Friday, July 15, 2011

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara Review

Ay, mi vida, que has hecho?? What have you done to me, Zoya? How am I supposed to write a review for a movie that has left me so conflicted? And it's not the usual conflict where Dolce takes one side and Namak takes the other, because for this one they agree completely on everything that is bad and on everything that is good.

Namak: For example the ridiculous "seize the day, no regrets" philosophy?
Dolce: Well, on that one, I do kind of get it. People were not appreciative of Zoya's subtlety in the brilliant Luck by Chance, so perhaps she felt that something more in your face was needed. Judging by the reactions on twitter, we could say that gamble paid off.
Namak: Maybe, but that's only because the people who were "meh" about the movie to begin with (and there are unfortunately a lot of those) just went to see Harry Potter instead and will catch this one later if the word of mouth is good.
Dolce: You may be right about that, sure, but remember how many other works of art that advocate this type of chain-email philosophy have succeeded. A lot!
Namak: Point taken. People sure seem to like being told that it's ok, in fact it's recommended, to be a bohemian who has no job, no worries and no regrets.
Dolce: Except they only like to hear it, no one actually does it.
Namak: But that's just the point. It's a movie, it doesn't have to be realistic. As long as people will enjoy listening to that message, you're guaranteed a successful movie. Who cares if anyone actually learns something from it. It's like a chain-email: everyone will smile at it, promise themselves to get more out of life every day, forward it, and then go about their usual business.
Dolce: Are you saying Zoya's movie is like a chain-email?
Namak: No. Not at all. Just this part of the story.

We do all agree that this part of the message was quite heavy handed in the film, which is something I was not expecting from Zoya Akhtar, the woman who made us rethink everything we thought we knew about the film industry and the people in it with her first film. It's nice to have a free-spirited character like Laila, effortlessly played by Katrina Kaif, but to have a stuck-up materialistic dude like Arjun (Hrithik Roshan) turn around 180 degrees and embrace that philosophy in a week is a little much.

I mean, THIS is the guy we're talking about:

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara has confirmed the two things I said I was afraid of when I saw the first trailer: that Kalki's character will be a uni-dimensional controlling wife-to-be who will not let her husband out of her sight, and that it will fall for that silly stereotype that a trip to Europe can change someone's personality. Ugh! So there goes that. Out of the three stories, only Farhan's arc warrants a major shift in zindagi outlook after this trip.

Namak: And yet... I wasn't bored.
Dolce: Nope, not for a second.
Namak: Even when I was rolling my eyes.
Dolce: Which apart from those two things we didn't roll them all that much.
Namak: Oh yes we did: hello stereotypical slutty Spanish girl!
Dolce: Oh, right, yes, the chaste Laila doesn't even concede a kiss after 4 days together, while Nuria jumps into bed the first night.
Namak: Heh... it is after all, Farhan Akhtar's bed.
Dolce: Dude, I'm the fangirl here!
Namak: Pfff! So what? Does that mean I can't show my appreciation too?

Farhan Akhtar, it should be said loud and clear, owns this movie. It's not just that he's given the best lines, but he acts with such panache, such intelligence and such style that it's hard to resist him, even when Imran spends more than half of the film being a complete jerk. Then again, how does one not melt for Imran, jerk as he may be, when he's practically making love to a convertible car through the window of the dealership? Or when he's dancing to Senorita? No really: how?

Truth be told, it's really hard to say which one is the bigger jerk: Imran (Farhan Akhtar) or Arjun (Hrithik Roshan). And the subtlety that we have loved Zoya for in Luck By Chance shows here in not making either of them completely right or completely lovable. You always end up conflicted about which one of them should win the argument. And THAT is what I love Zoya for! The fact that the materialistic Arjun is also always the one who tries to solve conflicts, whether it's by talking to Kabir about his relationship or just motioning him to leave the room. The fact that Imran is a brainless joker by day and an insightful poet by night. These are the things that I appreciate from a good writer, these are the things that make a character last for me.

While on the topic of characters, the other reason why I can't rave enough about Zoya is that she basically took my group of friends and our conversations on late weekend nights and put them in a movie. There's a scene where Arjun is drunk and he goes on and on and on about how everything is written in our destiny, and I laughed wholeheartedly because I have lived that conversation so many times! Sure these guys are immature, sure they have issues, sure they say and do things that are hurtful, but you know, that's what people do. And there is no growing up or out of it, regardless of the age, some people will still play stupid pranks, and others will still be hurt by them. And no one will learn. That's life, that's our generation, that's just who we are. And if there are ladies and gentlemen out there who don't care to watch a movie about this type of people, I guess they're better off not watching this one.

