By: Taran Adarsh, IndiaFM
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
The wait has finally ended!
Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna has generated tremendous heat within and outside the film industry. It's not the star cast alone that has resulted in unparalleled, unmatched and unprecedented craze for the film. It's also the person seated on the director's chair that makes Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna special. Very special.
With Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, his directorial accomplishments, Karan Johar has set such high standards that an all-important question crosses your mind as you walk into the screening: Will Karan surpass his own achievements with Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna?
Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna is also an acid test for Karan for yet another reason. It's the first time that Karan has changed tracks. Agreed, the supremely talented director has tackled romance and relationships in the past, but Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna goes a step further. It takes a bold look at relationships and makes an equally bold statement on the institution of marriage.
Just don't expect Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna to be a typical candyfloss entertainer. Or an archetypal fare that Bollywood is known for. In those 3.06 hours/22 reels, Karan packs in some solid stuff. And the conclusion to the story is bound to hit the orthodox elements hard. A film like Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna is sure to have its share of advocates and adversaries no doubt, but it's a film that has the courage to say what it believes in.
There are bound to be comparisons with films of similar genre. But let's put certain myths to rest at the very outset. The story revolves around two couples, but it's not Closer [Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Clive Owen], it's not Sisila either. The speculation should end there. Karan's take on relationships is fresh, bold and innovative. It takes you by surprise. It shocks you as well. And it's also trend-setting.
Frankly, a film like Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna is akin to a big gamble. The subject matter has to be treated cautiously and delicately, or else it can boomerang badly. It might even hurt the sensibilities if entrusted in wrong hands. But Karan's skilled directorial abilities take the film to a different level altogether. The film charters a novel path as it progresses and gets bolder gradually.
In a nutshell, Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna bears the unmistakable stamp of a genius -- Karan Johar. The master storyteller only polishes his skills further, proving yet again that he's a forward-thinker and also, a progressive storyteller.
Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna narrates the story of two families -- Sarans and Talwars -- both not connected to one another. But circumstances bring them together. Dev Saran [Shah Rukh Khan] has an uneasy and troubled relationship with his wife Rhea [Preity Zinta] and son Arjun [child artist Ahsaas]. He resents his wife's growing success and in the process, ends up turning all his anger towards his loved ones.
Maya Talwar's [Rani Mukherji] relationship with her husband Rishi [Abhishek Bachchan] is layered with a lot of self-doubt and question. She is unable to whip up enough passion for Rishi and is disappointed that her love for him does not match her own expectations of what it ought to be. This dilemma pulls her further apart from him, thereby causing a strain on their marital life.
One fine day, Dev and Maya's path cross each other...
Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna starts like a nice romantic drama, with Abhishek getting married to his childhood sweetheart and SRK talking to his wife about the $ 5 million deal after he has won a game of soccer. But minutes later, the film does a 180-degree turn and establishes the friction between the two couples.
The tension between the couples surfaces gradually, but reaches the crescendo 20 minutes before intermission. The spat between SRK and Preity on one hand [Preity: "I wear the pants in this house"], followed by the heated argument between Abhishek and Rani [Abhishek: "You can't even bear a child"] is amongst the most remarkable portions in the film. These sequences hit you like a ton of bricks!
It's not that the first half is laced with tense-filled moments. In fact, the first hour-and-a-half has light portions in abundance. Amitabh Bachchan's philandering lifestyle provides ample moments of laughter and of course, eye-candy, what with some gorgeous firang babes jumping out of the closet.
In the post-interval portions, infidelities occur, betrayals are discovered and the couples' worlds go upside down. The sequence at the dinner [Sr. Bachchan hosts a sit-down dinner on Kiron Kher's birthday], when SRK expresses his feelings, or when SRK opens up to Preity and Rani to Abhishek about the affairs are master strokes from the writing and execution point of view. Note another scene: SRK waiting with a bouquet of roses for Rani and by a sheer coincidence, Preity walks in at that time at the signal crossing. This sequence [it depends on treatment alone] deserves distinction marks.
The end is powerful, but disturbing. Disturbing for those who believe in the age-old traditions. The film moves about in a serpentine fashion. Just when you thought that the couples have decided to go separate ways, there's another twist in the tale and yet another, in the end.
Karan Johar takes colossal strides as a storyteller. Films like K.K.H.H. and K.K.K.G. were the tip of the iceberg. Karan's take on relationships and marriages is refreshingly different because there's tremendous identification with the characters. You see it happening all around you these days. Technically too, this is Karan's finest work to date; he balances style and substance beautifully.
Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna is not a date film and the writers [Karan Johar, Shibani Bathija] spell it out at the very outset. The screenplay balances the two extremes -- light moments and dollops of emotions -- with amazing ease. The relationship between the couples or even those between the parent and child [the Bachchans] is delicately handled. If there are moments that move you to tears, there are ample moments that bring a smile to your face as well. Another noteworthy aspect is its forthright dialogues [Niranjan Iyengar]. The lines sound straight of life and there also exist a host of interesting observations. Yes, the film is talky, but in a smart way. You never feel that the characters are talking to hear their own words or to fill up screen time.
Anil Mehta's cinematography is awesome. The film has been filmed in New York and the lensman captures the various seasons and colors with gusto. The outcome is easily comparable to the best in Hollywood. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy's music is melodious. 'Mitwa', 'Rock N Roll Soniye' and 'Where's The Party Tonite' appeal also due to the vibrant choreography [Farah Khan]. The styling and the production values are topnotch. Editing could be tighter. A bit of trimming, in the first half mainly, would only sparkle the film further.
In Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, the actors get a chance to shine and no one shines brighter than Shah Rukh Khan. Let's just state one thing here: This is SRK's finest work after D.D.L.J. His sequences with Preity specifically, when the couple has their spats, or in the climax, when he just stares at Rani from inside the train, proves that he's undoubtedly the best in the business. The ferocity with which he delivers his lines and the restless energy he imparts to his character electrifies every scene that he's in.
Rani is remarkable yet again. In fact, if you consider BLACK to be her most memorable performance so far, then watch her in Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna. This surpasses her work in Black or Veer-Zaara and Paheli. Her makeup as well as her overall appearance is tremendous. She's never looked as good before!
It would be unfair to describe either Abhishek Bachchan or Preity Zinta's performances as 'lesser'. Abhishek is brilliant, especially when he gets serious towards the end. His penultimate sequence, when he gives a golden advice to Rani, is outstanding. Preity not only looks gorgeous, but the dedication to her role shows at vital points. Her penultimate scene with Rani, when she confronts her at the marriage reception, is fabulous.
Amitabh Bachchan is in superb form. The naughty streak that he displays soon disappears in the second half, when he realizes that something is amiss. In fact, his expressions at the dinner first and also in the hospital only reiterates the fact that he's an icon. Kirron Kher excels in a brief but significant role. Arjun Rampal looks perfect for the part. Kajol and John Abraham [both appear in songs] add to the glamour quotient. Child artist Ahsaas looks cute and acts well.
On the whole, Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna is an outstanding film from the writing, performance and execution point of view. It has style, substance, it takes challenges and doesn't follow formulas -- and that is its biggest strength. At the box-office, the film will embark on a hurricane-like start, establishing new records in days to come. The first weekend will be superb, while the weekdays [15th and 16th August are also holidays] will result in a record-shattering first week billing. With no opposition in sight for the next few weeks, Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna will have a dream run at the box-office. Its business in Overseas will also be remarkable. Has the potential to prove the biggest money spinner in this territory.