Looking back at ZNMD and what it means even after 10 years
By Debarshee Samanta
I have always wondered, if human emotions at its core are the same for all of us? Or the willingness to be free? The ways of escaping might be different, but is the desire to go beyond, constant? I still do not have the answers but everytime I watch Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, these questions rush in and gather in my head. And it's been a decade of ZNMD, of friendship, love, choices and overcoming fears.
ZNMD is like fine wine, which grows as you do. It is meditative, almost, like when Arjun touches his core existence under water, and his fears, baggages are shattered. As you grow old, you realise that friendship is not a word you juggle with, because it is a word with layers and has to go through the test of time just like life. The childhood friends growing and staying together and finally going on a trip (to Spain for God’s sake), is a dream that takes form in ZNMD. Spain, its art, roads, music, culture is bright and amazing, but let's keep the trip aside. Spain could have been some tea stall in North Calcutta, but I somehow want to access that space between these people and wonder whether it would stay the same anywhere in the world. You are reminded that it is so important to have these one or two idiots in your life.
But it would be unfair to make it only about the three friends because it is so much about Laila, Salman Habib, Natasha, and even Nuria, whom Imran met for just one night. These are important characters who enter at different stages in the film and help each of the three to take that final leap of faith, either with love, obsession or a reality check.
Laila’s sense of freedom hits Arjun like a gust of wind. She makes him realize that it is okay to take it slow and be in the now instead of hovering in the uncertain future after 40s. When they lie down under the stars, after a long walk in the streets of Buñol, Laila makes Arjun feel the fragility of these moments which cannot be equated with today’s mechanical capitalistic rush.
Imran’s story is also about love, but one sided maybe and a little more complex. Imran had all his expectations piled up about Salman Habib, his biological father, only to find the void which should have been filled by this person, widening. On their way back we hear the heart wrenching “Jab Jab Dard Ka Badal Chaya” poem and when dawn slowly seeps in, Imran realizes what Arjun meant when he asked him to say sorry only when you mean it from the heart. But I deliberately skipped one part and now would like to drive back to Buñol again. Remember when Imran spent that night with Nuria, and they didn’t even know each other’s language, but they were comfortable and Imran shared such a deep pain related to his father with someone whom, maybe he will never meet again.
Arjun and Imran take us through two different types of revelations, but Kabir was stuck with societal expectations, which is a blackhole. It sucks everything in. Everything was worrying him, the invitation cards, family plannings, everything but their future. He was not anxious about his own happiness or even Natasha’s for that matter. They were two different people demanding different versions of each other, and parting ways is the best they can do for themselves. And Kabir felt that he needed to stand before death to let go of the expectations he was trying to meet.
Even today when I see the film, it seems like it is somehow trying to tingle time. Everytime Arjun, Imran and Kabir clash with their fears, time freezes in my head just as it would have been in their mind, maybe, in the film. I feel like I am jumping off that plane with Imran, into the unknown maze of life and can only expect that I would be free and happy like him, when I would land somewhere. Maybe sometimes you just need to jump in the void and that little push is all you need. Throughout the film we see these three people pushing each other to break past the existing walls that each one of them have built within and around themselves in some way or the other.
Through all the poems, songs, and streets they finally stand before death. Time freezes for me one last time. As they start searching for answers, I try to breathe and look within to find that answer or maybe that invisible question that sticks with me. The film ends, but my search continues because that is all that matters right?