Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara – Screenplay Review of the sensational journey!

zindagi na milegi dobara screenplay review
Genre – Coming of age/ Road Trip
Accolades – Filmfare Award for Best Film, 2012
Writer – Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti (Screenplay), Farhan Akhtar (dialogues)

Title Review

Through the years the film’s title Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara has turned into a common abbreviation (ZNMD) amongst Bollywood followers for a reason. For someone who doesn’t speak Hindi, this title is a tough title to remember with little recall value. On the flipside, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara is a popular catchphrase in Hindi which translates to ‘You only live once’. Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara effectively captures the idea of the film. It reflects the theme of the film but it is not as fresh as the story itself.

In terms of uniqueness, neither the catchiest nor unheard of, so a better alternative could have been thought off which gets us hooked in an instant.

Premise/ Logline Review

Logline – Kabir, Imran and Arjun are childhood friends who go for a bachelor’s vacation to Spain before Kabir’s wedding. The trip helps them learn to accept their past and enjoy the present moment without worrying about the future. (Click here to find out what a logline is)

The power of this premise is that it instantly allows the reader to wishfully teleport themselves into such a situation where they can mend their lives and start afresh. This by no means is a unique premise. Instead, the strength of the concept lies in the magnanimous message the film tries to deliver. Much like the title, the premise of Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara delves directly over the idea that each of us stresses over all our lives – the struggle of living in the moment.

The reason why such an overused theme still works is because of the details and context and situation provided. Who wouldn’t want to watch a film about friends going for their bachelor trip? That’s exactly the sentiment Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara manages to successfully tap into and convince us to readily watch (even re-watch) another coming of age flick.

Story Review

The story of Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, opens with Kabir proposing to Natasha followed by their engagement party. Here it is established that their close friend Arjun is absent but Kabir, Imran and Arjun are going to go for a bachelor trip to Spain where each of them will decide on an adventure sport that the three must take part in.

Arjun is a money-minded workaholic who almost cancels this trip. It’s only when his ex-lover breaks his heart by informing that she’s getting married that he joins his friends in Spain. Imran, on the other hand, is secretly excited to meet his biological father, a famed painter living in Spain. His friends don’t know this hidden agenda of Imran. This makes Imran, the most layered character of Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara.

Once they set off their journey, we understand that Arjun and Imran share an unresolved, troubled past. Kabir tries to play mediator but Arjun is extremely stubborn about the situation. During their travels, they meet Laila (Katrina Kaif), a bohemian diving instructor and helps them with their first adventure sport. She and Arjun share some attraction but Arjun is repressed and insecure. He must shed his inhibitions to be with a free bird like Laila. Through the trip, Imran and Kabir too face their own demons and make choices because ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’.

Is the plot believable? Yes and also very relatable. The hook of the plot is the natural friendship and chemistry all the characters share. The tense friendship between Imran and Arjun, the difficult romance between Kabir and his fiancé and the comic nostalgia spread through the story makes one chuckle at how so much of the characters resemble us. The story is predictable yet engaging. None of the scenes are logically flawed. Hence the flow of the story is very steady and smooth.

Pace Review

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara doesn’t seem quick due to the smooth and organic interactions between characters but is a very fast-paced story. Statistically speaking, the initial credits of the story come at the 10th minute of the screenplay. Inside these first 10 minutes, there are 11 quick scenes that reveal all three friends, their families, the engagement, the bachelor plan and Arjun’s meeting with his ex. By the end of the credits, the boys are in Spain!

The first act of the Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara ends along with the credits. The lengths of the scenes gradually stretch out as the audience attention shifts from gaining new information to gaining new emotional experience and feeling what the characters feel. The pace of the latter half of the story is much slower but the emotional investment towards the characters makes it difficult to notice this shift.

To be the devil’s advocate, there is one scene which felt unnecessarily stretched out – The scene where the 3 boys are drunk and their prank to scare another drunk at the bar fails miserably. Coming in the second half, even the nostalgic references in this scene couldn’t save it from seeming boring.

