'Zindagi' Is Refreshingly Realistic
By MovieTalkies.com, 15 July 2011
A glance at Zoya Akhtar's Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, there's a bit of déjà vu, recalling her brother Farhan's directorial debut, Dil Chahta Hai, from ten years ago. After all, with three guys in the leading roles, along with that trademark Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy sound, there's a lot in common that the two films have. But be sure, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara is a film all its own.
Still, Zoya seems to have been fairly influenced by bro Farhan, who also happens to be one of the stars of her film. Like him, Zoya's first also features a plot that revolves around the value and meaning of friendships, between similar uptown, moneyed characters, with a script and dialogues that appeal to urbane sensibilities, along with exotic locales, like the beautiful, undulating roads of Spain, here.
Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara is the story of a road trip through Spain, or a bachelor trip, if you prefer, that the three lead characters, school mates and best friends, here take, as one of their numbers, Kabir (Abhay Deol), is getting set for marriage. Kabir is the scion of a construction company in Mumbai, who has just gotten engaged to Natasha (Kalki Koechlin), who is similarly wealthy, and comes across as just a little bit controlling. Kabir's two friends, out to accompany him, are worlds apart. While one is the work-obsessed Arjun (Hrithik Roshan), who grew up through a tough childhood and is now focused on his highflying career in London and idea of making money, the other is the jovial Imran (Farhan Akhtar), a copywriter in Delhi and a poet in his heart, who has a hidden agenda in going to Spain. The film takes off from the road trip, where the three encounter Laila (Katrina Kaif), who teaches Arjun to live life, even as each of the three learn to face their fears and truly seize the day.
While some might say that the film's story is nothing new, the fact of the matter is that this is definitely novelty fare for Hindi cinema, which has seen few films of its range and outlook. The film's strengths in chief are its screenplay and dialogues, along with its performances. Penned by Zoya herself, in collaboration with friend Reema Kagti, the screenplay is refreshingly structured, with a narrative that has few flaws to spot. The dialogues by Farhan too, are completely true to life. Teachers' accents and expensive bags are the sort of stuff that any bunch of school friends would get together to jokes about, and here too, the effortless humour rings true. Zoya also handles the more emotional situations without getting too indulgent in her film, a definite step away from the overly melodramatic fare that even the best of Bollywood directors sometimes succumb to. The two Akhtar siblings also get a load of help from dad Javed, who pens some beautiful poetry for Imran's character, capturing the feel of the film in a few lines.
In terms of performances, the three lead actors share equal honours, though Farhan's Imran, with some of the best lines and scenes of the movie, might qualify as being first among equals. There is something about Abhay Deol, that allows him to slip beautifully into his sometimes wimpy, sometimes hilarious Kabir easily. Hrithik, as the serious Arjun, also strikes a superb comeback, emoting beautifully in scenes like the one after his first deepwater dive. Katrina leaves a bit to be desired though, not entirely convincing as the carefree Laila. Kalki, though, is perfectly cast as Natasha, who starts off sweet, but turns a bit sour as the film proceeds.
These apart, perhaps the film's leading star is the country of Spain itself, and Zoya does a beautiful job of introducing desi audiences to a new side of Europe. The credit here belongs to her Spanish director of photography, perhaps, Carlos Catalan, who takes on the open roads of Spain, along with the tomatina of Bunol and the bull run of Pamplona, as his own personal canvas to paint on. Though there are generous periods of the movie when we see ourselves just driving down Spanish highways, there isn't a moment in the film when you don't have something to look upon in awe.
Inspired by that landscape, perhaps, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy also come up with a wonderful score, around tracks like 'ik junoon (paint it red)' and 'senorita', that are as much Spanish as they are clearly Indian. A special mention should go to 'der lagi lakin', which takes a bit to grow on you, but comes across as brilliantly atmospheric when combined with the film's visuals.
Ultimately, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara revels in its relative realism, which sets it apart from average Bollywood fare. Though some might call this coming-of-age cinema, Zoya Akhtar's first film is simply a slice of real life. And as far as slice of life films go, this one is a deeply satisfying first bite…