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Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara - Movie Review

Published: October 15, 2011


Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara
Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011)

Starring Hrithik Roshan, Farhan Akhtar, Abhay Deol, Katrina Kaif, Kalki Koechlin

This may be a bachelor party/road trip movie, but The Hangover it is not. The guys here drink plenty, fling with girls, and get into a bar fight that lands them in jail, but they are not the overgrown frat boys who don't want to give up their wild, juvenile ways and settle down usually found in this genre. It's a refreshing, realistic story about mature, adult male friendship—made, interestingly, by a woman. You could call it a coming-of-age tale, but these 30-somethings are too old for that. They have some important growing to do, however.

Director Zoya Akhtar is the Sofia Coppola of Indian cinema. Akhtar comes from a film family—she is the daughter of famous screenwriters and the sister of director/actor Farhan Akhtar, who has played leads in both her films. She is a rare female filmmaker in a male-dominated industry, her films have arty sensibilities and commercial appeal, and her subtle style is infused with powerful, understated emotionality.

In Zindagi, Bombayite Kabir (Abhay Deol) has become engaged to Natasha (Kalki Koechlin) after dating for a mere six months. (The two actors were last seen together in the edgy 2009 Dev.D.) He wants to take a road trip through Spain as an extended bachelor party with his best friends Imran (Farhan Akhtar) and Arjun (Hrithik Roshan)—a trip the three had planned on taking fours years before but canceled because of a falling out between Imran and Arjun. The two have not reconciled and Arjun's anger is undiminished, but they join Kabir in Spain nonetheless.

The trio has agreed ahead of time that each man gets to pick an extreme sport and all three have to do it. Kabir chooses deep sea diving—and Arjun can't swim. Arjun picks skydiving—and Imran is afraid of heights. Imran tops them both with the most dangerous activity of all.

The point of all this risk-taking, they discover, is not to goad your friends into doing things they don't want to do, as they originally thought, but to help them confront and overcome their fears—to realize the sweetness of life in the face of death—and each man has a personal breakthrough as a result.

In the hands of a less skilled filmmaker, the movie could have been hopelessly hokey, with its hit-you-over-the-head symbolism, but Akhtar is an expert storyteller. She delays revealing details to make them more impactful, lingers long in exactly the right spots, and dribbles just enough backstory to give her characters complexity without inundating the plot, and her visual sense is so strong that her best scenes have no dialogue. That's why Hrithik Roshan is the perfect actor for her. He could have been a silent film star—his eyes, his face, his body say it all. He also appeared in her directorial debut, Luck By Chance (2009), and was a standout in the all-star cast despite his minor role.

Roshan's character is the most compelling of the three. Arjun is a securities trader in London, driven to make piles of money to prove his self-worth and nursing a broken heart over a woman who dumped him because of his workaholic ways. He lords his financial success over Imran, a lowly ad copywriter in Delhi. Arjun makes a strong emotional connection with their diving instructor, Laila (Katrina Kaif), who instantly recognizes his airs as defensiveness. Underwater, he has no choice but to accept the vulnerability he fights on land as she teaches him how to do the most elemental of things—breath—and then takes him by the hand and shows him a whole new world. When he emerges from the dive, his eyes stinging with sea salt and tears, he sits silently on the boat deck, aghast and transformed and not ashamed. Laila and his friends give him respectful space while experiencing the unsettling and moving moment with him. It's the kind of scene that’s becoming Akhtar's signature—Roshan had a similar one in Luck By Chance—one that encapsulates the whole film.

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara is rated Must See.

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