Saturday, August 12, 2006


It’s the world of desis in New York. Where it’s cool for a guy to call his father “dude” and where the dude in question brings his hookers to his son’s bed room. But in the same world a mother can’t be called “babe” even when the mother in question has her butt slapped by the lascivious dude.

In this world, are marriages still sacrosanct? That’s the question Karan Johar asks in Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, and attempts to answer to the best of his ability. Even in its progressive veneer, a few cracks are discernable, but more on that later.

KANK is about two discontented couples. Dev (Shah Rukh Khan), crippled in an accident, resents his wife Rhea’s (Preity Zinta) wealth and success. Maya (Rani Mukherji) goes into a marriage with her benefactor’s son Rishi (Abhishek Bachchan) with severe doubts, and then proceeds to treat him like a pariah.

As Dev and Maya befriend each other and then start confiding their marital woes, they come closer. At first each tries to help the other repair the crumbling marriage, but end up falling in love. In a social set up like the one portrayed in the film—modern, wealthy, presumably progressive— characters in this predicament probably wouldn’t go “no this it not possible, our relationship has no future” guilt trips. Both have enough grievances to leave their unhappy marriages—which they do after some long-drawn out drama, but the inevitable end is still miles away. Some ruthless cutting would have done KANK no harm, and would have saved the audience the irritation of watching yet another departing train climax. Why don’t characters simply get on the phone and say halt.

Still, it’s nice to see a career-oriented character like Rhea, who is not apologetic about her success, though she does turn down a promotion that involves a transfer. It’s a sign of maturity to deal with sexual incompatibility as a ground for problems in a marriage; to admit that perfectly nice people can have broken relationships. Still, there is a bit of disapproval towards for Rhea who rubs her husband’s failure in his face. An elderly widower (Amitabh Bachchan) can have a rocking sex life; an elderly widow’s (Kirron Kher) role is limited to playing grandma. A divorced man moves on rapidly, a divorced woman prefers to play mother than move to a new relationship.

What Karan Johar has succeeded in doing is come up with some highly effective scenes— the confrontations between the couples; the cheesy but audience-pleasing scene of the two women walking towards Dev together—but on the whole the film, with a script full of short-cuts, leaves you a bit cold. Not many really heart-tugging moments, but the one in which Maya has a frank talk with her father-in-law is subtly moving.

Abhishek Bachchan has the best written part—and he brings out the anger, love, puzzlement his character feels, without hitting any false notes and without making Rishi look like a cuckolded fool. Rani Mukherji also uses her eyes effectively to portray her pain, and create sympathy for the unpleasant, uptight character she plays. Shah Rukh Khan, and Preity Zinta are excellent too. However the senior Bachchan can chew up the scenery with just a twitch of the right facial muscle.

The film looks stunning (Anil Mehta’s camerawork) and everything from the styling of the actors to the interiors is tasteful. Karan Johar has been brave enough to tread on what is still shaky ground for Hindi cinema —though one would expect that audience fed on regular doses on infidelity and hanky-panky on TV, is not that easily shocked or shaken any more.


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