Hrithik Roshan is one of cinema’s greatest terpsichorean talents – but one of his best film songs doesn’t involve any dancing.
Roshan is required to put his golden feet to use in film after film, most recently in the upcoming Fighter, in which he plays an Indian Air Force pilot alongside Deepika Padukone. In Khaabon Ke Parindey from Zoya Akhtar’s Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011), there’s none of that musculature that melts into rubbery-limbed magic on the dance floor. Rather, Roshan conquers while being in a state of repose. The muscles that move belong mostly to his blissful face.
Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara stars Roshan as Arjun, an ambitious, anxiety-prone stock broker who has sacrificed a relationship for an important deal. Arjun travels with his long-time friends Imran (Farhan Akhtar) and Kabir (Abhay Deol) on a bachelor trip through Spain before Kabir’s wedding with Natasha (Kalki Koechlin). The men bring along emotional baggage, which is resolved by participating in adventure sport that makes them face their worst fears.
Arjun meets Laila (Katrina Kaif) while underwater diving. In Laila’s wise company, Arjun overcomes his fear of swimming, begins to loosen up and accepts that there is a life beyond deal-making.
Khaabon Ke Parindey, composed by Shankar-Ehsan-Loy and sung by Alyssa Mendonsa and Mohit Chauhan, represents a moment of truth for Arjun and Laila. Arjun sets off in an open convertible with Kabir, Imran and Natasha on the next leg of their trip. Laila is headed to Morocco, but she impulsively leaps onto a motorcycle and catches up with the travellers. She has a short exchange with Arjun, kisses him, and leaves.
The subsequent song has the feel of a campfire melody sung during a life-altering college trip. Reeling from Laila’s spell, Arjun is stretched out in the car’s back seat, gazing at the sights around him with new eyes.
He looks back on the road behind him with joy rather than apprehension. He looks sideways at the Spanish countryside, as though seeing it properly for the first time. And he looks up towards the sky that is as open as his heart.
When Arjun breaks into song, it’s a private moment, unseen by the rest. He’s singing to himself, and he doesn’t need to break into a dance step to demonstrate his altered emotional state.
Laila’s easy-flowing grace, which has been gradually chipping away at Arjun’s uptight exterior, finally washes over him in the movie’s most affecting song. The editing montages match Arjun’s reverie, alternating between his exuberant visage and the picturesque landscape that is speeding by.
Zoya Akhtar had previously directed Roshan as a movie star in her feature debut Luck By Chance (2009). Roshan danced like a dream in that film, as he does too in the other songs from Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. His best move in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara is to barely move at all.