Sunday, June 27, 2010

Bollywood Movie of the Week: Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna

Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, 2006

It's Kinda Like: Not sure . . . the most tragic romantic comedy ever?

Directed by: Karan Johar

Produced by: Hiroo Johar

Starring: Shahrukh Khan, Rani Mukerji, Preity Zinta, Abhishek Bachchan, Amitabh Bachchan, Kirron Kher

Note: among those in the know, this movie is referred to as KANK. Yeah, no kidding.

This is sort of a blast from the recent past, with a huge all-star cast. But my Bollywood class is doing a song from it, so I thought I'd mentally revisit it. I saw this kind of awhile ago, and one thing stuck with me: its unusually high-contrast genres. There are parts of this movie that are outlandishly cheesy, and parts that are punch-someone-in-the-face tearjerky (I'm not big on the tearjerker genre ;o). Overall I'm pretty sure I enjoyed it, though they drag out that drama To Its Utmost. It's an earl(ier) directing effort by Karan Johar, and not his very best.

This film is packed with stars, all doing their starry best in roles that suit them. There's Shahrukh Khan, today's most (?) famous Bollywood star, playing the comic/tragic love interest to the solid and stolid Rani Mukerji -- rounding out the love square (?) are their spouses, respectively played by the adorably bubbly Preity Zinta and the charmingly petulant Abhishek Bachchan (do they call him the Little B?). Parents in the film are played by yesterday's favorite Bollywood action hero, now Bollywood's favorite dad and narrator -- here he is, everyone's favorite, the Big B -- Amitabh Bachchan, and everyone's favorite most huggable Bollywood mom, Kirron Kher. All the stars are out, and they're emoting up a storm.

With four essentially likeable people involved in the Love Square, the sad parts are that much sadder, and of course there's every Romantic Misunderstanding and Missed Moment that you could think of. (If you're studying to remount Love At First Sight, Jennifer Kah, this would be a great microcosm of Romantic Distress.) And yet it's that kind of movie where the main characters are so in love that their time together is mostly spent crying because they feel So Guilty For Being In Love.

But there's also comedy, my friends -- for what is Bollywood if not for everyone? Of course Shahrukh Khan's character is charming, irreverent, witty, ever the jester and gadfly (when he's not doing that thing he does where he's sucking air through his lips in a Brave Attempt Not to Cry -- I'll have to imitate it for you). And then there's The Big B, who plays his real-life son's father in the film. In what might be a parody of their actual relationship, Amitabh's character Samarjit Singh Talwar goes by "Sexy Sam," and keeps being discovered by his son in corners, canoodling with young white hotties, a different one every scene. (Whenever he appears onscreen, he gets his own "Sexy Sam" background singers in the score. Awesome!) And his outfits are HIGH-larious. See this highlarious turtleneck and fur-collar jacket? He wears this in this movie.

And the musical numbers are half cheesy sadness and half cheesy goodness. Here are the cheesy-goodness songs from this movie, which, though they seem to fall from nowhere, are nonetheless welcome for their unabashed wackiness.

First: the song we're doing a choreography to -- I include this YouTube clip which has the dialogue preceding it, exposing all the romantic entanglements in a nutshell. (And of course, the parents have a longtime romantic rivalry too -- here they meet at the sumptuous party and trade barbs -- she asks him, "Oh, is that your daughter?" and when he finally ends the conversation, the chick asks Amitabh, "Who was that?" he replies, "My mother.")The scenes preceding the song are only about half in English, but the body language is pretty universal, and sets up the rivalries better than a lengthy plot explanation could. (also, watch out for Sexy Sam! he's got his own the actual lines from this song: "Sexy Sam, Sexy Sam, wham bam, wham bam, thank you, Sam." No kidding, watch for it around 5:20 in this clip):

Now, wouldn't you guess that that song came from a COMEDY? But comedy is just tragedy that you laugh at, and they stop laughing for the second act. Even this song doesn't manage to tip the genre scale, and it's pretty awesome . . . . And now, here and blaring from clubs worldwide, it's everyone's favorite hilarious party anthem . . .

(even more hilarious: both likely "item girls" are in this movie already -- and Kajol is a surprise Item Girl in the first song posted -- so there's kind of an "item guy" here -- the DJ is John Abraham, muscle-man star of action films like Dhoom.)

And then watch the genres collide! That's Bollywood for you -- there's enough time to see both sides of everything. The complications from comedy become tragic. The lousy spouses might be nice people. The silly father becomes noble. Romantic gestures turn practical and vice-versa. Will love triumph? And will throwing popcorn at the TV make it happen FASTER, already? Find out when you watch it.

Verdict: Mixed . . . depends on your mood? There are so many great actors doing their thing that they're fun to watch. And if you like heckling, there's plenty of over-the-top tearjerking to heckle. Again, depending on your mood, it's either a fun romantic comedy that suddenly runs off the rails into the Grand Canyon dug by all that crying, or else it's a Sumptuously Tragic Romance that springs from a silly comedy. Definitely a solid example of that kind of Bollywood tragicomedy romance.

1 comment:

VishalB said...

I was searching for some trivia on Spaghetti Westerns when I landed up on your Sholay review. I've since ended up reading nearly half-a-dozen reviews, and loved them!

While there's been this vague awareness that Indian movies are being seen more in the West, I just assumed it was due to the expatriate Indians. Didn't expect such dedicated white viewers!
Love the analytical yet affectionate way in which you treat the subject.

Like many other urban Indians of my generation (am in my 20s), I grew up watching Seinfeld and Friends. In the street-cred-crazy world of teenage, it was cooler to be associated with Hollywood than Bollywood. But Bollywood has drastically improved over the past few years. In both form and content, there are a few movies every year that can give any film worldwide a run for its money. Try Dhobi Ghat if you haven't seen it yet. It's not as over-the-top Bollywoody as you would've come to expect, but it's very well made.

If you continue on your Bollywood journey, you'll eventually start to like the Golden-era late 50s-early 70s movies, that were grand spectacles (e.g. Pakeezah, Mughal-e-Azam). But getting subtitles could be a problem.

Excellent blog :)