All Set For A Road Trip
This is what buddy road trip movies are made of, and surprisingly it's helmed by a female director who managed to push all the right buttons at making this work. Zoya Akhtar, whose first film Luck By Chance I had enjoyed tremendously as it took a long and hard look into the workings of Bollywood, reunites her brother Farhan Akhtar and Hrithik Roshan, who together with Abhay Deol form the nucleus whose adventures across Spain we follow due to a pact that's set in motion should one of them was to get married, as part of an extended 3 weeks bachelor's party plan, they were to each choose an adventure sport for everyone to partake in.
Which brings us to plenty of bro-mantic moments as they bond over death-defying stunts, and through the conquering of their fears as a group. Not to mention that the road trip across Spain provides for multiple exotic locations in which this film got shot in. Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti's story also contains enough depth for each character to stand out, presenting skeletons in the closet each must exorcise through their journey of discovery, though deftly avoiding melodrama. What worked is of course the chemistry between the trio of actors as they navigate their joined quest being so natural in their banter, as well as their individual character's conflicts that makes this so engaging to sit through since the challenges in their way are things easy to identify with.
The culprit who had to put the plan in motion is Kabir (Deol), whose proposal to Natasha (Kalki Koechlin) forms the basis in which his friends have to join him in executing their pact. There's the happy-go-lucky copywriter Imran (Farhan Akhtar) who's also the resident joker of the group, as well as the dead serious Arjun (Roshan) the hotshot broker whose sole objective in life is to make money, lots of it. Naturally their friendship get tested early on due to the nature of being in close proximity most of the time, but once the misunderstandings got shelved and the wheels put in motion, there's hardly a wasted scene as subplots wrap themselves up very neatly in the narrative, involving one's quest to search for his long lost father, another's realization there's more to life than work if one were to stop and smell the perennial roses, and one having to confront his doubts and the compromise of one's happiness for the sake of others.
There's the action-adventure level this film delivered, spending considerable time in engaging the casts in their tasks of deep sea diving, sky diving, and one signature activity best kept under wraps for its surprise factor since it ties in very closely to an important plot point. Halfway though there's also the La Tomatina festival, introduced by Laila (Katrina Kaif) their diving instructor and would be romantic interest, as an unplanned detour involving the squishing of a massive amount of tomatoes - one wonders though if the timelines of all activities do gel together so nicely since there were at least two festivals almost back to back with each other.
Hrithik Roshan didn't have much luck at the box office last year with Guzaarish and Kites, but Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara will probably put his career back on track given the meatier role of the trio he got to handle. Farhan Akhtar should act more when he's not directing his own films, while Abhay Deol after this has established himself in my books as one of the character actors to look out for. With great scenic shots and an evergreen story about friendship, camaraderie and life affirming decision making, there's nothing not to like about this film that reminds us of the ties that bind. Highly recommended as it inspires one to come up with a similar pact for a road trip.