May 31st marks four years since the release of “Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani,” a noted film from 2013 for various reasons.
“Balam Pichkari” and “Badtameez Dil” were among the most popular film songs that year. The blockbuster was one of four films in 2013 in which Deepika Padukone starred, all of which marked Padukone’s ascent into the top ranks of contemporary Hindi film actresses. It was also Ranbir Kapoor’s last commercial hit before a string of flops, a phase that ended in late 2016 with his portrayal of an unrequited lover in Karan Johar’s “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil.”
But most importantly, “Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani”, or YJHD as it’s often called, provided not only a relatable story and set of characters, it also gave me new understanding and outlooks on many aspects of my life.
Directed by Ayan Mukherji, YJHD follows four friends – Bunny, Naina, Avi and Aditi – as they navigate the beginning of adulthood. The first half of the film takes place as they vacation together as early 20-somethings, and the second half picks up eight years later when they reunite as the first of their friends gets hitched.
Throughout the film, they each explore and learn about friendship, love, loss, ambition, family and failure. The situations thrust upon these characters are relevant to all currently experiencing the shift from adolescence to adulthood and reminiscent for those who have been through the transition already.
We all come across stories with which we connect, that remind us of ourselves or those we love, that paint the picture of the lives we’d like to live and the people we’d like to be – and for me, that was YJHD.
I discovered the film during my senior year of high school while my life was in the midst of various forms of change. To say that I relate to these characters would be an understatement. I have always said if Bunny and Naina had a lovechild, he or she would have a personality pretty similar to my own. The film also came along at a point in my life where I was beginning to deal with more complex issues for the first time, and in many ways, it gave me the perspective I needed in those situations and continues to do so.
“I want to fly, Naina. I want to run, I want to fall, I just don’t want to stop.” – Bunny
While Hindi films are notorious for being shot in beautiful exotic locations, “Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani” was one of the first times I came across a Bollywood character with a genuine zest for travel and adventure that is apparent to everyone around him.
It was interesting for me to see how his passion for travel also led to an interest in journalism, since I had my own personal journey that led me to pursue journalism as a major and career path. These were the parts of Bunny’s character that I identified with the most. My parents enjoy traveling, and the gene has been passed down to me. In my first two years of college, because my younger sister and I no longer had spring break at the same time, my parents allowed me to miss a week of classes each year to go on family vacations. I have gotten so used to traveling that I begin to crave it if I am home for too long.
Bunny, to me, represented a man that was not afraid to take risks and would not let a rare opportunity sail by just because he was comfortable within certain boundaries. After seeing YJHD, I became a more conscious traveler. When presented with the choice of certain experiences, I chose the one that made me a little nervous instead of the one that gave me a sense of safety. Have a dolphin push me across the water with its mouth at my feet? Sure! Hike up Diamond Head on the island of Oahu in the exhausting mid-day heat…and then go surfing? Why not?! Go on a ride through Monterey Bay where whales seem close enough to tip the entire vessel over? I simply can’t think of anything better.
These decisions did not just apply to vacations. I pushed myself to find adventures at home whether it was through spending more time out in nature or agreeing to experiences that did not seem initially like “my scene.” Because of this, I now have a bank of more fulfilling and memorable experiences.
“If only I could tell him how much I love him…” –Bunny
As a young child and even in adolescence, while I understood the concept of death, I never thought about the fact that there would be a time when my grandparents, parents or other close loved ones would no longer be around. As I grew older, as friends confided in me about the death of grandparents or the illnesses of parents, it became a more prominent thought that I ruminated over. In my senior year of high school, I became more aware of the reality of the future – a future where I would have to deal with the loss of loved ones along the way. I was experiencing separation anxiety while all four of my grandparents and my parents were still alive.
In the film, after losing someone close to him, Bunny expresses his regrets about racing through life, disrespecting time and not valuing the important moments enough. Through that particular scene, I had an epiphany: Most people only learn to value their loved ones after they pass on. I still had time to make memories with each of them, and having this epiphany at that time allowed me to treasure such moments rather than taking them for granted. It was a luxury that some people do not have, as sudden deaths and accidents sometimes take loved ones at the most unexpected times.
While it is still a lesson I have to remind myself of from time to time and a habit that I am constantly working to continue, it is well worth the effort. I am much happier focusing on maximizing my time with my loved ones rather than grieving their loss before it even happens. I have the opportunity and time to still show the people I love and care about just how much they mean to me and, as simple as it may be, to express to them much I love them.
