The story follows three friends, Arjun, Kabir, and Imraan who have been inseparable since childhood. They set off to Spain on a bachelor trip and meet Laila, who falls in love with Arjun and helps him overcome his problem of workaholism. Kabir and his fiancée experience significant misunderstanding in the meanwhile, which they soon overcome. As part of the trip, each friend chooses a dangerous sport for the group to partake.
The music and score was composed by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy with lyrics by Javed Akhtar. Initially expected to hit theatres on 27 May 2011, the release of the film was pushed back to 24 June, and once again to 15 July due to technical glitches in post-production. The film had a worldwide release in 1800 screens and was a critical and commercial success. It grossed ₹1.53 billion (US$24 million) worldwide. After its theatrical run, the film was nominated for and won several awards in various categories, including two National Film Awards.
The film opens with Kabir (Abhay Deol) proposing to Natasha (Kalki Koechlin). Their families meet at the engagement party where Natasha learns that Kabir is planning a three-week bachelor road trip to Spain with his school friends Imran (Farhan Akhtar) and Arjun (Hrithik Roshan). Kabir explains that the three have a long-standing pact, and that during the road trip, each of them will have to pick an adventure sport which all three will try together. Initially, Arjun is reluctant to take trip as he does not want to lose his pay for missing work. It is later revealed that Arjun's former girlfriend left him due to his workaholism and his obsession with money. Imran has an additional secret agenda on the trip, to find his biological father Salman Habib (Naseeruddin Shah), an artist in Spain, about whom he learnt soon after the death of his step-father.
They fly to Spain separately and meet in Barcelona. They decide their schedule, where they plan to visit Costa Brava, Seville, and Pamplona. On the way to Costa Brava, Imran and Kabir find it annoying that Arjun works even during the trip. Imran nonchalantly throws Arjun's mobile phone out of their car while he is in the middle of an official call. This leads to a heated argument. Arjun, in a fit of rage, accuses Imran of having an affair, four years prior, with Arjun's previous girlfriend Sonali (a topic which was very sensitive both to Arjun and Imraan). After being pacified by Kabir, they eventually resume their journey. Upon reaching their destination, they meet an Anglo Indian named Laila (Katrina Kaif) on a beach. Imran flirts with her and makes Arjun jealous. Kabir reveals that he has chosen deep sea diving as their first sport, and they later find that Laila is their diving instructor. Arjun, who cannot swim and is aquaphobic, receives assistance from Laila. She helps him overcome his fears and finish the sport successfully. Upon a request by Laila, they attend the La Tomatina festival with her in Buñol and meet Nuria (Ariadna Cabrol), who falls in love with Imraan. Meanwhile, Natasha becomes suspicious of Kabir's involvement with Laila when she sees them via webcam and crashes his bachelor party trip, much to Kabir's discomfort in front of his friends. Imran spends time with Nuria, and Arjun with Laila. After the boys leave, Laila realises she has fallen in love with Arjun and chases them on a bike, not wanting to regret their partition if they do not meet in future. She and Arjun express their feelings for each other with a passionate kiss.
On the way to Seville, Kabir drops Natasha at the airport, while Arjun and Imran notice that something is wrong between them. Imran later reassures his friends that everything is okay. The trio visit Seville for sky diving, Arjun's choice. During the task, Imran is forced to confront his acrophobia and hesitates to take part. However, they complete it without any obstacles. After skydiving, the three men go to a bar and get into a fight with a stranger on whom they had tried to pull a prank. They are jailed after the fight. After Laila and Nuria do not answer their calls to bail them out, Imran reluntantly proceeds to call Salman Habib. Salman bails them out and takes them to his home. While speaking to Imran, Salman reveals that he never wanted the responsibility of a married life with kids, while Imran's mother did, which is why he never contacted Imran. Imran, heartbroken, realises how his actions must have hurt Arjun four years back. He earnestly apologises to Arjun, and Arjun, seeing the genuineness of the apology, forgives him with a hug.
The trio learn of the bull run in Pamplona, which is Imran's choice — baffling Kabir and Arjun. Imran calls up Laila, who comes along, surprising Arjun. When confronted by his friends, Kabir confesses to the other two that he is still not ready for a marriage, and that Natasha had gotten the wrong idea (of him proposing to her) on seeing the ring that he had bought for his mother as a birthday present. On the morning of the bull run, Imran suggests they make a pact to make a promise if they survive the event. Imran vows to publish his poetry (which he has penned down in his private diary), Arjun vows to go to Morocco with Laila, and Kabir promises to tell Natasha that he does not want to marry her. As they complete the event, the friends gain a renewed sense of their relationships with each other, with others they know, and with themselves.
