I hope I never wake up from lalaland.
This is when Bollywood knows what it's doing. This is when, as Suketu Mehta describes, it makes your insides churn in sympathetic lament. Mostly because we know Shah Rukh Khan's doomed Sunil is never going to get the girl; eventually, all the lies will catch up with him (and they do, rapidly, once the song ends). But it's that willing submission to a heavenly slice of escapism which we all indulge in from time to time - especially if we're sitting down to watch a Bollywood movie.
There are several interesting things about Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa, apart from it being the story of a loser who loses the girl. First, the setting is Christian Goa and most of the characters, apart from Sunil, are actively Christian. For a Hindi movie, this gives everything a quirky, off-beat vibe - suddenly all these Christian weddings, funerals, and cultural events seem exotic and edgy. Second, Naseeruddin Shah appears as the local priest - much to our surprise and delight, he sports an Amish-style beard which more than amply compensates for his weak chin (sorry, Naseer, but it is). Third, Naseeruddin Shah's awful-yet-oddly-attractive fictional son from Naajayaz, Deepak Tijori, also features - much to our humming and hawing and pretending we don't find him attractive. Fourth, apparently this same Deepak Tijori was a recent contestant on India's Big Brother! Hey, pop culture!
So Sunil (Shah Rukh Khan), as we mentioned, is apparently the only Hindu around and likes Anna (Suchitra Krishnamoorthi). Anna is kind of a ditz, with vacant eyes and an ever-present smile - but no matter. She is in love with Chris (Deepak Tijori) - is it because Chris is Christian, or is it because he's got that quivery look to his mouth that is kinda sexy (not that we at the PPCC think so)? Whatever her reasons, this is clearly an unresolvable love-triangle. Sunil doesn't let this stop him, though, since he can always use some good ol' fashioned lying to con his way into her heart.
But alas, alack, the course of true love never did run smooth... for LIARS. So Sunil loses the girl, gets kicked out of the band, and is inadvertently also hunted by criminals and pimps. Just to make matters even harder, he fails college - again - leading Dad to consider crushing his son's musical career altogether and banishing him to a lifetime of working in the garage. The local priest (Naseeruddin Shah) intervenes on Sunil's behalf, but to no avail. All seems hopeless until Sunil's ex-bandmates get a shot at the big time playing in some sort of Blues Brothers-esque Rawhide bar where the customers throw their beer bottles at you. Since Sunil is deeply sensitive, he understands that these violent customers need songs that speak to them, about their life circumstances. Being a pimp, after all, is a pretty tough life. So Sunil channels the powers of Dick Tracy and sudden inexplicably appearing sound-stages (complete with dry ice) to produce a smash hit and save the band from death-by-bottle. He also manages to make friends with the criminal dons who were previously trying to kill him. Phew, close one.
Bollywood meets Dick Tracy.
The band is grateful, but Anna remains cold. She is, after all, engaged to Chris now. As usual, Chris is a higher caste and hence there are some difficulties leading to the marriage - which Sunil takes advantage of to put his name in for a bid again. Yet Anna rejects him. Again.
With none of the human honesty from the earlier song, unfortunately.
Dammit, man, just give up. Sunil eventually does, since there's nothing anyone can do to convince Anna that his love is more worthy than Chris - even the lovely song, Vah To Hai Albela, sung by practically EVERYONE in the film, chorusing about how singular and delightful Sunil really is and if only some people (such as his father, or his crush) would frickin' recognize once in a while. Dum dee dum...
The performances in this film which are strongest are Shah Rukh's (somewhat surprisingly, his face was just more elastic back in The Day), Naseeruddin Shah's (unsurprisingly, I mean, come on), and the whole eclectic gang of supporting-the-supporting actors (including that one heavy guy from Devdas who cries a lot... you know who I mean). The songs are all uniformly entertaining, and the imagery is blithe and delightful. Particularly enjoyable was the way the director effortlessly mingled Sunil's fantasies with Sunil's day-to-day drudgery. We've heard people here and there nostalgize over KHKN, and there's certainly a vulnerability, bouyancy and freshness to Early Shah Rukh Khan that seems to be, if not fading, certainly getting re-packaged into a less spontaneous Media Product post-Y2K.