Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sunday afternoon with the 'mantal bwoyz'

Sunday is the most crucial day of my week. I try to keep myself entertained and in good spirits, because that usually sets the tone for the rest of the week. Towards this aim, I try and expose my fickle mind to neutral or feel-good 'content'. So no Bollywood sob-fests for me, (where a character invariably named Raj) dies, or loses his vision, or worse, one of his limbs. And definitely no movies where the guy doesn't get the girl. Getting The Girl is very important. On any other day of the week, I can deal with it if that doesn't happen, but not on Sunday. My mind goes all like, 'What? I have to go to work tomorrow and the guy's not getting the girl today???'

So it was with much trepidation that I headed out to see 'Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara' or, ZNMD, as we shall refer to it from this moment onwards, in current Bollywood fashion. Now, considering it's starring Hrithik Roshan, who does that thing with his dirty-beer eyes, I was hoping I wouldn't have to rush out and gulp down a strip of Disprin to stop the inevitable headache that would ensue after watching his hamming that people are willing accept as acting due to his looks and dancing abilities and of course, his fab bod. D-uh!

Imagine a mash-up of Dil Chahta Hai, Due Date (without the gross bits) and any American road trip movie, without the mandatory busload of buxom blondes and crate-loads of beer. Instead, we have three very-well behaved boys who go on a very civilized bachelor road trip, and indulge in some harmless, albeit juvenile pranks. Not so much as a single dirty joke. Which is how I like it, actually. I hate it when movie characters go all American-Pie on me. The Akhtar siblings do seems to have a thing for trios of friends, (as in DCH, Rock On and now this). Co-incidence? Maybe. Or probably because two friends sitting around talking is boring, like in those snotty French movies, but add a third, and you have the potential for a play-off of personalities to make it more interesting.

Now if you're sick of KJ's San Francisco-New York-London locales, then Espana is a welcome change. Breath-taking, heart-stopping beauty in every frame. The cinematography by Carlos Catalan left me speechless. The La Tomatina festival and The Running of the Bulls (which to most of us are the most familiar things about Spain, thanks to TLC & NGC) is woven into the plot, so that we don't feel like virtual strangers in a strange land.

We have the uptight, money-minded stockbroker, a free-spirited and sometimes immature copy-writer, and a goody-two-shoes who go on a bachelor road trip. On the way, they discover love and adventure, face up to their fears, indulge in some pop psychology, and in the bargain, realise some truths about themselves. The characters are all very likeable (except Hrithik's in the beginning), but once you realise where his insecurities arise from, you start to like him a bit better as well. Very conveniently, he also speaks Spanish, which I imagine is a language he learned while filming a certain 'Kites' with a certain Ms. Mori. Ahem, ahem. They sing (I read somewhere it's actually their vocals in 'Senorita', and you can actually tell when Abhay Deol's singing because it's not a pretty sound).They dance (they attempt the flamenco, no less). And though this is considered heresy, I'm going to say it--I actually prefer Farhan Akhtar's dance moves to Hrithik's. He is more graceful when compared to Hrithik dancing with wild (and I mean wild) abandon. No, I haven't lost my mind. This is a democratic country, where people can speak their minds freely. Liberty and justice for all, and all that. Wait, that's America, isn't it? But my point really is, Abhay Deol should not dance either. Really. It's probably a Deol thing, but you know, there are some things you can get away with, and some that you simply cannot. But boy, can that boy act!

Lilting music by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, amazing poetry by Javed Akhtar, and the beauteous Katrina Kaif, who is like a cool summer breeze here, mouthing infinitely more tolerable lines here like "Mujhe afsos karna nahin aata" instead of screaming the jarring "You dirty dog!" in 'Tees Maar Khan'. Her character reminds me of Kirsten Dunst's character Claire in Elizabethtown, (one of my all-time favourite movies), only less nauseatingly sweet. I love the chemistry that the friends share, and I appreciate the fact that the writers don't put them into typically Bollywood-esque dilemmas, where they need to prove their undying loyalty and devotion to each other. They're just regular guys looking out for each other, getting into brawls and telling each other off, much like friends do in real life.

Naseeruddin Shah makes a brief but powerful appearance as Salman, Farhan Akhtar's character Imran's real father (spoiler alert! spoiler alert!). He tells Imran very matter-of-factly that even though he abandoned him, he thought about him many times, but didn't contact him because he just thought it was better that way. Just like that. Just like it is in real life, instead of in reel-life, where the father is overcome by remorse and blubbers and begs for his son's forgiveness, and they are then forever reunited in a deafening swell of music. I believe that when you have a progressive woman director, you also have more believable female characters. Which is why Katrina follows the car in which Hrithik is travelling to kiss him goodbye properly, instead of playing the bashful damsel pining away for what could have been. The only glitch for me was the ending, that I wish had been handled a little differently. Other than that, no headache, no regret. Win, win.

So go, without very high expectations, and you might be pleasantly surprised. And even if you're not, big deal. It's only three hours of the zindagi that you won’t get to live dobara.

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