Monday 20 August 2007

Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham... (2001)

Likening Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (Sometimes Happy, Sometimes Sad, or just K3G) to one of its leads, Hrithik Roshan, pretty much sums it all up.

Like Hrithik Roshan, K3G is goodlooking but bland. It's also a bit of a one-trick pony, as we basically spend three hours watching various family members tear up while the K3G theme plays and re-plays again... and again... and again... Sure, the theme is lovely. We always think the title theme to Karan Johar movies is lovely. And while we actually are quite capable of hearing it coupled with Shah Rukh Khan's tears for the nth time for, oh, maybe an hour or so, three hours is just a little much.

Also, Hrithik has two thumbs on one hand, brrrr. K3G doesn't even have that going for it!

And what's with the ambiguous emotional core? My homies in Iowa know what I'm talking about. Johar tells us the film (and presumably life) is "all about loving your parents". OK, fine. But then apparently respecting their (sometimes destructively stupid) wishes is better than working things out; even when you hurt them by doing so! Apparently ten years of forced, tearful separation is preferable to just going, "Oh, Dad... come on..."

So welcome to the Raichand family, who are so rich they succeeded in uprooting Blenheim and moving it to India. There is Yash (Amitabh Bachchan), the pater familias, grim and tall but not afraid to get his boogy on from time to time. There is his loving wife, Nandini (Jaya Bachchan), who doesn't believe in speaking up but thinks rather a few good tears will do. There is adopted, eldest son, Rahul (Shah Rukh Khan), who is betrothed to similarly-financed Naina (Rani Mukerji) but who actually falls for the zesty, salt o' the earth Chandni Chowk-dwelling Anjali (Kajol). There is also a very tubby and adorable little brother, Rohan, who grows up into three-thumbed Hrithik Roshan, and Anjali's saucy little sis, who grows up into Kareena Kapoor (spare us!).

The songs, surprising for a Johar movie, are all pretty bad-ass. Here is something zesty and full of life.

When Rahul brings Anjali home, intent on getting Mom and Pop's blessings for marriage, he is rudely turned away. Yash towers above him, declaring in his booming voice that there is no way in haaaaa-il he's OK with the marriage, and if they still want to get married, they have to move far, far away. Nandini cries, unhelpfully. The K3G theme plays. Rahul begs not to be thrown out, bringing up all the long-buried torments of being adopted. Yash, however, stands firm.

Fast forward ten years: little Rohan has shed all of his baby fat and grown an extra thumb. With boringly handsome looks and a boringly chiselled body (yawn), he learns (via thunderclaps for effect) whatever happened to his older brother and that Anjali girl. Intent on reuniting the family, which is clearly suffering, he finds out that they're in London. Off he goes to London where, just to soothe any xenophobic and/or post-colonial anxieties, a rousing nationalist song welcomes him.

Man, this is loaded for interpretation. Yes, Hrithik has some dancing skillz.

Rohan decides that the best way to confront this broken branch of the family tree is by insinuating himself into their home, using his skinniness as a disguise. This works (?!) and he gets to play on the ambiguity of his background to learn everything from tearful Rahul's side of things. Like the parents, Rahul and Anjali are desperate for a make-up. And while Rohan is busy orchestrating this (inevitable?) reconciliation, he falls for Anjali's younger sister, Pooja (Kareena Kapoor), a girl who can't seem to decide whether she wants to be warm-hearted and maternal or a total skank. (Perhaps that's every girl's dilemma... in mainstream Bollywood's eyes...) Pooja goes to a swanky English college filmed at... Blenheim. Again. OK, now this is just getting silly.

Rahul and Anjali get their romance on.

What can we say? The movie is glossy and clearly attempting to worm its way into our hearts. Yet the title theme, Shah Rukh Khan's damp eyes, and ambiguous message do not a heartfelt drama make. Rather we're left with only the superficials of Johar: the ridiculously lavish surroundings and further wet dreams of luxury, the mingling of diaspora elements while (desperately?) trying to keep a traditional Indian core, the generally forgettable pop soundtrack. (Actually, we quite enjoyed these songs - much more so than Kal Ho Naa Ho and Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna.) Generally, however, we preferred KANK to this, which spoke to us, man. This just fell flat, and all the superstars - Shah Rukh, Amitabh, Jaya, Kajol, Hrithik... - just seemed to mingle around, sometimes crying, sometimes also crying.


Beth Loves Bollywood said...

K3G does very little for me, and I find Amitabh's character so excessively arrogant and dinosaur-y that I can hardly handle even watching the songs. It does have its moments, though, and, as my friend Abby says, Shahrukh has, a wonderful collection of non-shirts in that Egypt song.

I'm very fond of some parts of KHNH - like "Pretty Woman" and "It's the Time to Disco" (because, duh, it totally is) - and I really, really like Saif Ali Khan no matter what. But...I think I'm just KANKed on all these things.

But will this stop me from watching retiring FPMBF Akshaye Khanna on Koffee with Karan? No! Months late, yes, but avoid completely, no!

PS Are you really from Iowa? I need some more midwestern Bollywood-watching pals. Everyone's all east or south or west or whatnot.

a ppcc representative said...

"Dinosaur-y" is a PERFECT way of describing post-Angry Young Man post-80s vacuum Amitabh!

Alas, unfortunately I'm not in the Midwest (though I love Chicago!), I'm indeed on the East Coast and soon (as in two weeks from now) the PPCC is actually moving house to Fiji (!!).

Beth Loves Bollywood said...

Yeah, what's up with post-80s Amitabh? Except for B&B and Nishabd (I know, I know, but I actually thought he was really good in it), I can take or leave him - usually leave. Snore. Did you hear he's doing an English-language version of King Lear with Preity Zinta? I can't wait for that.

I like Chicago mainly because 1) it has kickin' architecture, 2) it has a good supply of Hindi films, both in shops and on the big screen, and 3) two of my best friends live there. Nice place to visit but I definitely don't want to live there (I'm a town-not-city girl at heart). Fiji, though - wow!

Ami said...

I guess growing up in a "bow to the wishes of your parents or else.." culture makes me appreciate this movie very much. It speaks to me in a big way. I bawl like a baby on my 6th watch in exactly the same scenes E.V.E.R.Y. friggin time. I never dare to watch it with anyone for fear of freaking some sane people out.

Gaja Gamini said...

Oh gosh I am SO happy to read this review. Almost thought I am the only one in thie world who did not like it. In fact just today I wrote a review of this - and don´t want to come near it ever again....

BTW I LOVE this blog!