Dolce: Except we're not controlling fiances.
Namak: Well, we're not. But that doesn't mean others aren't.
Dolce: Hm... Point. Still, Natasha (Kalki Koechlin) was by far the weakest character in terms of writing. She's not even given a chance to redeem herself, not a single one. She's painted black right from the beginning and doesn't shake the image of the witch until the last song of the film.
Namak: Ya, that's truly sad. I did not expect such a uni-dimensional character. Not in this film.

Right, moving along, I really need to get over that or my love for the Akhtar twins just might fade after this humongous faux-pas.

Other highlights then? The cinematography! Every single review I read so far has raved about it, so I won't repeat the praises, but really worth seeing this one in the theatre just for that! Stupendous looking film! Great use of sound too, not just visuals. That heartbeat that marked each of the risky sports was only one of the many moments of brilliance, but there were many.

Overall, after this one we can safely say that Zoya is one of the most talented storytellers in Bollywood right now. The way the stories unfold and the way the details are connected is another reason why I will not stop raving about ZNMD for a while. Even details that you think you know... turn out to be something else altogether and everything comes out just at the right time. The main reason why I was glued to my seat the whole time was not as much to see where the story was going (which is easy to guess on most counts), but to find out where the story was coming from. And this is where a talented director and storyteller really shines. Sure, she may have fallen into traps and cliches this time around, but even while doing so she never let your eyes wander away from the screen. At least not mine.

I haven't said much about Kabir's story (Abhay Deol). And well, that's because it's pretty much all about the relationship with his fiance, so the less I talk about that the better. He won my heart in the first half of the film by being the only sensible man between the other two "bwoys" and then hung me out to dry in the second.

What a perfect role for Abhay Deol! And as usual, he makes the most of it with subtlety and just the right amount of emotion.

Because in the end it does come down to the actors and what they make of the script for me. I would go watch this movie again just for that, to relive all the little moments between the guys, to see their faces light up or smirk in contempt, to see them piss each other off with wine and then make peace over shots, to see them trying hard not to laugh, and always failing. Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara is not a movie that has taught me anything about life. But it's a movie that has a lot of life in it. Real - sometimes cliche, sometimes surprising, but always entertaining - life.


me said...

Thanks for finding a way through your dilemma and writing this one up - I look forward to seeing it as soon as it's out on DVD.

Dolce and Namak said...

:) I didn't, I just threw it all in there, good, bad, worse, better :) But I really do think I like it more now that I thought about it and wrote about it. Funny how that happens with some films, na? Might be the type of movie that needs two watches.
I hope it comes out on DVD soon for you! Curious what you'll make of the self-centered lovable jerks that are Farhan and Hrithik, with poor Abhay always stuck in between. Make sure to write about it when you see it! :)

Anonymous said...

I really can't say I liked this. I was bored a lot of the time as while I can identify with some of the concerns and conversations, I pretty much loathed all 3 of the guys. There were a few laughs, a few good scenes, and a whole lot of unpleasant and self absorbed people and their product placement.
All 3 men were horrible one-dimensional stereotypes and there was next to no character development. Just cliche after cliche as all of them decided they had to be themselves and be free and blah blah blah. The drunken philosophy is a familiar spiel, but since I didn't like any of them it was just irritating and self-indulgent. It was like eavesdropping on a Manchild International convention :)
I really liked Katrina's performance, which is unusual as she is not a favourite of mine, and thought she was lovely and natural.
A serious question - how did you not vomit a little when the horses turned up in Hrithik's "I love me who do you love" song? My cliche filter clogged at that point.
It is a very pretty looking film, and I enjoyed the wallpaper and other interior design elements as well as the great cinematography.
Too many cliches (Kalki's role for one) and too predictable. It was just OK.
Cheers :) Temple

Radical said...

hello! thanks for the review..made for a good always! i'll cure watch the film in a theatre...mostly for Spain...n a then for Zoya!:)!

Swati Sapna said...

