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Movie Review: Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

Jul 15, 2011

Pic: Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (U/A)
Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Farhan Akhtar, Katrina Kaif, Kalki Koechlin, Abhay Deol
Director: Zoya Akhtar
Rating: ***

"Seize the day, my friend," blurts the stunning deep-sea diving instructor Laila (Kaif), on a long walk with an uptight financial broker Arjun (Roshan). Arjun hasn't lived much, nor have his friends -- the apparently spineless Kabir (Deol) and jovial, closet poet Imran (Farhan). The adage pretty much sums up ZNMD.

It's a long, boring advertisement for Spain Tourism, warned a colleague whose "sources" had these precious words about ZNMD. I can safely say, it's a little more than that.

How do they land in Spain? Well, the boys had made a certain pact that each would suggest an adventure sport and the other two would have to follow. Screenplay writers Reema Kagti and Zoya Akhtar (also director) bring to the table a very beautifully captured Spain, by cinematographer Carlos Catalan. No no, that's not all. Along with Spain, they bring relationships of their protagonists with themselves and each other.

Undercurrents unleashed by emotional turmoil, friendship, and finally the unloading of mental baggage, so as to emerge victorious in the truest sense.

For all this, the storywriters use heavy doses of symbolism. Deep-sea diving at Costa Brava, sky-diving in Sevilla and the San Fermin bull run in Pamplona, not to forget the Tomatina festival in Bunyol, where Arjun finally lets go. Fears are drowned, let open in the sky and finally at the mercy of raging bulls.

Performances are honest and telling across the board, yet Farhan stands out (Warning: Some bias may be at play here). Roshan, Deol and Farhan stick to their briefs by Zoya, often contained, and true to their characters, and never over-the-top. They let the characters' intrinsic qualities do the talking.

Similarly with Koechlin, whose prim and proper Natasha is, admittedly, not much like her real life persona. They're all easy- going, playing their parts and enjoying while in the act. Kaif's "tumhari zindagi badalnewali hai" made me cringe, but overall her effort to make Laila believable cannot be undermined. You wish you could have a life like hers, jetting off to a part of the world for three months of daredevilry and loads of fun.

Witty dialogue (credited to Farhan himself), playful chitchat and the camaraderie between the friends personify ZNMD.

However, the lack of chemistry among them in the first hour cannot be ignored. ZNMD has so many silent moments, it's likely to put you to sleep. The editing tools could have been sharper to give this coming-of-age romantic drama a facelift. Restlessness is the unwelcome guest on this road, much like Kabir's fiancée Natasha.

Sounds uncannily similar to Farhan's directorial debut Dil Chahta Hai, right? Now if you take DCH as the benchmark, it's up to you how slow/polished/boring/ unnecessary/pretty you find ZNMD.

Your heart is likely to be set upon the beats of ZNMD, from the free-spirited Ik Junnon to the mellow Khwabon Ke Parindey, not to forget the unforgettable Senorita. And Farhan's poetry infused in the narrative needs special mention. True Akhtar blood must say!

The writers exploit luxury and frankly, ZNMD set anywhere else could be as true to character. They didn't really have to go to Spain.

For those (which, I assume, is a lot of us), who may not be able to afford a holiday in Spain for any time soon, go catch ZNMD for good performances, music, Spain and of course, Farhan Akhtar in his element.