Friday Not-So-Classic: Love Breakups Zindagi, A Nice Movie About Nice People and Nice Lives

A movie I have been meaning to watch for ages, based only on how pleasant the opening song is.  But somehow I’ve never gotten past that opening song until just now.

I’m telling you now: if you give me the choice of dressing up and singing a song you pick for your Sangeet, or ending the friendship, I am ending the friendship.  This sounds like inhuman torture!!!!!  Why would anyone put themselves through that?  Or perhaps other people are less miserable at the thought of performing in public (it’s like lying!!!!  But in uncomfortable costumes!) than I am.  Because other people are WEIRD.  Anyway, that was my biggest take away from this film, I will do whatever it takes to never ever perform at a Sangeet.  Although I will give a perfect wedding toast instead (literally moved the caterers to tears at my sister’s wedding, I am very proud).

My other big take away was Nice people!  Being nice!  And doing nice things!  It’s like Hum Aapke Hain Koun, but somehow less dramatic and more feel good.  Maybe because it is so poorly made?  The acting, the dialogue, the camerawork, even the lighting is just kind of not great.  Your brain slowly deadens down in response and your heart opens up.  That sounds sappy, but that’s what it’s like!  There is absolutely nothing to engage your mind, even the lines of dialogue are shockingly predictable, and so you either give up on the film after 5 minutes, or you give into it and appreciate the joy of a completely predictable unchallenging and happy romance.  If you love Chasing Liberty, Neal n’ Nikki, Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha, She’s the Man, Return to Me, or my personal favorite Head Over Heels, than this is the film for you!  If the thought of watching an attractive man and woman without many problems in their life slowly realize they are in love makes you roll your eyes in boredom, this is NOT the film for you.

But it is the film for me.  I liked escape into this little happy world for a while, I liked watching pretty people fall in love, I even enjoyed the random cameos by famous actors.  No, scratch that, I REALLY enjoy the random cameos!  That’s the other part of this, it was produced by an stars two real life best friends, Dia and Zayed, and they brought in a bunch of other friends to show up as a favor, from Shabana Azmi to Ritiesh Deshmukh, and the whole thing feels like the wedding that is its setting, people coming together to have a nice time together building something pleasant.

(Also, Shahrukh)

Oh, and bonus without too many spoilers, it also shows you the boring details of wedding planning that I have been super curious about since I’ve never been part of that kind of wedding, and other more exciting movies skip over those bits.

 

 

 

 

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We open with a really nice song that introduces us to two really nice lives.  Zayed and Dia wake up in their respective sunny happy bright apartments, make breakfast, water plants, have a pleasant commute to work, do awesome at their jobs with nice friends around them, go home.  And then both realize it is Valentine’s Day which brings us to their love interests.  Who are also nice and fine and undramatic, but (the audience knows because we have seen movies before) they aren’t “true love”.

The funny thing is, the reason they aren’t a good romance is that they aren’t dramatic enough.  This isn’t a movie with villainous exes, this is a movie with perfectly nice but not right exes.  Dia’s boyfriend gets a work phone call and politely and nicely excuses himself briefly from their Valentine celebration while she reads a book, then comes back to give her lovely expensive earrings.  Zayed’s girlfriend overlooks his lack of preparation for a special evening, and calmly takes the phone and talks to his mother for him when she calls in the middle.  It’s nice, it’s fine, it just isn’t very fun.

You know what is fun?  Weddings!  Dia is about to leave Bombay and Zayed Delhi for a wedding in Chandighar.  Both their significant others turn down the option of going for the whole celebration, claiming work.  But Dia and Zayed feel like nothing is more important than the wedding and cheerfully prepare to go.

Now, let me take a moment here and see if I can understand how this works.  The full wedding celebration seems to last about a week or two weeks.  There is an initial core group of guests who arrive early on and essentially enjoy a house party, food and rooms and activities are provided, and in return they cheerfully pitch in and prepare for the bigger events, the Sangeet performance, decorating the house, and so on and so on.  Other movies tend to focus on the big spectacular parts of it, jumping from the festive mehndi song to the amazing high protection values Sangeet performance, to the massive emotional wedding ceremony.  But this movie takes its time and lets us see behind the curtain, the at home guests part, not just the big showy outsider part.

