The 2011 Bollywood film Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (which translates to “You Won’t Get A Second Life”) tries to be many things at once, as so many Bollywood films do – a movie about friendships, a road trip film, and a love story. But does it succeed?
[WARNING: Spoilers Ahead]
Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara is the story of three old friends Kabir (Abhay Deol), Imraan (Farhan Akhtar), and Arjun (Hrithik Roshan) who go on a long-promised trip to Spain. Kabir has just become engaged to his girlfriend Natasha (Kalki Koechlin) and plans an extended bachelor party with his friends across Spain, where each of the trio chooses an adventure sport in which the other two have to participate. What follows is the journey of a lifetime, along with a whole lot of introspection and bonding.
The Spanish holiday serves as a backdrop for these characters to confront their personal insecurities and fears. Workaholic stock broker Arjun changes for the better by the love of care-free diving instructor Laila (Katrina Kaif), while the usually light-hearted Imraan makes a courageous move to meet his long-separated father (Naseeruddin Shah), and indecisive Kabir finally makes a decision regarding his fiancé, Natasha.
Satisfyingly, this movie about men remains resolutely un-macho, with the characters displaying heartwrenching vulnerabilities, and being moved to tears by beautiful moments. Friendships and issues resolved by frank conversations, rather than the exchange of playful punches that one often sees with such films.
The Bromance Of Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara
Amidst the sculpted bare chests on the beach and the glamorous parties, the leads give the audience a set of excellent performances, especially the soulful renditions of poems by Imran (Farhan Akhtar).
Despite their role as secondary characters, the women in the film aren’t just relegated to supporting roles. Each is fleshed out with a believable personality and their own mini character arcs. Also unusual for a Bollywood film, is that the songs are used quite sparingly, often presenting themselves as mere background tracks, rather than all-out dance numbers.
Director Zoya Akhtar manages to deliver a feel-good tale that manages to keeps you engaged. Despite the slightly contrived nature of the plot, the complex relationships and warm chemistry between the characters elevate it from the boring.
The simple story also serves to highlight the stunning locations of Spain. Each frame looks like it belongs in a postcard, from the majestic shots of the ocean to the picturesque towns, and the gentle shots of horses running along a meadow.
It sets out to showcase the culture of Spain in a way that is quite unusual for a foreign film (i.e. a film not made in that country), meticulously recreating the famous Tomatina Festival of Buñol with over sixteen tons of tomatoes, and the equally iconic Running of the Bulls at Pamplona.
Watching it is sure to make anyone want to break free of their busy schedules and mundane routines and explore somewhere fun, and adventurous, just as they do on screen (though perhaps without all the emotional baggage).