July 15, 2011
Hrithik Roshan, Farhan Akhtar, Abhay Deol, Katrina Kaif, Kalki Koechlin
Although significant portions of Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara feel like a Spain Tourism-sponsored documentary, I have to say I enjoyed the film. Put that down primarily to the easy camaraderie between the three male leads Hrithik Roshan, Farhan Akhtar and Abhay Deol. You can also attribute that to Akhtar’s sharp dialogue writing and the well-rounded characterisation by story/screenplay writers Reema Kagti and Zoya Akhtar, which gives each man an individual identity and personality while lending a crackling sense of humour to all three. And yes, do credit Zoya who is also the film’s director for mostly managing to keep a tight hold on the reins except for three episodes involving embarrassingly undisguised hosannas to Spain’s natural, cultural and touristy landmarks.
Arjun, Imran and Kabir are friends who go on a road trip in the run-up to Kabir’s wedding. Arjun (Hrithik) is a finance professional in London. Imran (Farhan) is an ad copywriter and a closet poet. And Kabir (Abhay) is involved in his family’s construction business. They throw each other various challenges while on the move in this movie, and along the way – as you would expect – they re-discover themselves, make new friends and renew their own long-standing friendship.
The locations the trio pass through are spectacular and cinematographer Carlos Catalan spares no effort in conveying their natural beauty to us. It’s to the credit of the director and the script that the locales don’t dwarf our three men friends at any point. To the list of directors who have managed to extract fine performances from him (Khalid Mohamed, Rakesh Roshan, Ashutosh Gowariker and Sanjay Gadhvi in that order), Hrithik Roshan should now add the name Zoya Akhtar. Hrithik was restrained and effective in a small role in Zoya’s debut film Luck By Chance (LBC). In Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (ZNMD) he hits the nail on the head as he is by turns angry, hurt, exasperated with Imran’s juvenility, in love with his career and in love with a woman. This is not the young boy a nation fell in love with in Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai. This is an older man, and I’m happy to report that age sits well on his handsome face and those well-muscled shoulders of which Zoya is kind enough to give us generous and repeated views. Abhay fits the part of the guileless Kabir. But the revelation in the film is Farhan who has come a long way from the deadpanning in Rock On, LBC and Karthik Calling Karthik (effective though it was for his debut film). After seeing him in ZNMD I can vouch for the fact that this guy is genuinely funny, people!
It’s a little odd though that a need was felt to have one of the characters specify that the three friends left college 10 years back. None of our leading men look just 30. That unnecessary detail notwithstanding, the three heroes are a delight to watch.
To answer the question foremost in many people’s minds – does this film suffer from a Dil Chahta Hai (DCH) hangover? – the answer is no, it doesn’t suffer and there is no hangover in the first place, unless you insist that every male bonding film with three guys is a DCH. The girls have smaller roles but both Katrina and Kalki are effective in their respective parts. I didn’t think I’d ever say this about Kat when I first saw her in Boom, but she too is growing as an actress. Besides, she’s so gorgeous that when you see her with Hrithik you can’t help but wonder: hoo boy, how stunning will their kids be?!!
But if the lead actress objects to going the whole hog in bedroom scenes, perhaps it’s best to leave love making out of the picture. Katrina and Hrithik share a pleasant chemistry, though they don’t set the screen on fire the way Hrithik-Kareena and Hrithik-Ash have done in the past. And it doesn’t help that the director seems constrained when her camera follows them behind closed doors.
And now to my biggest grouse against ZNMD … A few years back, before liberalisation gave even middle-class Indians the budgets to be world travellers, before satellite TV channels brought the world into our drawing rooms, perhaps in those days we might have been fascinated by this film’s tourist-brochure-like scenes. Yes there is a beauty in seeing Arjun so moved by his first shot at deep-sea diving that he is reduced to tears. But seriously Zoya, Spain’s La Tomatina festival (the Holi-like celebrations during which people throw tomatoes at each other) and bull baiting (where bulls are let loose on the streets to chase crowds of people) are not novel enough to be eye-popping any more. So why oh why, Zoya, would you take your sweet little film and slow it down repeatedly with these episodes instead of merely using these ‘sports’ as devices to aid the protagonists’ emotional journey?
The scene with the Spanish flamenco dancers, in which the three friends groove to the Senorita song, sung by the three actors themselves ... now that scene made sense. And although this is a boys’ movie, I was pleasantly surprised to encounter a leading male character in a Hindi movie expressing discomfort at his fiancee’s decision to give up her career to immerse her personality and her dreams in his life. Hmm … Bollywood is changing. No, ZNMD is not flawless, but it does gently dwell on some of life’s lessons and I had a good time watching it.
Rating (out of five): ***1/2
CBFC Rating: U/A
Running time: 153 Minutes
Language: Hindi with English
Photograph courtesy: http://www.znmdthemovie.com/