Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara - You only Live once

Ten years ago Hindi cinema came alive with a film on friendship, its delicate yet enduring bond and growing in life and love. The movie spoke to the youth, gathered a cult following and is now enshrined in the gallery of trendsetting movies from India. That movie was 'Dil Chahta Hai'.  Its director a young debutant Farhan Akhtar. Fast forward to the present day and we have another young filmmaker Zoya Akhtar who presents to us 'Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara'. A film I can call a worthy successor to 'Dil Chahta Hai'. She happens to be the former mentioned filmmaker's sister. It all runs in the family.

We have a tale of male bonding where one friend is engaged and decides to arrange a road trip through Spain with his two best childhood buddies as an extended bachelor party. Kabir (Abhay Deol) wants to get his friends Imran (Frahan Akhtar) and Arjun (Hrithik Roshan) to give in to their adventurous sides and partake of sports which will test their fears and therefore set them free. So, we have three friends in picturesque Spain giving in to their wild side, playing pranks on random people, reminiscing about their college days and slowly letting us into their inner worlds. We witness the tension between Imran and Arjun and understand the reason for it, we see Arjun's love for money and understand the motivation behind it, we are privy to Imran's world where under the front of being the prankster of the group he is hiding secrets and fighting demons and finally we see the truth behind a facade Kabir has put on.

Deep sea diving, Sky diving and a run with the bulls are the activities of choice and with each, the characters are liberated of their fears, their turmoils and the philosophy of 'learning to live each moment like your last' stands tall. This is our time to live and what good is it if we spend it inside a box. Laila, Katrina Kaif in one of her more natural roles, is the voice of this philosophy. A deep sea diver, she sets Arjun free of his bondage and brings love into his life. The scene where she seizes the moment to let him know of her feelings, stands out for its sheer genuinity. In the middle of their adventures with life, Kabir's fiance Natasha (Kalki Koechlin) lands up to keep an eye on her husband to be, in case things heat up on this extended road trip.

Certain sequences leave an impact but none more so than the sequence between Imran and his father. In its subtlety, this scene lends credibility to the lessons the movie sets out to impart. Pain is essential to living life fully. With each experience we open ourselves to it. And it is both the teacher as well as the healer. The sky diving sequence is a metaphor for the need to let go, to truly feel life. It is beautifully shot and stands out in capturing the essence of friendship so uniquely.

The actors all rise to the occasion and deliver. There are no false notes here. The characters are easily relatable. Hrithik Roshan, a star in India, shows the sensitivity to handle the growth of his character graph. Abhay Deol as always, is dependable as is Kalki in her slightly neurotic, shrewish character. The revelation is Farhan Akhtar. Even in his tomfoolery we sense a sadness, a weight in his laughter. The sequence where he confronts his father and the tears that rise is applause worthy. Naseerudin Shah in his lone sequence stands out. A worthy note to the poetry penned by Javed Akhtar that takes the journey forward.

Though it takes the movie a while to rise to the occasion, with an initial half hour or so where the tomfoolery might just start to get on nerves, when it gets its groove, it sweeps us along with it. There are sequences celebrating friendship and fun which overstay their welcome, an example being the tomatina festival in Bunol as also the childish pranks of scaring people. But in its depiction of each adventure sport and the life lessons associated as well as the growth in the character graphs of its leads, this movie gets it right. Zoya Akhtar shows tremendous talent in understanding the finer nuances of telling a story. There is a lot implied here, drums are not beaten. Thankfully, unlike a lot of makers of commercial Indian cinema, she does not dumb down her audience. A special mention to how she ends the movie. Most movies get that moment wrong. She nails the final sequence, draws the curtains at the accurate instant.

We usually live by the book. It is the norm and before we know, the rules have bent us and our lives have flashed by. We do not get the opportunity to turn back time, to set our lives free and soar. In that case, it makes sense to truly feel each day, each moment and breathe in life and the richness it has to offer. Few find courage to flow against the tide, but that is the only way to freedom. When you are running from the bulls, you feel death in every pore and in the face of that final eventuality, you may truly be free to dream, to feel, to live.

Released in 2011
In Hindi

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