Characterization Review

The characters of Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara are top-notch! They along with their dialogues are the two highlights of the story. The beauty of the lead characters is that Arjun, Imran and Kabir are stark personalities but they are not overly different in terms of mannerisms and quirks. Sure, Arjun seems more arrogant and Imran seems more jovial but the starkness in their personalities comes from their deeper inner conflicts. Each of them is facing very different problems in their lives and their struggles make them highly memorable characters.

The characters are so nuanced in their mannerisms and so humane in their reactions that you could call them the opposite of larger than life. It is a fresh take which works well just like the characters in another celebrated coming of age classic – Dil Chahta Hai.

Arjun seems to be the least complex character of the three and his resolution is the fastest to come inside the first half of the story. Imran is the deepest of the three and his struggle is the most moving.

The secondary characters are more clichéd in their designs. Laila is as free-spirited as Arjun is repressed and that is a noticeable design to bring Arjun out of his shell. Natasha is also a one-dimensional character who pushes Kabir to rethink his marriage. A special mention to Salman Habib (Nasiruddin Shah) who is Imran’s father. The character absolutely slays his miniature one and a half scene and his appearance is possibly the masterstroke of the story.

Dialogue Review

The dialogues of Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara are diverse. Some are witty and tongue and cheek. Some are insensitive truth bombs. Others are poetic and didactic. None seems unnecessary though. Every line of the story fits in perfectly to create or diffuse tension. Thinking in retrospect, the quality of each character’s lines is the reason why all the scenes seem measured to perfection.

The splattering of Imran’s poetry through the film are an X factor. They are presented after huge developments like a character has accepting their change. These lines manage to give a surreal feeling to the adventurous trip.

The dialogues help us delve into the depth of a character’s circumstance. We get to see how deeper characters like Imran speak in subtext through their deliveries.

Theme & Tone Review

The theme of the film as mentioned before is Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. There are several smaller themes that are tackled through the road trip story.

Arjun’s central theme is learning to let go. His past dictates his stubborn characteristics and talks about the downfalls of materialism. Kabir doesn’t have a predominant theme but we understand the pressures of a clingy relationship through his eyes. Lastly, Imran’s journey teaches us that we can choose the family we want no matter who our blood relations are.

The overall tone of the story remains consistent and the mood always hints at the aforementioned themes.

Structure Review

The structure of Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara was linear but unconventional. This is not a typical hero’s journey and the story worked well because of the triple coming of age that occurred in different segments of the story.

The first scene of Kabir proposing Natasha was a setup paid off right before the end of the story to reveal the circumstances in which he proposed to her. Arjun’s conflict and resolve are completed in the first half of the story itself while Kabir’s conflict was revealed only after Arjun had transformed as a character. This approach of using different scenes to target different lead characters gave the audience various highs and lows, various smaller cathartically stimulated moments spread over the story. These emotionally charged beats when characters transformed were highlighted by the Imran’s poetic voice overs.

The simple yet less than straightforward structure was a well thought out approach for a story which was rather too straight forward if told without holding onto major revelations. The length of the story could have been shortened by 10 to 15 minutes but it is such an engaging story that the extra time never bothered me.

Originality Review

This concept of Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara is not original and most would agree that they have read or watched a road trip story with such character drama. But the detailing of the characters and the situations were fresh. The story lends itself to the feeling of nostalgia. The treatment of most of the pranks and twists in the story commendable.

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara provides complete catharsis at the end and successfully exploits the themes that it began with. The character arcs of each of the leads are life-changing from their point of view and the amalgamation of their stark lives into a singular coming of age at the end is emotionally satisfying.

Marketability Review

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara is hugely marketable and its commercial success is proof of that. Like I said before, who wouldn’t want to watch a road trip story of three friends going to Spain on a bachelor trip. The story has dealt with one of the most popular themes people relate to and is by no means a niche film. By Bollywood standards, this can be called a massy film with a star-studded cast and crew. The film is highly re-watchable and hence it must be minting money as you read.

Most Memorable Scene

Imran confronting his biological father is the standout scene. The acting, the dialogues and the emotional treatment of the scene are simply overwhelming.

Click here to watch the scene

Most Memorable Dialogue

Laila, meet Bagwati.. Bagwati.. Laila.. Bagwati keh rahi hain ki tum bohot beautiful ho..

Imran

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