By Subhash K. Jha, Indo-Asian News Service
Film: "Kabhi Alvidaa Na Kehna"; Starring: Amitabh Bachchan, Shah
Rukh Khan, Rani Mukherji, Abhishek Bachchan, Preity Zinta, Kirron Kher;
Director: Karan Johar; Rating: ****
Sometimes you hold a film close to your heart not because the
characters embrace you, but for the opposite reason.
The four protagonists who colonise Karan Johar's marital romance are
so distanced from their spouses and their dormant desires, you wonder
why they got married!
Or, why any two people decide to opt for what many would say is an
obsolete institution in the first place!!
"Kabhi Alvidaa Na Kehna" (KANK) is indeed a definite sign of Karan
Johar's maturation as an artiste and a filmmaker. This is a film that
derives its inspiration energy from Karan's favourite filmmaker Yash
Chopra's interesting but abortive "Silsila".
Even more interesting is the casting... the role of the unfaithful
husband played in Chopra's film by Amitabh Bachchan has gone to Shah
Rukh Khan. A cranky bitter failed footballer Shah Rukh uses his wounded
ego as a battering ram to destroy his marriage to the career-driven and
yet domesticated Preity Zinta.
So far so cool! It's Abhishek Bachchan playing the utterly devoted
husband's role done by the dependable Sanjeev Kumar in "Silsila" who
hits the most honest notes.
KANK showcases the biggest Bollywood stars in roles of fatally
flawed spouses that normally would shake up the egoistic equilibrium of
Hats off to Shah Rukh Khan for moving away from his Peter Pan image
to play a husband and father who's churlish and unreasonable -
believably so. Shah Rukh imbues the tough role with his inherent charm,
playing off his character's bitter sarcasm against the two female
protagonist's supple femininity.
Rani playing Abhishek's cold cleanliness-obsessed wife who comes
alive in Shah Rukh's company is the toughest character to play. A lot
of eyebrows are going to go up at her unpredictable and often cruel
rejection of a caring doting sensitive (etc, etc) husband for an
embittered sharp-tongued man who projects his frustrations on his wife
and timid 10-year-old son.
Walking the tightrope of caprice and unreasonableness, Rani plays
the most challenging role of the film with a calm conviction that
collects the scattered lives in this New York-based drama, into a clasp
of classy emotions.
But why is her relationship with her husband dead when he's equally
good in the head and the bed?
Some of the comic moments among the principal actors are evoked in a
borrowed giggle... The sequence where Rani barges into her home with an
eye mask determined to try some rough-and-tough stuff on her husband,
is straight from the serial "Sex & The City'.
But the emotions remain largely and gently indigenous. KANK is a
triumph of star-driven opulence. If at heart it's a clever take on
infidelity, on the surface level it remains to the end a very good-
looking film. Every technician from Anil Mehta (cinematography) to
Sharmishta Roy (production design) to (Niranjan Iyenger (dialogues) and
Javed Akhtar (lyrics) has striven passionately to furnish Karan Johar's
mellow-drama with a bedrock of aesthetic believability. The film looks
glossy and glamorous and yet believable.
Some episodes (for example the prelude where the bride Rani Mukherji
sits chatting with a complete stranger Shah Rukh while her groom-to-be
waits inside for the wedding) acquires unintentionally surrealistic
The search for true love (an ongoing obsession in the cinema of Yash
Chopra) takes the characters of KANK into self-destructive areas of
self-indulgence. Fortunately Karan Johar's journey into forbidden
territory is far more smooth and satisfying than his characters'
Karan Johar redeems and sublimates them through deft fingers that
knit the pastiche of pain and passion into palatable episodes of
varying sensitivity. Finally, the film moves the adulterous couple into
the 'safe' zone of self-sacrifice and martyrdom where they'd have
remained were it not for the couple's respective spouses (Abhishek and
Preity) getting together to encourage the 'forbidden' union.
It's hugely interesting to see how Karan Johar bends the rules and
reverses conventions. While Abhishek plays the devoted sincere husband
and son, his wife Rani and father Amitabh Bachchan are cold and
raunchy, respectively. Indeed Bachchan Sr's spirited performance as
'Sexy Sam' brings the house down.
But junior Bachchan in his anguished vulnerable moments with his
screen wife Rani steals the show.
A shimmering showcase for exceptional talent, KANK reveals the truth
about marital disharmony through vibrant and vital vignettes. Not all
the pieces of the trendy jig-saw add up. But who said the age-old
problem of marriage had easy solutions?
In his latest creation Karan Johar goes into a taboo territory. But
we don't come away after looking at fantasy creatures. Each of the
characters, from the chic magazine editor Rhea Saran (played with
endearing equanimity by Preity Zinta) to her earthy and practical mom-
in-law (Kirron Kher, who shares a wonderful platonic relationship with
'Sexy Sam')... the criss-cross of relationships formed among a clutch
of anguished Indians in New Yorkers besieged by domestic trouble,
refuse to leave your mind.
Love them or hate them. You can't easily forget these capricious and
full-blooded characters looking for love in a cold but non-judgemental
city of New York.
Love never seemed more desirable... and unobtainable. There's only
one death in KANK, besides, of course, two dead relationships.
Bollywood.com Rating: 3
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