Watching Ajay Devgn’s terrific performance in Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji (“The Heart Is But a Child”) gave me insight into why I hated Rascals so much. Devgn is a great comic actor, and to see his talents squandered in something loud and stupid like Rascals is infuriating.
Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji (DTBHJ, henceforth) follows the exploits of three single guys. Neran (Devgn), in the midst of a divorce, moves into his parents’ old house. To help with the rent and to stave off loneliness, Neran places an ad for a couple of roommates. He gets a nerdy poet named Milind (Omi Vaidya) and a gigolo named Abhay (Emraan Hashmi).
Unlike other Bollywood movies featuring a trio of guys learning about love — such as Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and Dil Chahta Hai — the relationships between the male characters are secondary. They get along fine, but they don’t know each other well enough for their friendship to ever be at stake.
What the guys do offer one another is differing views on love. Milind is so hopelessly optimistic that he falls for Gungun (Shraddha Das), a radio DJ who’s way out of league. He refuses to believe that she’s stringing him along for his money.
Cynical Abhay sets his sights on Anushka (Tisca Chopra), an older ex-model in need of a boy toy. He lets her shower him with gifts until a beautiful, young philanthropist named Nikki (Shruti Haasan) makes him consider settling down.
Both Abhay and Milind give their questionable advice to Neran, who’s nervous about reentering the dating scene. Neran finds himself drawn to June (Shazahn Padamsee), a 21-year-old intern at his office (he’s 38, which is middle-aged in Bollywood). He pursues her, failing to notice that she only calls him “Sir.”
DTBHJ, in an attempt to portray relationships realistically, avoids many of the shortcuts in logic other romantic comedies take. The women don’t fall for the men simply because the guys love them. Likewise, they don’t undergo radical personality changes to fit the needs of the plot. Part of the point is that Neran, Milind and Abhay aren’t seeing the women for who they are, but for who they’d like them to be.
Accordingly, it’s up to the men to change. Abhay is set up for the most dramatic transformation, but Neran’s is the most satisfying (though a little more backstory on why his marriage failed would’ve been nice). He has to come to terms with being a single dad on the verge of turning forty, before he can think about being someone’s husband again. Devgn’s deadpan facial expressions are the high points of the film.
The biggest disappointment is that Milind remains essentially unchanged throughout the movie. He’s also irritating, as is Gungun, who’s much nastier than she needs to be to drive home the point that she’s not interested in Milind.
DTBHJ falters in a few other areas as well. Jokes early on are punctuated with annoying “wacky” sound effects that mercifully diminish as the story progresses. Director Madhur Bhandarkar, as he did in Fashion, includes a gay character who is nothing more than a flamboyant, horny stereotype. It’s an unfortunate misstep in an otherwise enjoyable film.