Sunday, January 1, 2012

Why I didn't like ZNMD

I recently had the chance to watch the much hyped and universally loved flick called Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (that's the official name so I wonder why its been shortened as ZMND instead of ZNMD). I have to confess that unlike everyone and their mother, I did not love the movie. In fact I ended up wondering WHY on earth are people going gaga about this one? There is nothing great about the movie. Its not bad to watch but somewhere it starts feeling like a drag and gets so boringly predictable that one wonders what reasons people could have to be raving so madly about it. Maybe there is something more than what met my eye that I couldn't see. Oh well, maybe I am a non-intellectual dud after all who couldn't appreciate the "meaning" or the depth of the movie. So here I am, writing on why I didn't like the movie.
After DCH, Rock On and ZNMD it is now an established fact that the Farhan-Zoya Akhtar house of films is exploiting the formula of "friendship" and "living your dream" the way "Love and Romance in Switzerland" was used and abused by Yash Chopra. They are doling out pop versions of  "finding the inner truth" philosophy to Indian audiences which has hitherto been exposed only to masala, romance and good-wins-over-evil type of films. While DCH and Rock on were great, ZNMD just seems like a juvenile attempt at recreating the magic of DCH with its overdone concept of a topsy-turvy bittersweet bond between 3 male friends riding convertible cars on scenic road trips. One with a nagging fiance (Abhay/Saif and Natasha/Priya from DCH), one arty philosopher (Farhan/Akshay Khanna) and one too engrossed in his own life (Hrithik/Aamir) to understand life and love till true love comes along (Katrina/Preity Zinta). They are richer this time and don't hesitate to show it off with 12K Euro handbags. They are not in college any more but they act sillier than their DCH counterparts with the bways and "the plurals" jokes (which we used to crack up on in 12th grade). They are not in college any more but they can still drop everything to go holiday in Spain (good choice of location BTW), and this exotic locale becomes part of what is wrong with the movie.
From the minute they enter Spain the entire movie seems like one long tourism advertisement or a spiced up documentary on Spain. It is undoubtedly beautifully shot but there needs to be more than just that to a good movie. A lot of people tell me that I should have watched this movie on a big screen to really appreciate it. I disagree. A good movie should transcend screen size. Consider this. There was a Sanjay Dutt, Akshay Kumar action thriller called "Blue" which had fantastic underwater camerawork. In fact it offered spectacular, never before seen footage of the world beneath the brilliant blue Bahamas seas. It wasn't blessed by Javed Akhtar's poetry though, and at the end of the day it was just another masala action movie. So it didn't really matter whether you saw it on a big screen or on your ipod. The movie sucked regardless. Of course ZMND isn't quite as bad as Blue but, I repeat, it didn't engage or impress me despite the great camerawork so no, I won't make the effort to watch it on a big screen.
There is no real plot or story. The story, if you want to call it that, is so predictable, boring and lacks originality. Most of the story is woven to accommodate the Spain tourism agenda. Get Hrithik and Katrina close in a Tomatina festival, throw in an Indian artist living in Spain (really?) to show the interiors of a Spanish artist's villa (reminded me of Javier Bandem's pad in Vicky Christina Barcelona), the useless Senorita song to educate us on Spanish music and dance forms, and not to miss the finale - the confessions, promises and culmination of the movie at the must-see bull run in Pamplona. Then there is the slow song in the top-down convertible car where the actors try to act really cool by lying back in silence and absorbing the sights and sounds of their scenic road trip. How many times have we seen that since DCH? The wedding song with the credits in the end is a entirely copied from Hitch. This is another irritating Bollywood fad - replace colorful shaadis with classic white weddings. Oh whatever!
More predictable scenes - Abhay Deol's idiotic "maine tumhare bare me kuch suna hai" prank and people getting freaked out by it. Abhay Deol's oops moment carrying Katrina (post Tomatina) to be predictably caught by surprise by smoldering fiance. Abhay Deol exchanging SUV for vintage car for Farhan Akhtar. Hrithik Roshan's idiotic video chat with a Japanese big shot, etc etc - all lackluster, irrelevant, even embarrassing and predictable. Let me clarify that there are two types of predictable - one where you fear what's going but find it hard to accept if what you thought actually happened, and one where you know what's going to happen and you hope that they come up with something better but they fail to meet your expectation and do the predictable. The former grasps you, engages your imagination and entertains. The latter leads to one place - boredom . In my (not so humble on this topic) opinion, this entire movie falls into the second category.
The cast is strong and performances are just okay but Farhan Akhtar needs to accept that he cannot act, he is not great looking and he especially cannot do the funny boy role with his stoical expressions and bland dialogue delivery. I sincerely hope he stops acting and sticks only to filmmaking. I know I've made all you Farhan Akhtar fans' blood boil but not everything that FA does is cool. Let's accept that.
Finally, the movie supposedly has a message - live your life, follow your heart etc - but the way the message is conveyed is likely to inspire dangerous acts of foolishness by those who blindly follow the way the characters execute their dream of finding their inner self. (and trust me there is no dearth of blind followers and believers of Bollywood stupidity in our populous country). An example is the ridiculous Tomatina festival that was planned and prepared for in Bangalore a few months ago. Good sense prevailed and the event was called off. Not sure if it was for the movie's publicity or if Bangaloreans were really going to take to Palace Grounds with tomatoes, gulaal and water pipes. There will be those who will try to find themselves and their dreams in handbags, accessories and luxury goods worth12 thousand Euros. Almost every dreamy eyed guy and his friends will set out on road trips to celebrate their bachelorhood before their weddings. The married ones will reunite with their long lost friends in Europe or Bali or somewhere exotic and boast about their careers and personal lives. Well there is nothing wrong with that. In that sense perhaps the Akhtars have done some good by allowing us to think beyond the mundaneness of our lives, by telling us to unwind, recharge, explore the world etc, because after all, you do only live once. So as long as people don't fail on important commitments of life to "live the moment" its all good. My worry is for those who are not so mature. But then why am I being the worrier for the rest of the world?
This has been a long pending post written in bits and parts over the past several days. The intent is definitely not to start the new year on a negative note. I can sense a lot of hate mail coming my way from all those who worship the movie :)
But what can I say, I have to find my inner self and speak my mind as the movie preaches. Happy New Year everyone!! :)


  1. Very honest blog! Frank and forthright !

  2. Priya,liked your statement "Finally, the movie supposedly has a message - live your life, follow your heart etc - but the way the message is conveyed is likely to inspire dangerous acts of foolishness by those who blindly follow the way the characters execute their dream of finding their inner self. (and trust me there is no dearth of blind followers and believers of Bollywood stupidity in our populous country)." When Hrithik Roshan mentions something on the lines of quitting his job for a holiday with Katrina... my reaction was "Oh yes,and then by the time you come back to look for another job, economic recession would have set in and there would be NO jobs"

  3. I agree it does follow a certain format or a "formula" as you put did Rock On. but the overall treatment is good.

    as far as people doing Tomatina in Bangalore is concerned, thats pure stupidity of course.

    As far as people buying EUR 12k bags and going on expensive holidays is concerned, people already do far the section of society depicted, its not too far from reality.