During the credits, Imran, Kabir, Nuria and Natasha are shown attending the wedding of Arjun and Laila in Morocco. Natasha is seen with a new man, and Kabir and Natasha are still friends. Imran's poems are revealed throughout the story after each sporting event showing that he had published them.Hrithik Roshan as Arjun Saluja
Abhay Deol as Kabir Dewan, Natasha's fiancee
Farhan Akhtar as Imran Qureshi, Salman's biological son
Katrina Kaif as Laila
Kalki Koechlin as Natasha Arora, Kabir's fiancee
Ariadna Cabrol as Nuria, Laila's friend
Naseeruddin Shah as Salman Habib, Imran's biological father
Deepti Naval as Rahila Qureshi, Imran's mother
Anisa Butt as Tanya Arora
Ravi Khemu as Kabir's Father
Suhel Seth as Natasha's Father
Raaghav Chanana as Nikhil
Anupam Kher as Fasel Qureshi, Imran's step-father and Rahila's husband (deleted scene)
The scripting of the film, tentatively titled as Running with the Bulls, was completed in November 2009 after three months of work. Zoya and Kagti incorporated real life observations, and specially wrote the character of Imraan for her brother Farhan Akhtar. Akhtar wrote the dialogues for the film. The theme of the film was "about three guys on the verge of making commitments in life", according to him. They used Javed Akhtar's poetry as a voice-over because they felt the poetry adds depth to the character and lends voice to their feelings. A special poem inspired by a fan's poem was penned down for Katrina's character, after she was cast in the project. The first choice for the location of principal filming was Mexico, but was later changed to Spain since the climax features running with the bulls and Zoya wanted a country that blended history, culture and sports. The release date of the film was rescheduled thrice because the originally selected editor, Chandan Arora, fell ill and they had to redo the editing.
Initially, Imran Khan and Ranbir Kapoor were supposed to play two of the three leads, but they declined because they wished to star together in their own production. Farhan Akhtar, Zoya's brother had worked with her in her debut film Luck By Chance, and was also the dialogue writer of the film, hence Zoya felt that he would know what she exactly wanted from the film. He was the first actor to be cast in the film. He defined his role as a "fun character" and a "guy who for the longest time takes nothing seriously." Hrithik was chosen for another lead role, since he was a favourite actor of hers. After finalizing the two, she needed someone "who could not just fit in with them visually but also bring something new to the table." She sought Abhay for the role, as he was her friend and had worked with her before in Reema Kagti's Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd.
For the role of Laila, Zoya wanted someone with an "accent", who would be willing to do scuba diving, and was a half Indian and half Caucasian girl. A lot of girls were auditioned for it in New York and London. Later, in a party, she met Katrina Kaif, and chose her. Her role was reportedly described as "a free- spirited girl, a wanderer at heart and a bohemian gypsy by nature." Zoya had wanted to work with Kalki ever since seeing her in Dev D and That Girl in Yellow Boots. She felt that Kalki would fit the bill for the character of Natasha, since she had "the sense of comedy, but not over the top." Ariadna was chosen for the role of Nuria, since she was liked for her work in the 2009 Spanish film Eloise. The full cast of the film was confirmed by April 2010.
The principal shooting of Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, which began in June 2010, took place in Barcelona, Pamplona, Buñol, and Andalusia in Spain, the UK, Egypt and Mumbai. Cinematographer Carlos Catalan, who had worked with Zoya in Luck By Chance, wanted all three actors to appear tanned because he "didn't want everything glossed over" and wanted to make the film as realistic as possible.
Katrina's introduction scene was shot on a nudist beach. During the filming, they requested that beach-goers stay out of the frame so that the film would not face objections from the Indian censor board. The La Tomatina festival of Buñol was re-created for the song "Ik Junoon". Almost sixteen tons of tomatoes worth ₹10 million (US$160,000) were flown in from Portugal for the shoot. A scene involving a kiss between Hrithik and Katrina was shot even though the couple were initially reluctant to do so. The filming of the song "Señorita" took place in Alájar, a town in the province of Huelva. The crew warned the locals about the song's volume because the shooting took place at night. In the third day of shooting, the locals came dressed in costumes, and the mayor of Alájar joined them for the shoot. The climax of the film, which features the Encierro, was shot at Pamplona. The final schedules were at Vashi and Alibag in Mumbai in December 2010.
Composer trio Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy composed the soundtrack for the film, who had also collaborated with Akhtar in Rock On!! and Karthik Calling Karthik. The lyrics were written by Javed Akhtar. For the vocals of the flamenco song "Señorita", the trio roped in Maria del Mar Fernández, a Spanish flamenco singer, in what was her film singing debut. The song also marked the singing debut of Abhay Deol, who rendered the song along with the other two leads, Hrithik Roshan and Farhan Akhtar. The soundtrack met with positive response following its launch from critics, and garnered a significant notice in the music charts.