And it also lets us get into the feel of that early smaller group.  The ones who bond by working on things together, getting to know each other through small moments during long days, form an artificial bond in this artificial little bubble of life.  The magic of the wedding isn’t in the big moments, it’s in the lead up to them, the feeling that the rest of the world has dropped away and all you have to worry about is preparing for the sangeet performance, getting the flowers hung on the wall, and so on.

That’s how Zayed and Dia get to know each other.  First on the bus trip from Delhi, already a little group in a bubble, the bus of wedding guests traveling through the countryside, slowly coming together into that special wedding mood.  Dia is the outsider at first, flying in from Bombay while the rest are just from Delhi.  But once they arrive at the wedding house, all divisions go away.  Dia is the beloved best friend of the bride, and friendly acquaintance of the groom, Zayed is the beloved best friend of the groom and friendly acquaintance of the bride.  They are part of this new family brought together by this marriage, doing whatever it takes to make the bride and groom happy, getting along and going along with things.

And it’s all just kind of pleasant.  Sitting around and eating a shared breakfast, drawing lots for sangeet rehearsal partners, just hanging out and laughing and talking and getting to know each other in an atmosphere of artificial intimacy.  Aided by the “outsiders” who show up, Zayed and Dia are staying in the house, as guests come in and out, the feeling grows of them being the “insiders” who are shared in purpose, with their own little jokes and routines and so on, and everyone else being outsiders.

And there are little moments that show us this is not just a temporary closeness.  Zayed jokes with the groom’s grandmother, we can see he has known her and the family for years.  Dia talks about childhood jokes with the bride.  And when the grandmother (Farida Jalal, breaking all our hearts again) dies in the middle of preparations, Zayed and Dia are there for the funeral.  Not just them, but also Zayed’s friend Cyrus Sahukar who wasn’t as close to the family before, the wedding party turns into a funeral party without a hitch, because it’s all just family.

We can see why, when the bubble bursts and they return to real life, it is a shock.  Not just because they are in love, but because somehow that time at the wedding felt more “real” than the rest of life.  Not because it was super dramatic and exciting, just because it was nice and pleasant.

And that is how all the romances are in this movie, just nice and pleasant.  There are 4 in total, first Dia and Zayed, Dia being the quiet girl who likes to read her book and Zayed being the lowkey low energy guy who jokes and agrees to carry her bags.  It’s not hate-to-love, it’s don’t-really-know-you-but-vaguely-interested to love.

And then there is Cyrus and Tisca Chopra, a very different kind of romance.  Far more interesting than Zayed and Dia, but then also even less dramatic, so I can see why they weren’t the focus of the plot.  Cyrus is Zayed’s cynical best friend, twice divorced and no interest in being married again.  Tisca is the older woman friend of the groom’s mother, never married and not interested in it.  By they spark immediately, and Cyrus falls hard.  Hard enough to track her down after the wedding at the house she shares with her father in Delhi, and get past his nerves to slowly go along with her invitations for late coffees and dinner and finally making maggi noodles in his apartment followed by (it is implied) sex.  What I find really interesting is the description of Cyrus’ two marriages, which he eventually gives to Tisca.  They are the two “normal” romances we would see in a movie, an intense college love affair that fizzled out a year after the elopement.  Followed by an obedient arranged marriage to a nice girl his father picked out, which ended after a year from intense boredom.  Which has left him in his early 30s and ready for something different, not dramatic and exciting but also not boring.

There’s also the wedding couple.  Who grew up next door to each other (thus this very relaxed destination wedding with the family moving back and forth between the two houses), and the groom claims he fell in love with her when she was in 7th grade and he saw her stealing candy.  And here they are, finally getting married in their 20s.  Which means along the way there were a lot of break ups and make-ups and false starts and stops.  But we don’t see that bit, we see this bit, when they are in love and happy and ready to host a wedding together.

