Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna
Considering that Karan Johar’s previous films(both his directorial efforts and his productions) reinforced – maybe even banked on – Indian traditions and values, Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna is a brave change of track for him. While his trademark touches make sure that the presentation is sugarcoated, the film still works as a difficult look at the affairs of the heart.
The film’s biggest surprise is its characterization. When someone (especially when that someone is portrayed by a big star) strays in a marriage, we’re used to sympathizing with that person. We’re used to believing that they were driven into the arms of another by an unloving or uncaring spouse. That’s not the case here. SRK and Rani clearly are the guilty ones. While he is a bitter, egotistic man not able to come to terms with his not being the “man of the house”, she is a woman who is unable to reciprocate the feelings of someone who genuinely loves her. They are the ones who come off looking bad in arguments with their spouses.
Preity and Abishek are, on the other hand, good, decent individuals. Preity initially comes off as one of those work-obsessed women but she gets to justify that pretty convincingly in a couple of scenes. And she makes it clear what her priorities are. Abishek doesn’t have even that problem of explaining him. He is this cute, adorable, loving guy who any gal would love to have as her husband. Their initial banter about having an affair reveals their honesty too, apart from being ironic considering the later turn of events.
So when SRK and Rani are questioned by Preity and Abishek about the affair(in 2 terrific scenes, especially the one between SRK and Preity), SRK and Rani are the ones who are speechless and are unable to justify their actions. They know – and we know – that they have erred.
Johar has this grand, operatic touch that is not suited for a human drama of this sort. His characters look great, are always immaculately dressed and meet at these great locations with nobody around. That worked for fun, fantasy-like movies like KKHH and K3G but here it makes things rather impersonal. And that’s not good for a story like this. There are a lot of emotions but the movie isn’t emotional and we watch the proceedings with a sense of detachment. And then you have characters like Amitabh’s Sam, who are a step away from being a caricature. Veering between being over-the-top and delivering moralistic lectures, the character never lets us take the movie seriously.
On the other hand, Johar’s touch is perfect for the light-hearted initial portions. There are some very funny set pieces, like the confusion in SRK’s and Rani’s houses when they think Abishek and Preity are having an affair, that feature nice choreography, dialogs and editing. Rani’s S&M appearance too is hilarious even though we know exactly what’s coming. These are sequences that make me wish Johar would, just once, make a full-length comedy, without all those darn sentiments getting in the way.
The way the screenplay proceeds towards the end reveals Johar’s mindset. He has taken a harsh theme but is unable to deal with it harshly. So the movie goes on and on until he is able to fashion what he feels is a happy ending where all the characters come off looking nice. But there is an overload of sentiments, some of them being gag-worthy.
SRK, looking quite old, hams it up as always. He always overacts but a serious film like this brings it out more(as compared to, say, an over-the-top, fun movie like Main Hoon Naa). Rani looks gorgeous but she is just required to look sad most of the time. Abishek has no problems portraying the ‘perfect husband’. Preity’s character is not as well-defined as the others but she definitely has the best lines. Amitabh makes his character enjoyable even if not convincing. Songs definitely have a hangover from previous Johar films but are picturized well. Rock n Roll Soniye… and Wherez the party tonite… are great dance numbers and Abishek shows off from rather cool moves. Mitwaa… and the title song are nice melodies that manage to be catchy too.