The trailer of the film was revealed with the prints of Ready, and released online on 15 May 2011. Excel Entertainment teamed up with Aircel to make promos of the film available on mobile and Internet. The trailer got over 55 million views within 48 hours of its release. Two more promos, one for the song Ik Junoon and one for the song Senorita, were released on 27 May. The music launch and promotion event took place at Nirmal Lifestyle, Mulund, Mumbai. The promos of Khaabon Kay Parinday and Dil Dhadakne Do were released the following week. Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani visited Facebook India to promote the movie. A press conference promoting the film was held on 1 July at Chandigarh. Two dialogue promos of the movie were released on 3 July. The cast and crew embarked on a road trip from Mumbai to Delhi on 7 July via Surat, Vadodra, Ahmedabad, Udaipur, Ajmer and Jaipur that culminated with a concert at Gurgaon. It is believed that British Auto manufacturer Land Rover, which is now owned by Tata Motors, sponsored the Land Rover Discovery driven by the cast members during the trip. A premier at the 12th IIFA Awards was planned before the worldwide release, but it was not executed.
The film's marketers released branded promotions with Mountain Dew, Gillette and ING Vysya Bank.
The official game for Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, based on the La Tomatina festival, was released by Jump Games on 19 July 2011 and made available for all leading mobile platforms.
OPIUM Eyewear launches its exclusive Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara Sunglasses and promoted the movie. Taking inspiration from the movie, a marketplace for safe adventure activities - Huntfactor Adventures was launched in Manali in 2015.
Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara was initially scheduled to release on 27 May, but was postponed to 24 June and further to 15 July 2011. It released in 1800 screens worldwide. A special screening of the film was shown at the residence of Shahrukh Khan on 16 July, the birthday of Katrina Kaif. The event was attended by several celebrities besides the film's cast and crew themselves. However, the Shiv Sena criticised the event as it was held three days after the 2011 Mumbai bombings. The producers of the film donated a cheque containing the collections of the film from around 10 theatres in Mumbai to the Maharashtra government as a mark of charity to the victims of the blasts. On 24 March 2012, ZNMD was screened exclusively at the Bucks New University in High Wycombe, UK.
The DVD of the film was released on 30 August 2011. It is available in Dolby Digital 5.1 and Stereo formats with English and Arabic subtitles. The Blu-ray disc is also available.
The film garnered mostly positive reviews from critics. Based on nine reviews, review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 100% with an average rating of 8.1/10.
Pratim D. Gupta of The Telegraph called Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara "a beautifully scripted journey of catharsis" and praised director Zoya Akhtar for being "fearless in the way she shoots". In his review for Hindustan Times, Mayank Shekhar praised the film as "a game-changer for Hindi films since Dil Chahta Hai, and wrote "What you take home are memorable, amusing moments of three truly adventurous amigos we've all grown up with. And will continue to" giving it 4 stars. Shivesh Kumar of IndiaWeekly awarded the movie 4 stars. Taran Adarsh of Bollywood Hungama gave the film 3.5/5 stars, calling it a film for "a more evolved, mature and cinema-literate audience that's geared up to embrace and support newer genres of cinema." Nikhat Kazmi of The Times of India gave the film 3.5/5 stars and lauded its lead performances: "If Abhay is the anchor of the group, Farhan's funster role is full of beans and Hrithik's metamorphosis from uptight, money-minded stock broker to carefree vagabond is a class act."
S Chatterjee of NDTV, gave the film 3/5 stars and maintained that the film's philosophy is quite old and praised Zoya Akhtar's direction, stating "Zoya Akhtar, by investing the tale with a delightful lightness of touch and dollops of gentle wit, brings a degree of freshness to bear upon the plot." Shaikh Ayaz of Rediff rated the film 3.5/5 stars and felt that Zoya Akhtar had put together a familiar plot but the film's fresh energy is entertaining. He wrote, "Akhtar's invigorating characters pump in fresh energy into a film that could have been strictly mediocre". Kaveree Bamzai of India Today, too was full of praise for Akhtar's direction and said "By the time I finished watching Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara I was convinced that no one can make a romance as beautifully as a woman", giving the film 4 stars.