And finally there is Dia’s friend Umang Jain.  Who is introduced miserable and given up on love.  Until Zayed comes to visit and convinces her to confront all her exes, which leads to the reveal that her last boyfriend (Ritiesh Deshmukh) wasn’t cheating, it was all a misunderstanding.  Again, we could have gotten the drama (the moment she thought he was cheating), but instead we get the happy ending.

This reaches the ultimate non-conflict non-drama narrative with Dia and Zayed.  She sort of doesn’t like him, but then sort of does, he is kind of attracted to her, they talk and get to know each other and are happy spending time together, and then go back home and slooooooooowly start to realize that they keep thinking about each other and maybe miss each other.  Zayed breaks up with his girlfriend, not for Dia but just because their relationship isn’t working out.  And when she freaks out about her life plan failing, Zayed gives essentially the thesis statement for the movie-just relax, you never know, it will probably all work out.

Dia is back home and her very organized and practical boyfriend announces it is time for them to get married, and she is too passive to protest.  Which is when Zayed arrives out of the blue on a work trip to Bombay.  And they confirm that the magic is still there, they still love spending time together, and are super happy together.  Not that anything in particular happens, they just sort of move through life together, Zayed meets Shahrukh Khan for work (D Decor product placement!) and introduces him to Dia when she begs (super cute scene for Dia), Dia loses her gallery for her exhibition and Zayed helps her find a new place, they both help Umang with her romance, it’s nice.  And it all culminates in a game of Taboo at a pleasant adult people dinner party.  Where it is clear, without any big dramatic moment or huge angst, that Zayed and Dia have built a special connection.

“No big dramatic moment or huge angst” should really be the tagline for this movie.  Even the ending is undramatic.  Zayed rushes to stop Dia from leaving to marry another guy, only for her boyfriend to calmly say that he knew this would happen, Zayed is better for Dia, and he cares enough about Dia to just want her to be happy.  No drama.  Also, there’s a puppy.

 

(not as cute as my puppy.  Look at her licking her little nose while we watched this movie together!)

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22 thoughts on “Friday Not-So-Classic: Love Breakups Zindagi, A Nice Movie About Nice People and Nice Lives

    • Zayed and Dia find the puppy together, but of course her cold practical boyfriend doesn’t like it.

      On Fri, May 4, 2018 at 7:47 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  1. I feel like I have a hand in you watching this movie. So yay. Also, yay you liked it. I miss movies like this. Pleasant people, pleasant to watch. Just a slice of life-ish but actually a movie-ish movie. (Umm ok, that sounded better in my head)
    It’s true about it’s imperfections but yes once you open your heart to it, there’s much to enjoy.
    I love the wedding and everything feels so real & natural. Including Dia being scandalized by her sexy blouse for the dance lol. Also, during the wedding preparations, Dia & Zayed don’t have over the top romantic moments either. It’s just something there but not quite.
    I like how the exes are treated with respect. Nobody is bad. The relationships don’t have the spark sometimes and you have to move on.
    Also, songs and the lyrics. I love the songs so much. Rab rakha is such a beautiful peaceful song showering blessings on the bride and groom. Chayi hai tanhayee has the right amount of pain. Why do we meet those we are meant to lose? There’s a favorite line in it which goes.. tum meherban the., hum shadmaan the.. mehki thi dil ki waadiyan about their moments of falling in love.
    Loosely translated as you were kind enough to (give your heart/love) I was receptive of your feelings. Sums up the movie, honestly.

    I have often wondered if different actors and production would’ve made the movie a bigger success?

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    • It does have that Running Shaadi-Dulha Mil Gaye-Happy Bhaag Jayegi feel, a sweet little love story plot that just didn’t get the funding to put it over the top. A better director and a snappier dialogue writer, and it could really have been nice. Zayed and Dia aren’t terrible, they aren’t the greatest actors in the world but with slightly better dialogue they could have brought their characters to another level.

      On Fri, May 4, 2018 at 7:59 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. Your dog is adorable! I don’t know what was more “squeee-able,” your pup or Shahrukh’s appearance in this movie.
    I enjoyed this low key movie. It was sweet, nicely paced and a welcome change from some of the slam-bang-explosion movies I’ve seen lately. (I’m looking at you, Avengers:Infinity War.)