“Stop feeling so bad for yourself and learn to love yourself. You’re fine just the way you are.” –Bunny
Naina, when first introduced, is a bright, reserved girl with aspirations to be a doctor. She has always remained aloof from her peers, feeling as though she does not know how to relate to them. At one point, she tells Bunny that, unlike him, making friends is not easy for her, and she characterizes herself as boring. However, Bunny attempts to show her what she is unable to see herself; she is more fun and courageous than she thinks she is, and in some ways, her differences are her greatest assets.
Since the first day of high school, I had been looking forward to graduation. Like Naina, I spent much of my free time in high school sitting by myself reading books, listening to music or writing. I had moments of insecurity about not fitting in or being able to relate to those in my age group.
However, one day during my last week of high school, I found myself asking two of my former English teachers if I could speak to them in the hallway. On one side of me was my tenth-grade English teacher sitting at the desk meant for the teachers on hall duty, and on the other side stood my eleventh-grade plaid-shirted English teacher.
“When I was little, I dreamt about what my life would be like at 17,” I began, “but my life is nothing like I imagined it would be.” After a short pause, I continued. “It’s ten times better than I ever dreamed, and that’s only because of the two of you.” My voice began to quiver, and not quite ready to let go of my high school experience or the teachers that had impacted me so greatly, tears streamed down my face.
Clearly, something had changed from those first years of high school. Although I had not established a strong connection with more than a small few of my peers in high school, eventually I found teachers who believed in me and showed me all I had to offer, especially one in particular – my tenth grade English teacher. Because of his continued support and belief in me, I became a published writer at the age of sixteen. And that encouragement – in scholastic, professional and personal matters – continued on into college.
Bunny taught Naina to love all of herself; my tenth grade English teacher, helped me do the same.
“It’s your show, Bunny. How could I not see it?” – Avi
With the start of my college career, I had a sense of confidence that I had established in the later years of high school with the help of my support system of teachers. I became more outgoing, forming quickly blossoming friendships, some of which have survived the past three years. Many of those friendships were created with fellow students who are older than I am, and just a week ago, I watched my three very best friends graduate and receive their diplomas.
As happy as I am for them and the beginning of the rest of their lives, I also realize that our friendships will no longer be the same. I won’t see them every day, the way I am currently used to. Walking into the library on campus, they will no longer be sitting at the long tables, their eyes lighting up as they register my arrival. There will be no surprise run-ins on campus. Graduate schools and jobs may take them further away than I’d like, and the business of life may make the texts, calls and dinners less frequent. Since I have a year of college left, the feeling of being left behind is stronger than it probably would be if I were to have graduated with them.
The YJHD scene that hit closest to home in terms of friendship takes place in Avi’s room in Udaipur at Aditi’s wedding. After a few days of passive-aggressive arguments directed at his childhood best friend and a fist fight between the two, Avi reveals that he has quietly been supporting Bunny, watching each one of the episodes of the travel show he worked on, even though they had not been in touch for many years.
No matter where my friends go, no matter where I go, I know that our love and support for each other will not fade. There are few bonds we make in life that grow into true friendships, and I was lucky enough to find that in college, not once, but three times. I used to believe that to call someone a best friend, we had to call and text each other every day. We had to see each other at least once a week. However, now in the beginning of my twenties, I realize that the ultimate test of friendship is enduring through distance and time.
And like Avi, Aditi, Naina and Bunny, eventually we may get caught up in our own lives as the responsibilities of adulthood take over. However, I am confident that each of them will be at my wedding one day, and the times when we do rally the troops will thrust us back into the memories of our youth like nothing had changed and no time had passed.
You can never be old and wise if you were never young and crazy.
This quote is the tagline of the film, which appears in the clouds during the opening shot of the trailer. This line represents the core essence of the film, and it is also the mantra in which I have come to deeply believe.
I have only begun to discuss all the ways in which I have learned from and related to “Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani.” In addition to the lessons listed above, the film constantly reminds me that it is okay to make mistakes, to seek out the magical moments in life and to live on my own terms.
Most importantly, I discovered the power of stories. As an artist of any kind, there is no greater success than being able to move an audience with the work of one’s imagination. It is the kind of success I hope to achieve one day through my own writing.
Until then, I am embracing my youth and working on becoming a little crazy. I have a feeling I am closer than I think.