Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

July 15, 2011

Singin’ in (the) Spain!

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:31 pm

July 15, 2011

Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Abhay Deol, Farhan Akhtar, Katrina Kaif, Kalki Koechlin

Director: Zoya Akhtar

There’s a moment in Zoya Akhtar’s Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara when Arjun, the character played by Hrithik Roshan, sits on a boat with tears in his eyes. It becomes clear that in a strange way, Arjun has been set free by a deep-sea diving experience.  The realization hits him that life is beautiful but you can only savour it when you live it by your own rules, not by what is expected of you.

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara takes the light-hearted tone of a fun, all-boys road trip through Spain to give you a deep and heartfelt message on why we should live life by seizing the moment and following our hearts. Director Zoya Akhtar, who proved with her wonderful debut Luck By Chance that she has a perceptive eye for relationships and an assured storytelling style, uses the same tools to tell a new story.

Three lifelong friends in their thirties decide to take the three-week road trip they always planned when Kabir (played by Abhay Deol) gets engaged to Natasha (played by Kalki Koechlin). Kabir is the binding force between his polar-opposite friends: the free-spirited advertising copywriter Imran (played by Farhan Akhtar), and the uptight Arjun, strait-jacketed by his career. To add excitement, the only rule on this road trip is that all three friends must try out an adventure sport chosen by each of them.

Boys will be boys and this film catches that note beautifully. You can be in your thirties, but a few minutes with your childhood friends takes you right back to being a teenager, playing the same old pranks, and imitating your college professor’s weird accent. You have to love the natural way in which a simmering undercurrent between Arjun and Imran erupts over a silly, childish fight and how they scuffle about as if they were in a schoolyard. Arjun is aggravated by Imran’s annoying, not-serious-for-a-moment attitude, but underneath his flip manner, Imran is struggling with a secret of his own. The adventure gets complicated with love when diving instructor Laila (played by Katrina Kaif) enters the equation – she’s a young Paulo Coelho in her own sexy way, showing Arjun how to appreciate life’s simple pleasures. A jealous, possessive Natasha also stirs up the pot when she lands up unannounced on the group. She’s the worst kind of gatecrasher – a fianceé on a bachelor trip.

There are several scenes in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara that make you want to pack your bags and gather your pals (Dil Chahta Hai, anyone?) Each adventure sport is shot so thrillingly that you feel alive and in-the-moment, even though you’re actually watching it all sitting in a dark theatre. Watch that hair-raising skydiving scene – it’s such an unusual salute to friendship. A real tone is maintained through the dialogues written by Farhan Akhtar; they have that a casual slice-of-life flavor, and the jokes here are genuinely funny.

What makes Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara that much more enjoyable are the performances. Katrina Kaif is content to play off the three male leads, yet she brings a charming, lovely touch to her role. Kalki Koechlin, playing what is essentially a caricature, keeps her character grounded in the real; so while you may not particularly like her in the end, you can see why she acts that way.

The three male stars have that believable vibe of a long friendship. Abhay Deol brings an effortless, comfortable energy to Kabir, while Farhan Akhtar is a revelation. He’s so goofy that you burst out laughing several times, yet he shows vulnerability just as easily. Hrithik Roshan once again brings real depth to his character with a spectacular performance. He’s shy and restrained, then lets go with such fantastic intensity that you make the inward journey with his character.

But a quibble I have with this film is that it takes too long to reach its destination and gets sidetracked by a couple of sentimental detours. It lingers too long in certain scenarios, and this sucks some of the fun out of the ride. Yet, I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. It proves that Zoya Akhtar has a unique, compelling voice and unlike many of her contemporaries, she actually respects that a cinema audience can be both intelligent and mature.

Make sure you take this trip!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)


  1. if some body wants to translate what a Positive vibe is into a movie this is the answer to all…
    The best part is the climax scene where 3 frnds run which is so poetic and full of life.Zen mediation u can say.

