August 16th, 2011
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Of preachings and parties and the time in between

zindagi na milegi dobaraConfessions of a film buff/Abhilash Vijayan

By the end of the film ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobaraa’ there is a scene where Hrithik Roshan’s character makes fun of the old theme music of Doordarshan. He actually imitates the sound for his two friends sitting in a pub in Spain. His friends join him. He compares his current state of mind- their vacation is coming to an end- to that of the boredom created by the channel, the only one available then, epitomized by the tune. The music was composed by the great maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar for Doordarshan. Incidentally,  he is also the music director of Satyajith Ray’s magnum opus ‘Pather Panchali’. Zoya Akhtar, the writer/director of ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobaraa’ may not be aware of that part of film history. But something similar to the contempt Roshan’s character shows towards Ravishanker’s composition, is Zoya Akhtar disrespect for the audience.

The danger signal was right there even before the film started rolling. In the theater I watch the film, and noticed something unusual in  the trailers – the advertisement  for  Spanish tourism. What followed was a feature length promotional video of Spanish tourism. What could have been the story of three confused souls exorcising their emotional ghosts on a road trip abroad ended up becoming a mockery of the audience.

ZNBD is Akhter family’s home production with Zoya, Farhan and even father Javed working in  various departments. Bollywood has lately been an industry of insecure professionals reaching the box-office with an inferior version of a Hollywood flick or banking on an established franchise. Remakes and ‘inspired’ films constantly hit the screen.  ZNBD is no different. Zoya attempts a revamp of sorts of her brother’s money minter ‘Dil Chahta Hain’. The similarity with Farhan Akther’s film is not limited to just  rich kids having fun and falling in and out of love. Both the films sell a life style to the audience- that of the upper middle class India, a dream for the rest of the population. There are parties, men in suites, women in gowns, wine glasses, cars, posh hotel rooms and individuals who don’t have anything much to care about.

The existential crisis Farhan Akhther’s character undergoes (or does he?! He recently came to know who his father is!!), the extremely cliched character of Hrithik Roshan who thinks about his career 24×7, making phone calls and video chat even during his holiday trip, and Abhay Deol who is incapable of making a strong decision in his life- all of the three central players fail to strike any emotional chord  with the audience.

Most of the time the trio are having fun. But their 5th grade jokes are not sufficient for the spectator to have fun. I’m not over looking the other aspects of the film which could be of use to the viewers. There is an elaborate sequence of the three learning deep sea diving with Kathrina Kaif (yes, the same ‘looks hot, acts not’ one) as instructor. Hirthik, who has a fear for swimming, does it with the her help and right after the actual trip through water he discovers the meaning of his life! Then there is another long training sequence on sky diving. This time it’s Farhan who benefits . The exercise empowers him to  come to terms with certain realities of his life. Abhay had to wait till the end of the film where they run with the bulls. Right after it he is ready to take a hard decision! On top of it all, there is a song filmed over the Tomato Festival of Spain and another on the Spanish dance from Salsa (or was it Flamenco?). Whoever can’t afford a trip can watch the film again and again to get that experience. By the end of it I’m sure one can easily utter ‘adios amigos’ effortlessly.

Needless to say ,  these sequences drag the narrative flow down to a level, which after a point,  starts testing the audience’s patience. Nothing really ‘happens’ in the film. The good looking actors, the curves and six-packs, and the scenic beauty don’t add up to anything.

hen there is this heavy dose of preaching: everyone seems to teach everyone else what life is really about. Javed Akhtar’s lyrics, disguised as the copywriter Farhan’s lines, are audible to the audience as voice over. But ZNBD is no Ikiru, it’s hardly a life changing experience, it’s not even sensible cinema. But the film constantly attempts to teach the audience how to live life to the fullest. It reminds  one  of what Abbas Kiarostami said about his films. “If I want to deliver messages, I would rather be a postman”.

The only true moment in the entire film is when Nasirudeen Shah makes a cameo. He, and the character he plays, steal the lime light instantly and leave the audience craving for more.  I wish the youngsters could learn a lesson or two in acting from the thespian.

I should also mention the most disgusting scene in the film. The three of them walk in slow-motion towards the plane, all set for skydiving, and the tune playing in background is ‘Saare Jaham Se Achaa’!!!. I don’t know how to describe this cinematic decision. What was the intension? Did the director want the viewer to have patriotic goosebumps?

The meticulously selected images in the film suit the ‘dream seller’ tag of these genre of films. It is stupid to believe that a film like this would  address  or touch upon   the socio-political life of its viewers.  You won’t get see a traffic block or a begging kid or an office going babu anywhere in the frames. Trendy clothes and beautiful interiors are all you get to see. And I assume that it would satisfy the primary target audience of the film who would say ‘cool’ while getting out of the theater. The experience to me is that  of going to a multi-storied mall, fooling around, getting the feel of the high life and, at the end of the day, not buying anything.

In a country churning out the most number of films in a year there is no wonder Ray is still Indian cinema’s poster boy.


4 Responses to “ Of preachings and parties and the time in between ”

  1. Sam

    You need not worry too much about the values and insight.. this is an entrtainmnt movie, jz watch it in that sense, and no need to crosscheck for the morality as you do for classic/award movies.. the only question is, are you entrtained for 2 hrs.. if someone makes funny commnts abt old radio or record, will you come up with an arugumnt, they are insulting Marcony and a lot of world famous scientists??? plz talk with sense

  2. Abhilash

    Dear Sam,
    Thanks for the comment. To make a few things clear, making value judgments is not my aim. I’m not trying to ‘find’ morality or ‘value’ in the film, on the contrary the film is. ZNMD constantly tries to teach what life is and what life should be in a way I found problematic. and ‘paisa vasool’ is not my logic of looking at a film. strange are the ways we, the audience, get entertained. even crying and fearing are forms of entertainment for the spectator. in the case of talking sense- don’t you think its absurd that a crowd, which includes you and me, sits inside a dark auditorium silently staring at the colourful shadows projected on to a white screen?! its 24 frames crossing a beam of light in one second. persistence of vision, they say. in that sense cinema is a lie, a big white lie. we pay to get fooled. and how can i talk about a lie i liked and still make sense!!! Cheers. Abhilash

  3. Shiva

    Dude, you need a reality check! It’s entertainment, pure business transaction… Sorry for you that you are an unsatisfied customer and you have all the right to complain! My sympathies! But there is more crap made in Bollywood every year, be careful what you watch next. It’s Sad but in this day and age not even you would invest in a Ray! So why lambast the Akhtars just because they managed to entertain a whole lot of escapist Indians and are smiling all the way to the bank. Why do you want a movie to be more than what it’s meant to be? A pure entertainer. Are you trying to say that you are smart and the millions of Indians who have thronged to the theatres all stupid, just because they happen to enjoy a film. It’s very offensive. I respect your freedom to express and this is my view of your lopsided review.

  4. anees

    always bollywood films conveys a message of third class level patriotism. You are right that rare in rarest to appear a ordinary or a poor man’s life in such films. And as you see these comments, we learns that we are always yearning for entertainments. We are not eager to learn n live in reality. We always want to be in dream world. But i think those who are aware of this malice may respond towards these loosings at right time.


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