Directed by Zoya Akhtar. Starring Hrithik Roshan, Farhan Akhtar, Abhay Deol, Katrina Kaif, Kalki Koelchin.
While I realise that it is unfair to compare two movies, there is no escaping the feeling that brother Farhan’s directorial debut Dil Chahta Hai (DCH) has served as a template for Zoya Akhtar’s Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. However, despite its stellar cast and spectacular setting, ZNMD comes across more as a Lonely Planet travelogue than as a road-movie.
Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara asks us to hitch on to a road trip with three friends – Kabir (Abhay Deol), Imran (Farhan Akhtar) and Arjun (Hrithik Roshan). With Kabir set to marry Natasha (Kalki Koelchin), the trio decide to act on the pact they had made in college – to take a road trip where each person will choose an activity that the other two have to participate in. Imran has chosen the destination to be Spain for his own reasons. While architect/builder Kabir and copywriter Imran are gung-ho about the trip, Arjun, a London based aggressive stock-broker, is reluctant to disrupt his plans (of pursuing money and retiring at 40) but joins in willy-nilly. As the troika hits the road, they are forced to resolve their past differences and exorcise their personal demons as each is confronted with his deepest fears, both figuratively and literally. While this can open up interesting possibilities, the film takes a rather obvious and convenient approach abandoning all subtleties.
For a film about friends and friendship, it lacks that crackling, impulsive electricity of quips, rebukes and repartees between the central characters. In many instances, there is a certain forced quality to their interactions that keeps you from joining in on the fun. Farhan Akhtar gets the best lines and the most dramatic scenes and he certainly steals the show with his natural comic timing and nuanced acting. Hrithik delivers the goods but his superstar aura comes in the way of accepting him as playing one-of-the-guys. Katrina Kaif brings the live-for-the-moment, I-don’t-believe-in-regrets Laila to life with her sparkling eyes, winsome smile and carpe diem demeanour. Kalki is convincing in the role of Kabir’s suspicious and possessive fiancée. As for Abhay Deol, he settles the matter once and for all. When it comes to acting, he is indeed Sunny and Bobby Deol’s cousin.
The film’s pace is marred by its over-indulgence. Lyrical turns into prosaic as adventure sports and driving sequences (with Imran’s poetry as voice-over) are stretched to yawn-inducing lengths. Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara is so spectacularly shot that any clip from the film can be used as promotional material by the Spanish Tourism Board in perpetuity.
Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara is not a bad movie. But it sure is a drag. Take away the Spanish setting and you realise, we have all been there before. Exactly ten years ago, to be precise. In July 2001, Dil Chahta Hai redefined Hindi cinema’s on-screen vocabulary and marked the arrival of cool in Bollywood. Ten years on, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara rehashes the same theme but falls short of recreating the same magic. Where Dil Chahta Hai had a zing of freshness, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara comes across as a jaded been-there-done-that-what’s-new fare.
<Tushar A Amin is the author of Bollywood Themes and former editor of FHM India. Follow Tushar on twitter: @tusharaamin>
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