Dilwale: Big Heart in Name, Small Heart in Storytelling

Once upon a time my favorite actor was Shahrukh Khan, or SRK. I didn’t love Bollywood so much as I loved him, and I’ve seen many of his movies and once in awhile take the time to catch up on the ones I’ve missed. Happy New Year, for example, was quite entertaining. This time around I decided to give Dilwale a try, and I have to say it was disappointing. For all of its ambition, it wasn’t ambitious enough. “Dilwale” means big hearted, but despite all of the flashy cars and settings, there was little “heart” in the film.

Dilwale‘s adequate if one just wants something vaguely Bollywood to watch, but the story, a mild takeoff of Romeo and Juliet, leaves little room for either the audience or the actors to breathe. We jump from one thing to the next with little to no transition time and zero time to let the love stories sink in. Love at first sight can work, but it doesn’t here. And the use of tropes from Love Actually and Romeo + Juliet just feel hokey, stale, and not heartfelt at all. I don’t believe any of these gangsters are actually Catholic or religious at all. By far, the worst thing about the film is the editing, which appears to be done with no skill at all. The best parts come from Shahrukh Khan and Kajol, who are an onscreen dynamo and saved this film from being totally throwaway. Their chemistry and devastating stares kept me watching, but only just, as their romance wasn’t allowed to bloom. The other two leads, although attractive, had zero charisma or chemistry.

Some bits I really liked–the car chase scenes and some fights scenes were pretty good, as was the five-minute date. “Five minutes of heart” actually describes the film well. That seemed to be all the time the director could allow for between showing off the gorgeous locations, cars, and trying-so-hard-to-be-cool action scenes. It was nice to see SRK onscreen, though. With the actors one has really liked, seeing them again is like watching an old friend. He is an entertainer like no other, as is Kajol. She’s beautiful all while still rocking that unibrow. How fun would it have been if her character actually was the bad guy? How awesome would it have been if the film was set in India where the characters had real roots and real consequences to deal with from their actions? Dilwale seemed like a large-scale production, but it was all for visuals disconnected to both storytelling and meaning. If they had gone for pure fun, like the last song at the end, at least it would have been entertaining. Oh well. Sometimes you hit it out of the park, sometimes you don’t.

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