Here's the setup: Sameer (Saif), Akash (Aamir), and Siddarth, or Sid (Akshaye) are best friends who have recently graduated from college and embarked on their adult lives. At the beginning of the film, we see that there's been some sort of rift formed between Akash and Sid, but we don't see why until halfway into the film.
Sameer is a sweetie, desperate for love and indiscriminate in his search for romantic involvement. He's the kind of guy who always shows up in videos of parties, pleading with his bitchy girlfriend who has her back turned and her arms crossed while her toe is tapping. Akash is the kind of guy who films that video and zooms in on his friend's frantically waving hands while his muffled laughter overlays the music in the background and his girlfriend of the week searches without success for her date. And Sid is the kind of guy who walks up behind his friend with the video camera, sees what's going on, and hits the red button to shut down recording before one friend can humiliate the other any further.
Sid is an artist, perceptive and more serious than his friends. He's also more mature (although I have to say that most artists I've met take the long road to that goal, so his adultness didn't strike me as all that realistic) and empathetic. Akash doesn't believe in love except as an unwanted complication or hindrance to his own life. And of course Sameer mistakes attraction for love on a regular basis.
The movie focuses mostly on the relationship between the three guys, but each also has a love interest that's somewhat secondary to the plot, although each is also necessary to the progression of the story in her own way. Tara, played by Dimple Kapadia, is an older woman, divorced, alcoholic, and living alone when Sid helps her move into her own place. Touched by her perceptiveness about his paintings, he asks her to sit for him and eventually falls in love with her. Sameer's parents try to arrange a marriage to Pooja (Sonali Kulkarni), much to his dismay--and then he's even more dismayed when he falls for her and finds out she's already got a boyfriend.
Akash's storyline is definitely the most developed. On business in Sydney, he meets up with a girl he'd previously acted offensively to back in India. Shalini (Preity Zinta) is already engaged but, as an advocate for true love, does her best to convince Akash of its reality and necessity. She eventually succeeds better than Akash is willing to let her know.
This movie continues the same sort of context I've seen in many Hindi films from the 2000s: upper-class metropolitan Indians who regard international travel as a matter of course and don't seem to have to work much--I never did figure out what, if anything, Sameer did for a living, and the other two seem to be able to jaunt off at will with no repercussions. It's the same sort of escapism that's rampant in most Hollywood films, and I don't have a problem with it at all, but I do wonder what the 80-90% of Indians who don't live that way think about those kind of storylines. Just curious, you know?
The music is great! I appreciated its diversity, from the club number Koi Kahe Kehta Rahe to the adorable Jaane Kyon to the hilarious Woh Ladki Hai Kahan, which pokes loving fun at Bollywood from the forties through the nineties. By the time it got to the most recent era, I was helpless with laughter; seeing Saif twirl his sweater and jerk Sonali slowly toward the ground a la SRK and Madhuri made me fall onto the floor gasping.
I wasn't at all surprised to see that Farah Khan choreographed the movie; clearly this segment was a precursor to Main Hoon Na and Om Shanti Om's pastiches.
Oh, and speaking of pastiches, it would be impossible to parody Akshaye's ode to Dimple, Kaisi Hai Yeh Rut, mainly because it is so bad it couldn't get worse. It reminded me of Brother Sun, Sister Moon, the love sequence from Anchorman: the Legend of Ron Burgundy, and one of those cheap Wal-Mart New Age music CD's covers all rolled up in one cheeze extravaganza. Seriously. It's so awful. I kept on covering my eyes in sheer mortification, peering through my spread fingers and shrieking at intervals, "No! No, they didn't!" while my husband confirmed, "Oh, they did." At the end he broke the stunned silence with a, "Wow. All that was missing was a unicorn."
And yeah, I know it's supposed to be an artist perceiving his love through the idealized world of his paintings, but what is he creating, a Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper? Jeez. (Oh, and speaking of Superfantastic Bollywood Moments, Beth, if you haven't fugged at least half of the pants Saif wears in the movie, it should be done ASAP.)
Those're just minor quibbles, though. The guys do a fantastic job of conveying friendships that have gone back most of their characters' lives. I really liked Aamir's acting, although his character was initially the most off-putting of the three. The story kept messing with my expectations of what he would do, until at last I did believe in his transformation at the end. Saif did his usual good work, and Akshaye--well. If I hadn't seen it, I wouldn't have believed he could have pulled off a character so completely different from his role in Salaam-e-Ishq. Fantastic.
Preity and Sonali both do great with what they have to work with, which especially in Sonali's case isn't much except in Woh Ladki Hai Kahan--she so perfectly captures the hilarity of each era that she had me in stitches. Still, of the three women Dimple has the most interesting character and does the most with it. The camera doesn't spare her--no moonlit glow here, just cruel lingering on each line age and pain have drawn on Tara's face, while Sid succumbs to the magnetism of her personal tragedies. I liked how they didn't rely upon stereotypes of drunkeness to convey her illness--no staggering or slurred speech, no sloppy tears or pathetic attempts at seduction. It was the most realistic portrayal of the condition I've seen coming from either side of the Pacific in quite a while.
Anyway, Dil Chahta Hai is without a doubt worth every penny. In my opinion this song alone would be worth the price of admission (gotta love the didgeridoo):