Director: Zoya Akhtar
Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Abhay Deol, Farhan Akhtar, Katrina Kaif, Kalki Koechlin
Storyline: Three friends go on a road trip to fulfill a pact made years ago
Bottomline: A laidback trip with stock characters dealing with standard Hollywood hero issues that makes up for its predictability with its camaraderie and spontaneous banter.
According to Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, life’s like a Bollywood film with song, dance and adventure. You can just drop everything, pack your bags and go to Switzerland… scratch that, Spain, with buddies for a three-week, five-star holiday with everything from the tourist brochure thrown in.
Zoya Akhtar’s second outing as a director is way more filmi than her first about the film industry. This one only pretends to be real. It’s not. You get Katrina Kaif drenched in tomato pulp at the La Tomatina festival when she’s not holding you by the hand and teaching you scuba diving. If this is not fantasy, what is?
And like most fantasies, ZNMD employs standard archetypes to spell out the moral of the story, which is also the title of the film. What’s interesting, however, is how writers Reema Kagti and Zoya Akhtar have borrowed three simple rules for life from adventure sports on land, water and air.
1. Make every breath count, dive into the beautiful expanse of life — Scuba diving.
2. Let go, free-fall and embrace the feeling of powerlessness — Sky-diving.
3. “I get knocked down but I get up again and you nay ever gonna keep me down” — Running with the bulls.
And these life lessons are all about facing your fears/issues that the three archetypes deal with.
Calculative materialistic Arjun (Hrithik plays him like a robotic stereotype) has no time for friends or his girlfriends, impulsive artist Imran (though Farhan Akhtar works best when he’s brooding) on the other end of the spectrum masks his serious Daddy issues with humour and confused happy-go-lucky Kabir (Abhay Deol, his “mantally sick” accent and timing saving his girly dialogue delivery), the peace-making glue that holds the trio together, finds himself in a rather awkward situation after rushing into an unplanned engagement.
We saw exactly the same three kinds of guys in Delhi Belly — the materialistic Nitin (Kunaal Roy Kapur), the impulsive Arup (Vir Das) and the confused Tashi (Imran Khan) who was rushed into an engagement and the same three types in Dil Chahta Hai over a decade ago.
ZNMD’s three are from the world originally introduced to us by Farhan Akhtar. The rich guys with Hollywood hero issues. The guys for whom personal space is paramount and boundaries are sacred, even among the best of friends. It’s this space that Farhan and Zoya seem to know so well and it’s this space the siblings capture best and milk for drama through slice-of-life scenes and spontaneous dialogue that give the film its likeable character. In fact, the camaraderie between three buddies is the only thing in the film that feels real in Bollywood’s sober ‘Carpe Diem’ answer to The Hangover.
Even the setting is almost the same. Three friends go on a bachelor trip and take a ride on the wild side of life. And like Stu’s possessive fiancé who keeps tabs on them, Kabir’s fiancé Natasha (Kalki Koechlin convincingly annoying) wants her future husband to conform to the sober way of life.
Since just being hung over alone wouldn’t help the guys solve their issues, Zoya just wants them to get high on life with very minimal help from alcohol. Since their reluctance to share their secrets with each other cannot be resolved overnight, Zoya takes her time to build the mood.
It’s not an easy thing to do in our times when attention spans are shrinking, patience for storytelling has waned and kids are wired to their phone, even inside the movie hall. It doesn’t help that the jokes don’t always come naturally and Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy are nowhere close to the form they were with Dil Chahta Hai.
However, ZNMD works as a mood piece if you are in the mood to live vicariously through them. Hang out with the boys and Katrina, put up with bad jokes, surrender to the quiet of the ocean, the thrill of the free-fall and the atmospherics of bulls charging at you Spainstakingly captured by cinematographer Carlos Catalan.
(This review originally appeared here.)