‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’ Is A Road Trip To Nowhere
Director: Zoya Akhtar
Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Farhan Akhtar, Abhay Deol, Katrina Kaif, Kalki Koechlin
Rating: ★ 1/2
According to scientists, black holes can slow down the progress of time. A similar effect can be felt by viewers of Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, a surprisingly inept coming-of-middle-age story that drones on from one lame set-up to the next.
The main problem lies in the plot, which is both loose and hackneyed. Kabir (Deol), a 30-something construction magnate who is about to marry Natasha (Koechlin), decides it’s time his two best friends, Imraan (Akhtar) and Arjun (Roshan), and he take the holiday they’ve been planning for much of their adult lives. The trio sets off on a three-week road trip to Spain, where each of them will conquer their biggest fears and phobias. Needless to say, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara feels like a rehash of Farhan Akhtar’s 2001 directorial debut Dil Chahta Hai.
Unlike road movies like, for instance, The Motorcycle Diaries where the locations and the characters’ experiences and insecurities bring life to the story, in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, director Zoya Akhtar, her co-writer Reema Kagti and her actors fail to create characters worthy of empathy. This is in large part due to the circuitous screenplay. Neither Arjun’s back-story, involving an ex-girlfriend, nor the sub-plot featuring Imraan’s estranged father, go anywhere. The fact that Kabir doesn’t really want to marry his fiancé predictably culminates in a big moment where he tells her the truth. But it takes nearly three hours of screen time for him to get there.
While Deol’s performance suffers from stilted dialogue delivery, both Roshan and Farhan Akhtar are wasted in under-developed roles, where they spend much of their time performing juvenile antics and making wisecracks. The scenes where workaholic Arjun finally realises that there’s more to life than making money, as well as the one where he starts bawling after he overcomes his aquaphobia and goes deep sea diving, are cliched.
If anyone deserves praise, it is cinematographer Carlos Catalan. There are splendid shots of parajumping, underwater exploration and tomato throwing (one of the songs has been picturised during the Tomatina festival in Buñol). These are the moments when Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara spins, whirls, sputters and wheezes, but ultimately, we get a film with some style but far too little substance. The Spanish locales are gorgeous to behold, and we have seldom seen imagery as pretty as this in Indian films. But watching them in a film so self-indulgent feels much like walking into a fancy restaurant and being served a dead rat.