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.
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.