    Thanks Farhan n Zoya…. I owe u a Tomato treat some day in Spain 🙂

    Comment by AmarReddy — August 16, 2011 @ 11:03 pm

  2. I had tears of joy at the end… An excellent movie and an excellent review!

    Comment by Gopal — August 20, 2011 @ 1:32 am

  3. Very Well Said!!!!!!!!!!!!! Truly A Joy Ride I Would Give It a 4/5……

    Comment by Pratik — August 21, 2011 @ 10:36 am

  4. personally, the only good things about the movie were Javed saab’s poems. The rest of it was a little superficial to say the least. The movie, save the last ten minutes, totally failed to connect.

    Comment by vibhor (@daakusaxena) — September 5, 2011 @ 7:56 pm

  5. 3.5 stars!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!???????????? Goddddd…..
    the movie has such pathetic structuring that after ever 15 min in 2nd half, you have a feeling that has the movie ended; or remove anyone of the three guys’s stories and you won’t sense anything missing. it’s like 3 personal fears and 3 physical fears (1 each) joined together in the most awkward fashion devoid of any mood continuity – just 6 events placed one after the other without any coherence. On top of that, no pacing, or conflict or climax.

    characterizations are so overtly stereotyped. It’s not only a very very stinkingly rich guy like Hrithik Roshan’s character who needs to take time off and enjoy life, everyone must do that but this big-time guy character fails to relate to the common man. Secondly, going to Spain, doing paragliding, scubadiving in pure bluish waters, letting your friend throw your expensive cellphone and not searching for it, the movie fails to give a lesson. Happiness in life doesn’t have to come doing only such big, expensive stuff, otherwise poor people like me would have had to always keep crying.

    It’s one of those high-society couch ideas which people throw into a film without ever trying to explore all the aspects of it. Tell Zoya to watch movies like ‘Jane bhi do Yaaron’ or for a movie from her favorite place Spain, she could watch the Spanish movie ‘Nobody’s perfect’, tell her to learn characterization and script-writing, tell her to do some research, some thinking, tell her to step out of her air-conditioned house, AC office, AC cars, Cafe coffee day and Europe trips and see & feel the world outside.

    Katrina Kaif, who’s a fun-loving (but preaching?) girl gets drawn towards Hrithik Roshan, who she despises as someone who runs after money. And I don’t understand how. And this guy who is mad after money and doesn’t enjoy life, starts doing excellent Salsa movies on the stage (which Hrithik Roshan must have learnt during “Kites’ but what about his character?) The movie fails on the organic part in many a place.

    Farhan Akhtar tries too hard to break away from his subtle kind of roles by taking on the role of a fun-filled, witty, flirtatious guy, but is not able to deliver. In addition, his cackling voice never seemed to be a problem, but in this movie, it gets so irritating.

    Abhay Deol, as ever, is stunning. What a relief!!!!! The movie neither truly delivers a message nor fully entertains.
    I won’t say that it’s an unwatchable film, in fact it’s good enough to be watched once if there is no other good movie to go to. But one won’t remember it for more than 2-3 hr after watching it. And Rajeev is giving 3.5 stars – come on man, are you kidding me!!!

    Comment by Vijeta Dahiya — September 12, 2011 @ 12:46 pm

  6. Rajiv, instead of always watching movies in PVRs and Wave, watch a flick sometimes in the dress circle of a local theatre like Golcha, Alpna or Liberty……sure, every experience in life has something to teach.

    Comment by Vijeta Dahiya — September 12, 2011 @ 12:53 pm

  7. I like Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara! Totally agree with Your rating.
    One note – I give 2 for Hrithik performance, he can do it much better.

    Comment by Lena — September 23, 2011 @ 10:54 pm

  8. Not bad either, its just some what good for me, the most important thing about this movie is that its like different from all other movies like you see so much of English is used in it, i liked Hrithiks performance in this movie, all the characters were good too
    But sometimes i felt like i am not understanding whats going on like you see in the second half one friend makes fun of another friend and laughs but what actually for, that was too long
    i will go with 3 out of 5
    i felt like there is no story

    Comment by Sachin Naik — November 6, 2011 @ 5:20 pm

  9. Good movie…Good review…Good ratings

    Comment by Biman Saha — January 11, 2012 @ 1:01 am

  10. Excellent Movie. It is the best movie I’ve seen in 2011. 4.5/5

    Comment by Abhimanue Tom — April 11, 2012 @ 5:34 pm

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