Don’t blame Karan Johar (KJO) for not warning you.
As the credits roll and Karan Johar’s name comes up as the director, the voice-over says, prophetically:
“Waqt ke saath kuch zakhm aur bhi gehra ho jata hain” [Some wounds get deeper, as time goes by]
“Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna” is one such, inflicting increasing doses of pain and grief on the audience and sinking into deeper morasses of banality with every passing scene.
Now here’s the tragedy. It need not have been this way. Unlike Karan Johar’s previous movies which, no matter how he cooked it, would still be aesthetic turkeys since they were devoid of plot and characterization in the first place, “Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna” had the potential to be different. At least on paper.
What could have been an interesting movie about a middle-aged man, morbidly bitter at the fact that he ‘never made it in life’ , engaging in an extramarital affair so that he can feel successful, wanted and young again is reduced to an endless nightmare of contrived situations, convenient resolutions, copious tears, cornucopian cleavages, clichÃ©d climax and corny comedy.
There are two reasons for that.
First is KJo himself. This man is incapable of seeing the world of real men and women—-he always seems to wear rose-tinted, soft-focussed, Mills and Boon and Harlequin-romance– speckled glasses. Which is why believability is the first thing that gets defenestrated in his movies.
And I am not talking about the Amitabh Bachchan character giving Red Ferrarris as ‘gifts’. After all, having watched the Scottish castles and the shuttle helicopters in Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gam, I wasn’t even considering the designer clothes, the obscene opulence of these supposedly ‘ordinary’ people—after all this is a Karan Johar movie and not Mrinal Sen’s.
I am talking about the believability of the characters and the situations they land themselves in. Consider the situation where Shahrukh Khan (Dev) and Rani Mukherjee (Maya), trapped in problematic marriages decide to help each other in solving their respective marital problems by sitting on a bed in a furniture store and making out so that they could go home, repeat the acts with their spouses and save their marriages.
And you thought Shane Warne’s attempts to get his failing marriage on track by asking his mistress to seduce his wife and do a threesome as perhaps slightly crazy.
Then of course, there is the sex scene between Shahrukh Khan (Dev) and Rani Mukherjee (Maya), where each of them look like grumpy poodles caught in the rain. (Incidentally the characters in this movie may have Ferraris but they don’t’ have umbrellas. For which they are always wet). That scene with the rustling of the bedsheets and the fireplace in the background was the nadir of the clichÃ©s that are strewn all over the movie. You can almost hear a “romance novel’ commentary going on:
Dev stretched his hand out in the dark. His fingers sought out Maya’s as they snaked towards him. Their bodies intertwined. With each touch, they tried to heal the other’s pain by giving a part of themselves away, ultimately melting into each other as they together attained a crescendo of sadness, soldered by the white-hot passion of their tear-drenched caresses.
Yes it’s that bad.
As Shahrukh Khan says (albeit in a different context)
I was embarrassed doing some scenes of this film, I felt shy doing them.
Yes Mr. Khan. We felt equally embarrassed watching them.
Talking of bad, it would be a crime not to mention the pathetic attempts at comedy as manifested through the character of Amitabh Bachchan, an Indian Hugh Hefner whose cringe-inducing, sexual ‘her’-‘ass’ment-bordering joke of calling Kiron Kher’s ample posterior as ‘Chandigarh‘ (presumably a pun on the “garh” part) should have sent Le Corbusier twisting in his grave.
Not to speak of the ridiculous side-plot of the ‘Black Beast’—-a child-kidnapper who is introduced as someone who could be either a man or a woman. Which I presumed was the context for Karan Johar to make a guest appearance.
Which brings me to the second reason why the movie fails.
With the inevitability of old Faithful Geyser, he comes up with yet another lip-snarling, voice-quivering, eye-closing, head-shaking, scenery-chewing performance which is so overwrought that it brings down the entire cast with him. As in almost all his movies (except ‘Swadesh’) SRK is SRK, the hero, and not the character he is supposed to be playing. [Watch the opening sequence of the movie where as a soccer star taking a penalty kick, we see the stadium huge-screen TV just showing SRK’s eyes. If this isn’t the super-heroization of a character, then tell me what is]
Which is more the pity because the other actors do try their best. Rani Mukherjee has a very poorly defined character but still does a decent job. Preity has very little screen-time and mercifully underplays her character. Abhishek Bachchan does no harm to his reputation as the best actor of the post-Khan generation and is the only person in the whole mess who looks really believable.
However each of them is caught in cinematic quicksand—-the more they try, the more they get dragged in.
There are other smaller issues—for a director who prides himself on originality and opposes the Hindi film industry from being referred to as “Bollywood”, KJo sure does copy sorry internalize many sequences from other movies—-like the first meeting of Shahrukh with Rani (Meet Joe Black), the ” I am taking this bed” line in the furniture-store make-out scene (paraphrased from ‘ I will have what they are having” from “When Harry Met Sally”) and Abhishek Bachchan asking Rani Mukherjee about her love-making with Shahrukh Khan( “Closer”).
But then again, compared to the basic flaws of the movie, such gripes are indeed petty.
In conclusion, despite having its moments (few and far between) and despite holding some amount of promise, “Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna” totally fails to be anything more than yet another money-spinning product from the dream machines of the Yashraj-Johar factory—vacuous, body-beautiful, bookishly sentimental, full of sound and fury.
And yet, as Shakespeare would say—– signifying nothing.
[“Random Thoughts of a Demented Mind” turns two today. Yep. It’s two years to the day I wrote my first post.
My ! How time flies when you are not watching a Karan Johar movie.]