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  3. What does it say about the movie that I remember the songs fondly but have pretty much everything else? The week long wedding with the whole family getting together is a thing of the past.These days it’s all packed up and finished in two days.

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    • I think this is exactly the kind of movie that you remember moments of but forget the plot.

      On Sat, May 5, 2018 at 12:36 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  4. I’m watching the movie now, and amazed at how few friends are in attendance between the bride’s AND the groom’s party! Also if that’s a hotel, where are the other guests? There’s definitely not enough of a wedding party here to fill up a hotel, even a small one. And if that’s their house, why did they mention a hotel when they got off the bus? And everything’s happening in slow motion…I’m missing the commotion and “raunak” of a wedding where everyone’s running around crazy! Where are the other friends and the other sangeet performances?! This is….not what an Indian wedding is like these days. Nobody would space out this little activity over 7 days. And nobody would have so many events for such a small wedding party.

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      • I’m now mulling over the movie and all the inconsistencies, and I realize about half of them were to squeeze in product placement shots. For example, the two moms show up with bags of Ritu Kumar clothes and ask the bride to decide what she wants to wear. Made me think it was their house and not the hotel, or those clothes would have come out of suitcases.

        Hello??? Did they literally JUST shop for these two days before the wedding (hence the paper bags bearing the name of the designer) and has the bride never looked at them and given a thought to what she’s going to wear for the WEDDING?

        OTOH, the two families obviously haven’t been living together in the bride’s family’s HOUSE this whole time, so it’s got to be a hotel. Plus the multiple terraces, lawns, pools….got to be a hotel.

        So. Confused.

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        • Additional point: the tiny budget probably cut down on a lot of the spectacle. No money for extras in the party scenes, or another Sangeet performance, or any of that.

          On Sat, May 5, 2018 at 1:20 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • That’s the only thing that makes sense. I didn’t want to see a whole extra performance, just other faces in the audience – besides the parents – when they were dancing etc.! Anything that indicated the wedding was attended by more than 15 people. Now that I think of it, the reason the plot takes us to 3 different cities is Jet Airways + the bus company (can’t remember the name).

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      • Someone (I can’t remember who) used the comparison with me once of a full Indian wedding being like Christmas. Which is a remarkably close comparison, including that let down feeling when it is over. It’s why much of the western world is vaguely depressed for all of January. After all the excitement and happiness and focus on Christmas for a month and a half, and then you are back to the real world and have to think about things like work and cleaning the house and it is all just very hard to return to.

        On Sat, May 5, 2018 at 11:38 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • That’s a very good comparison. I don’t even celebrate Christmas (I go to India instead!) but Jan is a bummer. Because….no more holidays until Memorial Day. And the winter seems to stretch so loooooong….and it looks so dead outside once the festive spirit is gone from the streets. Not an easy trip back from the airport to home when I return.

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          • We really squeeze too much into the last quarter of the year. I can see why the retail sector felt the need to make Valentine’s/Mother’s/Father’s days bigger…they need a break from the slump. But I could do with some real holidays Jan 1 – May 31.

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          • This is why some countries do Easter up RIGHT. I wish that would catch on in America more, we have the Easter bunny and Mardi Gras at the start of Lent, but we don’t have the huge huge joyous celebration that other people do. We need to get on that.

            On Sat, May 5, 2018 at 3:04 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Or celebrate holidays from other cultures since we’re supposedly a melting pot etc. Like Holi! Can you imagine how busy Oct-Dec are for Indian American people?! It’s crazy!

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          • This is why it is always a relief when Diwali is early! I don’t actually have to do family celebrations or anything, but just squeezing in Thanksgiving and family get togethers and so on around the Diwali releases kills me.

            On Sat, May 5, 2018 at 3:09 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • You missed the furor on the blog a couple years ago when Diwali lined up with Thanksgiving and none of us thought we would be able to see Dear Zindagi until the second week. Thank goodness, SRK took pity on his North American fans and released it on Wednesday here and Friday everywhere else.

            On Sat, May 5, 2018 at 9:31 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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