Oh. My. God. You have put into words every single thing I felt about this movie. I agree with this review so much. with every word of it! its almost like I wrote this myself :D I know the movie abounds in cliches and stereotypical resolutions and kalki's unidimensional character is an eyesore... but hell. I would go watch it again. The relationship between the 3 bwoys, their chats, the genuinely funny moments, the issues each one has... it was like my best friends and I took a road trip!
And Farhan Akhtar... what can I say about the man who has it all? :) I'm smitten!!!
The only thing I would have actually liked to change in the film - the song with the end credits? It shd have been Abhay and Kalki getting married (ppl usually go crazy before weddings and most ppl sort it out too!), Farhan still in advertising but trying to publish his poetry, Hrithik back to his money-making yet trying to take time out for Laila... that wd have made it real in keeping with the rest of the film. Also eliciting a few more laughs that people don't really change, the struggle is still on to attain a balance. but yes, you can make small changes to live life the way you want to... but maybe i'm being too idealistic :P
PS - can i pls share the link to this post on fb?!

Dolce and Namak said...

Hey Temple, yeah, I can totally see how some people would not like it for the reasons you listed (some of which I had mentioned myself), but I think the difference is for me the 3 guys are far from uni-dimensional self-absorbed characters. I heard that criticism regarding other films about this generation: Wake Up Sid, Band Baaja Baaraat, even Dil Chahta Hai, and I guess since so many people feel that way, maybe our whole generation comes across that way. But just because a caharacter doesn't break down crying, doesn't wear his heart on his sleeve, doesn't react to things immediately, and displays a whole lot of immaturity, I don't think that's equivalent to having no character development. In fact one of the things I was hoping for was *less* character development because I think it's high time people got over this cliche that going sightseeing in Europe will change who you are. But whatevs, guess we're still far from that point in film making.
The thing is, like I said, I actually know these people in real life. I mean I could give names to each of them from my own group of friends. :) So I found it extremely relatable and that totally made up for the cliches for me. I can see how if you don't relate to them the way I did, you would just be bored and annoyed.

Regarding the horses and Hrithik, I confess I was extremely disappointed with the picturization for Khwabon Ke Parindey because it was my favourite song off the soundtrack. Actually all of Hrithik's little extasy moments left me completely cold, I much prefered him when he was being a stuck-up a$$ :D But I totally missed the moment with the horses because when I realized that song was only going to be a montage of Hrithik in various corny poses, I pulled out my phone and started updating my Twitter timeline :P

Nonetheless, I really enjoyed it and with a few exceptions (that song being one of them) I was fully entertained.

Dolce and Namak said...

Hey Vistrit, yes, it is totally worth watching it in the theatre for Spain :) For Zoya not as much, I thought she compromised on a lot of things, but then how does one even compete with a Luck by Chance. It was probably not fair to have so many expectations of her. But I think with the expectations filter adjusted, it is a very enjoyable ride. I hope you like it!

Dolce and Namak said...

Swati! Glad you liked it, and of course I also fully agree with all of your objections. I said the same thing after I watched it that I did not agree with the ending and with the completely implausible personality transplants. :P In fact I wrote elsewhere that during the running with the bulls scene I kept hoping the whole time that Kabir would say: "no dammit, I DO want to do this, what was I thinking??" But who knows, maybe we will get to see that movie too sometime :)

Ah and yes, do not get me started on Farhan... Why WHY do we only see him once every couple of years??? He keeps getting better and better and I seriously could watch him all day and all night! No matter what he plays, he has my interest.

Sigh... many objections yes, but I think ZNMD is that perfect ball of glittery fluff for me in 2011. No point over analysing it, just go with it. The bwoyz totally make it worth your while :)

Oh and of course you can post it anywhere, don't be silly, why would you even ask for permission? :)

Anonymous said...

Hey Dolce - I think that you have explained the difference in our views very well. I also know these people in real life but after 20 odd years of listening to them blather on, I'm over them too :)
And really, a film about a man who would rather be trampled by a bull than do something to solve his self-created problems is aimed at an audience other than me.
I'm glad you liked it - there have been so many disappointments in the cinema of late, I can still be happy for you :) Temple

Dolce and Namak said...

