Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara: Why It Worked

From the very first whiff of Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, I knew I would love it. However, I wondered whether I would love it for all the right reasons or whether it would turn out to be one of those movies which I loved for personal reasons, reasons that only I would understand. When I was watching the film, I felt my heart breathe a huge sigh of relief when realising that the movie would appeal to the masses. Whilst many have been comparing Zoya Akhtar’s second offering to The Hangover 2 and Dil Chahta Hai, I would like to put a spanner in the works. I would like to argue that it doesn’t need to be compared to any film seen before but that it’s a stand-alone success because it has just so much going for it. For me, it’s a combination of perfect things which make this film so special and so watchable. Let’s explore the perfection further…

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Ensemble cast

It has to be said that the huge star cast is perhaps the luring of Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. No matter what your taste, your preference or your fondness in heart, at least one of the main cast is sure to draw you in. In my case, all three of the male leads were enough to make this a success just on paper. In my view, you can’t get more perfect than Hrithik Roshan. His charisma and presence on the screen is unexplainably divine. Abhay Deol is a thinking-woman’s ideal – well, that’s how I see him! And there’s not much one can say for Farhan Akhtar apart from the fact that I very much look forward to anything he stars in. So there it was, well and truly sold!

Spanish backdrop

Although I’ve never been to Spain, I think a European backdrop to a film which is about a stag holiday is, quite simply, intriguing. It also gives the overall feel of the film a very fresh, contemporary and cultured look. What worked for Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara even further is the travelling which the characters proposed to do to see different parts of the country. The audiences get to put their shoes into the characters and almost be tourists themselves… and let’s face it, who in their right mind would give up a free holiday?

Carefree Hrithik

It has been reported that when the script of Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara was narrated, it was done so with Roshan’s wife Sussanne present. It is also thought that it was her who convinced him to do the role of Arjun. The role is perhaps one of the most unlikeable of his career but as the film goes on and the plot unveils itself, he becomes more and more at ease. The movie shows Roshan in a very different light and this is perhaps what works for him and the story. It also provides a refreshing change from the less light-hearted roles Roshan has been seen in lately such as Guzaarish and Kites.

Dialogues to remember

The credit for the words that are spoken by the cast goes to the multi-talented Farhan Akhtar. It seems he is following in his father’s footsteps when it comes to creating effect with shabd alone. This is why one will watch Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and remember certain lines from the anecdotes. It seems Akhtar put a little bit of himself in  every comic scene and a little bit of comic undertone in even the most serious scenes. It is because of the epic dialogues that the more sombre scenes work when followed by a funny one. You won’t have stopped laughing at the previous comedy scene before you’re watching quite the opposite right after… and neither look or feel out of place.

The boys are back

It seems Bollywood is basking in the glory of movies about men and male bonding of late. Be it Aamir Khan’s 3 Idiots or the recently premiered Double Dhamaal, it seems movies of this genre are giving a new recipe in success. Why are these kinds of films so appealing? Hmm… it could be the full-on entertainment that comes with a movie which is about a stag do and the adventures it brings with it. It could also be because the audiences are sick of a bland love story and neither are they looking for a film which requires an obvious amount of thought. A male-bonding saga like Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara is full of witicism, light-hearted fun and often conveys a very important set of thoughts but in a very subtle way. All in all, the audiences are loving it!  

Farhan’s Imraan

What can I say about a character which comes across as if the actor playing him could not be more perfect? I can’t imagine anybody but Farhan in the role of Imraan. Imraan’s random cliches, his attachment to Bagwati and his tongue-in-cheek style comedy is enough to make even the dullest of the dull smile from ear to ear if not laugh out loud. Be it his seductive Spanish dance complete with a rose between his teeth or his choice of mobile phone for his best bud, Farhan sinked right into the skin of Imraan and he, for me, very much makes the movie what it is. Without the character of Imraan and without Farhan Akhtar, ZNMD wouldn’t have been quite as funny or appealing as it is. It is him that lured me to go and watch the movie a second time!

Adventure Sports

The sports in the movie are perhaps the most refreshing of the factors listed. In my immediate memory, there hasn’t been a film in Bollywood which has tackled adventure sports quite in the way ZNMD has. Between the choices made by Kabir, Arjun and then Imraan, each fight their fears and each come out feeling on top of the world. It’s perhaps a larger than life way of preaching that life is all about fears but nothing is bigger and scarier than death. Each fear can be faced head on and overcome with dignity and has the possibility of changing your life. My personal favourite of the three sports was the scuba-diving… and maybe i’m just a little bit partial to the vulnerability of Arjun (Hrithik) when it comes to this!

Abhay’s centre stage

Abhay Deol. He is an actor which I, some time ago, brushed under the carpet. I admit that he wasn’t on my radar at all. I knew he existed but I didn’t feel that I needed to go out of my way to watch a film of his and he wasn’t popular enough to carry a film on his own shoulders. I then watched Ahista Ahista and thought it was a very sweet film which perhaps didn’t get it’s due. I think his best and probably most mainstream role before ZNMD was in Aisha. I thought he was perfect in the role of Arjun in the movie and I was waiting in anticipation to see him share screen space with the likes of Katrina, Hrithik and Farhan. I’ve got to put my hand on my heart and say I respect and thank Zoya Akhtar for casting Deol in the role of Kabir. I have a new-found love for the actor and I hope that ZNMD does absolute wonders for his career… he bloody well deserves it and the audiences deserve to see him more!

Music that grows on you

When I first heard the soundtrack of ZNMD, I was impressed by Senorita and Der Lagi Lekin. However, it is fair to say that after one watches the movie, the songs grow on your all the more. Although not a very noticeable soundtrack without the visuals, it is very much a summer anthem which creeps into your musical being and makes a home for itself. I have found myself humming to Sooraj Ki Baahon Mein and loving Khaabon Ke Parinday after seeing it on screen. ZNMD’s music works perfectly with the movie and doesn’t outdo the characters or the storyline… Shankar Ehsaan Loy have done it again!

Hrithik Roshan-Katrina Kaif jodi

Personally, this is perhaps the one in the list which least appealed to me. However, it would be wrong to take away a mention. Hrithik Roshan and Katrina Kaif come together for the very first time as a couple in ZNMD. It is right to say that audiences were betaab to see them sizzle on screen and rumours were rife about the kiss they share. To sum it up, the characters of Arjun and Laila couldn’t be more contrasting if they tried. Their thought processes don’t match and their outlooks on life differ from each other… however, call it fate or call it a spark, the two come together when Laila teaches Arjun how to live life as if every moment was the last. Their love story in the grand scheme of things is sweet, fun and meaningful but it doesn’t overpower the rest of the narrative. Although I was apprehensive at first, I feel the two should be brought together again for a more effective love story. What say guys?

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Although I’ve listed the 10 most prominent contributory factors that I feel go in favour of ZNMD’s success, I can also put my hand on my heart and say that it is the overall message of the movie which resonates. Each character is etched to perfection and although they all intermingle in the plot, each one has it’s own appeal and it’s own identity. Each character brings something to the story which builds up and, at the end, conveys a variety of messages. It is perhaps the very last adventure sport which is the most significant and it is from that that the overall message of the movie can be derived. It’s never too late to say so if you’re unhappy… it’s never too late to take a chance on love… and it’s never too late to show the world what you’re really about. The movie encourages you to be free, to explore the things in the world which go hand in hand with your happiness and to trust your gut feeling.

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara has fast become a film I will never forget and it will always be a film which is a source of inspiration to me. Hats off to Team ZNMD!

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