After Dil Chahta Hai, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara was the best Bollywood movie that explored the intricacies of an “all-dudes” friendship.
Akhtar family were responsible for both these movies. We need just another one to complete a holy trinity. (Is there a third Akhtar sibling?)
Before that happens, let’s talk about the 2011’s smash hit, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (ZNMD).
The movie was praised for the realistic portrayals and lived-in characters played by Hrithik Roshan (Arjun), Abhay Deol (Kabir), Farhan Akhtar (Imran), Katrina Kaif (Laila) and Kalki Koechlin (Natasha).
However, what stood out for me the most was the relationship between Arjun and Laila. A pairing so successful, Bollywood tried to replicate it in Bang Bang and Chikni Chameli, as well.
Let’s get one thing straight, I love the dynamic duo of Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti.
Along with Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Gully Boy and Made in Heaven are also brilliant examples of filmmaking.
I’d argue that Kagti writes men better than women. Case in point, Hrithik Roshan’s Arjun in ZNMD.
Arjun is hung up on his past and has cornered himself in a box. His character arc is one of the most satisfying arcs I’ve seen in Indian cinema.
When Arjun is enjoying his trip with Kabir and Imran, he comes across a free-flowing force by the name of Laila.
She’s the unstoppable force to Arjun’s immovable object.
Her philosophies and worldview leave a noticeable mark on Arjun. After spending quality time with Laila, Arjun reluctantly parts way with her.
However, Laila decides to take action, hops on her motorbike and chases down Arjun’s car.
She gets down from the bike, makes her way to Arjun and plants a kiss on his mouth.
“Mujhe afsos karna nahin aata.” she says. (I don’t have regrets in my life).
Arjun pulls Laila in and whispers, “Karna bhi nahin chahiye.” (One shouldn’t have regrets).
They bid adieu and our lovers part ways. For now.
Flipping stereotypes in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara
“Mard ko kabhi dard nahin hota.” is a line that has defined the men in Bollywood.
A typical man in a Bollywood film rarely gets in touch with his emotions. He drinks, he fights, he loves and he triumphs.
Zoya Akhtar’s Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara redefines a Bollywood hero. The manliest-looking man, Hrithik Roshan, is chased down by a motorcycle-riding Katrina Kaif.
Women are told not to be honest about their feelings, especially when it comes to a man. It’s a man job to ask out and not the other way round.
She takes control of the situation as she doesn’t believe in having regrets in her life.
Immediately after their kiss, Arjun is giddy with love as he starts singing. He even sees white horses running beside him.
Watch Arjun’s reaction the iconic ZNMD kiss here.
Traditionally, these events are exclusively experienced by a woman in an average Bollywood film.
Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara shows that it’s not an average film. A woman is depicted as the go-getter.
A woman is shown helping the man navigate through a difficult phase, metaphorically and literally (SCUBA diving).
ZNMD doesn’t just flip stereotypes for the sake of it. Arjun is still an independent and competent character whereas Laila is not a Mary Sue.
Released in 2011, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara is the perfect example of “responsible writing.” It has aged like fine wine.
The world needs more men like Arjun and women like Laila, who defy gender stereotypes by just existing.