The things is Temple, it's not necessarily that I like them either, or agree with what they do every time, so that's why I totally see where you're coming from too. But I do "get" them, they feel real and there's more to them than meets the eye, it's just not as evident. But I think that's exactly what explains the success of this film in its first weekend and why the audiences were laughing all the time and tweeting buckets, there is a vast amount of people who found themselves (or their friends) in this movie, so the writers must have done something right, no? :)

But like I said, perfectly understandable that some people don't want to watch a movie about these characters. Especially when they even annoy you in real life. ;)

micaelix said...

i actually went to the movie theatre and watched it (i was almost alone at the matinee show)... and i laughed almost all the movie. Katrina has been a surprise for me too, as i've seen her in the past in some really roles having silly acting. I think she actually acted well in this movie (that would bring the number of movies with her that i like up to 3). I went to watch ZNMG without any expectations, having seen any trailers or songs.. i went with a completely blank slate and i lived it. I'll overanalyze maybe the decond time around. But I am sometimes as you are.. i can know a movie is all fluff and still love it :D

Dolce and Namak said...

I know, right? Why overanalyze it when it's so much fun to just go with it? I think i will try to suppress the analysis the second time around too, but it's definitely one I can show to people my age and be certain that they will enjoy it.

You're probably right about Katrina but I seem to have done a great job at avoiding her super-silly roles, and as a consequence I actually quite like her. I liked her in Raajneeti, APKGK and she was certainly the best part about Tees Maar Khan, so as long as I manage to stay away from garbage, she has a pretty good record with me.

I am almost certain ZNMD will be my perfect ball of glittery fluff for 2011. That said, it's fluff with great characters, which puts it ahead of other balls of fluff :)

The funny thing is I actually just came back from a roadtrip with friends and I had so many moments while away where I would think back about ZNMD and go "aha! we're so doing exactly what they did in so and so scene right now". We had an Arjun in our midst (seriously, down to the bonus conversation) and two Imrans, so that goes to show just how relatable those characters were for me. :) Give it to Zoya to create something so memorable out of thin air!

Thanks for dropping by to share your thoughts! I am always happy when people get to see a movie in the theatres like it's meant to be, especially one that I enjoyed myself.

micaelix said...

yes.. unfortunatelly most of my friends don't share my passion so i've missed out on some good movies because i didn't want to go alone, or simply because the "Indian" cinema here doesn't see fit to show them grrrr.. but i know what you mean.. at ZNMD i said "forget it, i'll go alone" and enjoyed it a lot by myself

Dolce and Namak said...

Hey Roxanita, sorry for being so late with this reply, I'm sort of on blogging vacation :P

I go see movies by myself all the time. I actually quite enjoy it because unless I go with my BW partner in crime (who is just as obsessed about Bollywood as I am), I find that I stress way too much about how the other person is reacting to the film. So there are definitely advantages to going alone. And glad you went, it was worth the big screen, wasn't it? I for one can't even imagine that running with the bulls scene on the TV screen, just like I can't watch the larger than life Baawre on the little screen at home.

me said...

I liked this movie, but thought it pretty inconsequential. That is, pretty, and inconsequential. It was full of pretty, from the stunning scenery to Javed's beautiful words (my favourite bits of the whole film). The producers should be rolling in the paise though, because the whole thing seemed like nothing much more than a 2 hour ad for Spain Tourism, who I hope paid for it all. Vapid would be another adjective that would fit, and the extreme affluence of the characters was hard for me to relate to. I enjoyed watching it, and will probably watch it again at some point, but want to rewatch LBC again first, for a reminder that Zoya can do more than churn out cotton candy. On the upside, the increasingly plastic Anglo-Indian was the best of the cast, I thought.

Dolce and Namak said...

Hey maxqnz, I know what you're saying and I can't disagree too much, though I credit it with more substance than you I think (like vapid would not be a word I'd use when describing it. I'd probably say fluffy). This movie did not match the brilliance of LBC, not by a long shot. But in a way I can't give Zoya too much flack for it, I understand why commercial success is also important for her.

To her credit, in all the interviews I have watched with her about ZNMD, she never gave me the impression that she thought of ZNMB as anything more than a fun road-trip movie. So she seems well aware of the fact that her two movies are in two completely different leagues.

I think this was a good move on her part, career-wise. If she had made another critically acclaimed commercially floppy movie, I'm not sure how she would have lasted in the industry. Now she's established herself on both counts and she'll have a much stronger position for her 3rd movie. Let's see what she comes up with next, shall we! :)

me said...

Yes, vapid was probably a bit harsh. The worst part of the film was Kalki's caricature character, sadly

Dolce and Namak said...

Argh! Yes, that was a slip-up that I will not forgive Zoya too soon for. Not that I don't know that people like Kalki's character exist as well (because sadly they do), but even if she was written unpleasant, she could have had some sort of story to her, or anything to make her bi-dimensional. As it was, even Bagwati had more personality than her. :P

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