Saturday, July 16, 2011


Release date:
July 15, 2011
Zoya Akhtar
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:


  1. I was completely enthralled by this movie from beginning to end and loved every minute of it. Yes, not even a single minute was wasted not loving what I was watching - and I actually wanted more when the movie finally ended. Ok, perhaps the fact that someone had tears of joy after the diving was a bit strange and the scene could have been 30 seconds shorter. But having gone diving a few times myself, I do realize that it is a life-changing experience to some extent, so I will not hold that against Zoya. I travel a lot, often visiting new international locations 2-3 times a year, and rent a car there and drive through the countries staying at different places, and the pace and way they went about experiencing Spain reminded me of my own travels - except for the jumping out of the plane and the running with the bulls in Seville (2 things I will never do - definitely not the latter) and the dancing with the Flamenco dancers instead of just watching. To me it did not feel like a Spain tourism advertisement at all - they were on a road trip in Spain and what I saw was exactly what I would expect to see. In fact I drove through some of the same parts of Spain shown in the movie (Ronda, Seville, and other smaller towns in Andalusia) and the movie brought back memories of those drives in ways other Hindi movies that feature scenes/songs in international locations (even if the movie is actually based in Mumbai) fail to do. I can point out several Hindi movies which felt more like tourism ads than ZNMD, where the actors never felt like they really "got" whatever part of the world they were in. Here in ZNMD, it was refreshing to see how they became a part, to some extent, of their locations. Katrina was especially good from that perspective helped perhaps by her growing up in Europe and perhaps her actual knowledge of the Spanish language, and I doubt any other Indian actress would have been able to pull off that role with such ease.

    Other than our slight disagreement over the "felt like tourism" part, I completely agree with you about the brilliant character development and the brilliant humor, and the gentle lessons on life. Farhan is a genius as an actor and as a director and I have believed that for several years, and now I am adding Zoya to that list. Of the three men, I thought Farhan and Abhay gave better performances. Hrithik was better than his usual self, but sometimes it felt like he was Hrithik trying to be his character, whereas Farhan and Abhay, especially Abhay, and even Katrina *were* their characters. By the way, in your list of directors who have managed to extract the best performances from Hrithik, you missed Farhan Akhtar for Lakshya. For me, Lakshya was Hrithik's finest performance till date.

    One refreshing change in ZNMD from other movies was that it did not spend disproportionate amounts of time on romantic scenes with the typical cheesy dialogs or on songs, particularly duets where the characters are dancing in the streets or in parks or mountain tops or beaches. The songs were mostly background songs or just breaking into a few lyrics due to an outburst of emotion while driving (and reflecting on things weighing on their heads which to me happens best while driving!). That felt more real, though still not as real as Hollywood but then us Indians need our fill of songs, don't we? In those respects and more, I think this movie felt more real to me than recent favorites such as 3 Idiots, Band Baajaa Baraat, and Dil Chahtaa Hai.

    Going by my understanding of your rating scale, I think this movie deserved 4.5 stars :)

  2. Reflections after my second viewing of ZNMD:

    1. Hrithik did a much better job than I thought after the first viewing.

    2. There was one pattern, which worked but was repeated quite often. That was 2 friends ganging up on the 3rd and pulling his leg or playing a prank.

    3. Each of the friends was deeply uncomfortable about exactly one of the 3 adventure sports activities. It's like the script deliberately took turns to pick which friend to make uncomfortable next. It would have seemed more real if the same friend was nervous about 2 or all sports, or if one was not nervous for any. Obviously, just nitpicking here :)

    4. At least one of the persons who went with me this time said the movie felt like a Spain tourism ad. I still didn't feel that way.

    5. Not just in this movie, but I almost feel a stereotype exists in India (or perhaps just in Bollywood) about artists or people who have kids out of wedlock but move on (and pursue art!), and associating such people with progressive thinking. To me, artists are mostly an underpaid and starving bunch, and there is nothing glamorous about their lives. And having kids of wedlock and moving on shows lack of accountability and is more of a prehistoric man concept than a progressive one. In short, I didn't like Naseeruddin Shah's character :)