There is that stray eloquent moment and the beautifully orchestrated sequence in Zoya Akhtar’s second film Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (ZNMD), which lifts this breezy but predictably simple lad-flick to highly watchable cinema. For a story that involves three childhood friends meeting, in the prime of their youth—and at different points of personal and professional crossroads—in Spa-in for a drive through the country, this is an extremely long film.
Almost 150 minutes seem unduly stretched, also because the story by Reema Kagti and Zoya Akhtar does not have a subject or theme. It is meant to be a simple road trip without risks and surprises, easy on the eye. The three men do have some purgatory change of heart, but mostly chasing the wind in convertibles, frolicking with plump tomatoes and running for life ahead of bulls become their grand epiphanies. It’s a throwback to Dil Chahta Hai, even Rock On!!—all produced by the same company, Excel Entertainment. The three films are similar, down to specifics. Two of the three men have unresolved conflicts which play out in the present.
Watchable: Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara is a good-looking romcom.
In parts, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara is enjoyable—a couple of scenes induced happy sighs in me. Zoya Akhtar has visualized some sequences spectacularly. But for a film unfolding on roads far away from home, it has none of the magic of a road film. In truly great road films, vignette characters leave imprints, there are unpalatable truths and unforeseen twists. The ZNMD boys like it easy; things are under their control and so they are inherently a dull trio unwinding in picturesque Spanish towns. They are fashionably smug tourists seeking redemption in controlled adventure.
Arjun (Hrithik Roshan) is a “financial broker” obsessed with raking millions by the time he is 40. His incessant work calls trigger many genuinely funny jokes; he is the butt of his two buddies’ jibes. Basically, he needs a life, and Laila (Katrina Kaif), an itinerant diving instructor, might just scratch his thin facade. Imraan (Farhan Akhtar) is an advertising copywriter in search of a father who abandoned him in childhood. He is the real joker, a bit of a shameless skirt-chaser with, of course, a concealed heart. Kabir (Abhay Deol), engaged to Natasha (Kalki Koechlin), daughter of a businessman “worth Rs 1,000 crore”, is deluded into happy-ever-after marital promise.
There are no real conflicts or predicaments; they suffer from designer angst beneath impeccably groomed exteriors.
What works are scenes where the equations each friend has with the others are fleshed out. The “in-jokes” are believable, funny and written well. You are in on this chaddi camaraderie, no matter how daft the three boys really are. Despite its unjustified length, the film does not lose momentum till the end—with a well-choreographed song here, and a crackling sequence there, Zoya Akhtar keeps you afloat through the journey.
None of the performances will take your breath away. Roshan is endearing, believable and in control. He is the star without meaning to be one—a new spurt of life for him. Farhan Akhtar and Deol are consistently aware of their characters’ quirks— largely vacuous, confused boys with climactic flashes of intensity. I particularly found Farhan Akhtar impressive while holding up to a scene for his character, alongside a brilliant cameo by Naseeruddin Shah.
Kaif has an easy charm, effortless under water and on a bike, but her acting skills are still sorely raw. Koechlin is laboured, and mismatched to her role. Despite inconsistently engaging dialogues by Farhan Akhtar, the director infuses life into most scenes. Some annoying asides, like frequent voice-overs of Imraan’s Hindi poetry (written by Javed Akhtar) layered over emotional cornerstones, are unintentionally funny.
Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara is a politically correct, good-looking romcom, half an hour too long. The happy sighs? One was when the friends jump off a plane and swirl around in the air—the free fall moment seemed to suggest something deeper to a cosmetic, extreme adventure gig. And when Roshan dances, footloose, to crisp, pulsating Spanish tunes.
Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara released in theatres on Friday.
DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 2
A wizard time of it
Could the fans at Candlestick Park hear the Beatles’ last concert above the sound of their own screaming? Someone will be able to assess the last Harry Potter film in purely cinematic terms in a generation or so. But in the theatres for the next few weeks, viewers will be bearing witness—or sitting next to people bearing witness —to the conclusion of a community miracle, and all judgements will be made accordingly.
The Potter phenomenon has seemed so universal that no one at this late stage assumes that you will be attending this film without knowing everything that has gone before. ‘Deathly Hallows: Part 2’ acts in medias res, following the tense cessation of its predecessor. The teenaged Harry Potter, on the run from the forces of evil with his friends, takes temporary refuge in a safe house, trying to get closer to the objects that hold pieces of the ghoulish Lord Voldemort’s soul, and thereby to Voldemort himself.
It’s over: Savour it.
Of necessity, the first film was something of a ramble as the friends drifted along, bickering and making up. But time runs out soon; Harry cannot afford many more mistakes.
And both he, and this film, David Yates’ fifth work in the franchise, get things right. The scene shifts to Hogwarts School, the only true home Harry and his adversary have ever known. Voldemort’s Death Eaters rampage through it in a breathtakingly imagined (and filmed) whirlwind of destruction, but Hogwarts’ resistance—students, teachers, moving statues and all—is even more beautiful to behold.
Harry may be the hero, but this film really succeeds in drawing out the grit and texture of his setting. The forbidding blues and greys of the photography contain many of the books’ shadows in their depths. And characters who get no more than a minute or two of screen time suggest whole inner lives; Matt Lewis’ Neville Longbottom and Tom Felton’s Draco Malfoy deserve special mention, as do the reliable Jason Isaacs and Maggie Smith. Alan Rickman’s moving cameo is the standout performance; it was a lucky day when they cast him, all those years ago, to play Severus Snape, the shadow hero of the series.
Without either the enchanting gloom of Alfonso Cuarón’s ‘Prisoner of Azkaban’ or the taut beauty of Yates’ own ‘Half-Blood Prince’, neither ‘Deathly Hallows’ film may stand the test of time. But they will be cherished, wept and laughed over for as long as there are Potter fans. This final instalment, at least, is worthy of that tremendous investment. The Hogwarts years are truly over now, but as in the story, this reassuringly solid film ensures they are satisfying to the last minute for all Harry’s fans. Savour it—if you can hear it over the screaming.
‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2’ released in theatres on Friday.