantic is head over heels in love with a wannabe starlet who uses him to wine and dine and the player finds himself falling in love with the daughter of the socialite woman he's living off.
The rest of the film is a series of clichéd situations derived from both Hollywood and Bollywood romance films and you can see the twists and turns coming from a mile. Devgn even gets to reprise his awfully bad but sweet singer image from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam when he's asked to sing.
The writing is consistently juvenile to justify the film's tag line — Love grows, men don't. So we get gems like Emraan's philosophy — So aur sone do (Sleep and let sleep) and Omi's poetry (Sorry, I couldn't write that down because my hands were busy negotiating a gag reflex). Tragic, because Devgn and Vaidya try hard to make us like them with their innocence and charm.
Hashmi has no problems sleep-walking through a role that's reserved for him in almost every film made with this type. In fact, he has stopped asking for scripts these days because he knows what he has to do. He just asks: Who?
It's really encouraging to see actors like Tisca Chopra or Rituparna Sen Gupta gracefully act their age. Shraddha Das as the cold-hearted woman and Shazahn Padamsee as the over-enthusiastic intern annoy you adequately with their rendition of the stereotype and leave you wondering why would the guys fall for these women?
But, of all the actors, only Shruti Haasan really gives it back to the director. She's given a cardboard character. And she delivers Nikki Narang exactly that with robotic precision and an intriguing Tamil tattoo on her shoulder.
Dil Toh Bachcha Hai Ji
Director: Madhur Bhandarkar
Cast: Ajay Devgn, Emraan Hashmi, Omi Vaidya, Shazahn Padamsee, Tisca Chopra, Shraddha Das, Shruti Haasan
Storyline: Three guys, a divorcee, a player and a virgin… yawn… fall in love with three women out of their league.
Bottomline: Well, it's better than Jail. Worth your time if you got nothing else to watch