Film critic Subhash K Jha rated it 3.5/5 and quoted : "Zoya, God bless her aesthetics, sucks us into the beauty of the moment, not giving us any reason to believe that life's most precious truths are swathed in squalor." Blessy Chettiar of DNA India, noted the music of the film and Farhan Akhtar's acting as highlights of the film: "For all this, the storywriters use heavy doses of symbolism. Deep-sea diving at Costa Brava, sky-diving in Sevilla and the San Fermin bull run in Pamplona, not to forget the Tomatina festival in Bunyol, where Arjun finally lets go. Fears are drowned, let open in the sky and finally at the mercy of raging bulls", he wrote, giving it 3 stars. Rajeev Masand of CNN-IBN stated, "Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara takes the light-hearted tone of a fun, all-boys road trip through Spain to give you a deep and heartfelt message on why we should live life by seizing the moment and following our hearts." He also praised the performance of the cast, highlighting it as one of the main positives of the film, but points out that the film's length "sucks some fun of out of the ride" and gave a rating of 3.5 stars. On the contrary, Raja Sen of Rediff held that the film "tried too hard to be cool" and gave it 1.5/5 stars.
Ryan Gilbey of The Guardian was broadly positive about the film: "It's still playing to full houses, and you can see why. Slick it may be. But tourist board employees representing the various Spanish cities flattered in the movie are not the only ones who will come out grinning.", though he found the movie "stubbornly un-macho" for a buddy film. The National reviewer Kaleem Aftab, in his 4 star review, noted "Throwing together road trip, romcom and buddy-buddy action in a single picture may sound like an ill-conceived masala mash-up, but like any good dish, the ingredients are blended together with affection to create one of the best feel-good movies of the year." Big lover of movies, Samirit Banik(Audience) said that ' It is a film which deserves a standing ovation, beautiful film, loved it'
In India, the film was released along with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2. It opened well in the multiplexes, as the occupancy ranged from 70 to 100 percent, despite receiving average opening in the single screens except in the metro cities. The film grossed ₹525 million (US$8.2 million) in its opening three-day weekend, including ₹73.9 million (US$1.2 million) its first day, and a net total of ₹265 million (US$4.1 million) on the third day. After ten days of worldwide run, it grossed ₹1.08 billion (US$17 million). In 17 days, it grossed over ₹700 million (US$11 million) in India. With no significant competition other than Singham, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara remained No. 2 at the box office for 4 weeks after its release. It was one of the highest grossing Bollywood films of 2011 in India and internationally. The film was declared a super-hit in India and Overseas territories.
Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara grossed ₹120 million (US$1.9 million) overseas in three days, which made it the biggest opening for an Indian film in 2011. The film reached top-twenty lists in the US and UK. It grossed £896,289 in UK, $3,103,656 in USA, $387,384 in Australia and $136,380 in New Zealand. As of January 2012, the film has grossed $7.25 million overseas.
The film grossed ₹1.53 billion (US$24 million) worldwide, surpassing Hrithik's Dhoom 2 in the worldwide gross, becoming the ninth highest worldwide grosser of all time for a Bollywood film, as of October 2011.
After the release of the film, PETA objected to the bull running scene in the film and sought support from fans via their Twitter page to ban the film. PETA spokesperson Poorva Joshipura spoke about the event and said "We will now be contacting the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and Central Board of Film Certification to take action." The film's producer Ritesh Sidhwani, retorted by saying "We had submitted all the papers to the Animal Welfare Board India that stated that none of the animals were injured or hurt in any way and only then, the censor board cleared the movie. We are only showing the culture of Spain." Spanish-American artist Charo sent a letter to Zoya Akhtar on behalf of PETA requesting her to remove all the scenes which related to the running of the bulls.
Post theatrical run, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara won two awards at the 59th National Film Awards in the Best Audiography and Best Choreography categories. Noted regional ceremonies had the film winning several awards, mainly for the 'Best Film' and 'Best Director'. These included the Filmfare Awards, Stardust Awards, Zee Cine Awards, IIFA Awards, NDTV Indian of the Year Awards, Screen Awards, Apsara Film & Television Producers Guild Awards and the Asian Film Awards.
Following the film's release, Zoya Akhtar expressed an idea to make a sequel of the film. Speaking about it, she said "You never know, I might or may not make a sequel. It all depends on the right content." It has been reported that the characters are expected to reprise their roles in the sequel, if it is officially launched. In an interview with the Hindustan Times, Hrithik expressed an idea for the basic plot of the sequel. He said that it could be set five years after ZNMD and that the original characters would have grown older, having a reason to go on another trip. It has also been agreed upon that a proper script is required, as it is not a part of the "commercial field" of cinema. However, no official confirmations have been made regarding the sequel, despite requests from many viewers. After the IIFA ceremony, Farhan Akhtar commented that there was "no necessity" for the sequel. Later in 2013, in an interview with Hindustan Times, Zoya Akhtar expressed interest in scripting for the sequel after completing the shooting of her next film Dil Dhadakne Do released in June 2015.