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15 March 2022

Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham (2001)

Directed by: Karan Johar
Music: Babloo Chakravarty,
Jatin–Lalit, Sandesh Shandilya
Aadesh Shrivastava
Lyrics: Sameer, Anil Pandey
Starring: Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan,
Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol, Hrithik Roshan,
Kareena Kapoor, Farida Jalal,
Rani Mukherjee, Alok Nath,
 Sushma Seth, Achla Sachdev,
Simone Singh, Johnny Lever,
Himani Shivpuri

Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham is just a 'pretty people doing pretty things' movie. The film became a cult favourite, and even if you have not watched it, you have seen enough memes and jokes about it to know that it is all about loving your family. I wasn't even sure I would write a review. Then, I thought, why not? Our masala loving hearts had thoroughly enjoyed this candy floss of a film, so here's a long review with plenty of quips and even more screenshots.

After the final day at college (where he won a cricket match for his college), Rohan Raichand (Hrithik Roshan) is visiting his grandmothers en route to his home.

Anu: I liked these two in the movie.
Shalini: Me too.  They're funny, though completely implausible as characters.
Anu: Plausibility? This is KJo we're talking about, no?
When Rohan overhears their conversation, he presses them to tell him why his elder brother is estranged from the family. We segue into a flashback. The Raichands, Yashvardhan (Amitabh Bachchan) and Nandini (Jaya Bachchan), had adopted Rahul many years ago. And then the story skips to ten years ago. [Karan Johar doesn't believe in timelines, so please don't try to do the math. Also, this is the Raichand 'house'.]

[Shalini remarks that Lata sounds awful, but the bhajan/title song is very effective. I think that it helps that she’s singing for Jaya. “Not really,” quips S.] Rohan (a much ‘healthier’ young Rohan) is busy scoffing laddus...

... and Nandini is waiting for her eldest son. Rahul Raichand (Shah Rukh Khan) makes an appearance – in a helicopter.

S: This is such a ridiculous moment, but it brings a lump to my throat, nevertheless.
I agree. It’s such a cheesy scene, but these two made it quite poignant.
S: That was an almost Dev Anand-ish entry
A: What's a Dev Anand entry?
S: Sideways. I burst out laughing.

Rahul spends the day catching up with Naina (Rani Mukherjee) a childhood friend, and bonding with his little brother over cricket and squabbling with him over his weight and whom their mother loves more. 

But Yashvardhan has more important matters to discuss with Son1 – it’s all about sanskriti, anushasaasan, parampara…

[We notice that AB seems to be overdoing the baritone, that SRK has puppy eyes (not as great as AB’s but very nice – we approve.]

Meanwhile, in Chandni Chowk, Anjali (Kajol) is celebrating India's cricket victory...

...while Rukhsar (Simone Singh), Anjali's friend, is being 'seen' by the groom's family. Cricket fanatics both, Anjali mimes the good news just as Rukhsar is being asked a question by the boy’s daadi (Shashikala). The groom’s mother is shocked. Who is Sachin?

We crack up as poor Saeeda (Farida Jalal) says, “Inka chacha, Sachin? Marhoom chacha Sachin?”
Back in the the Raichand mansion, a normal evening is geting very fraught. The clash between the old and the new, tradition and choice is beginning, foreshadowing what's to come. Meanwhile Anjali and Rukhsar are giggling over Rukhsar's ‘Ashfaq Mian’, who's a poet. Anjali is thrilled; after all, she's a bit of a poet too.

This leads to an amusing contretemps because Anjali mistakes Rahul for Ashfaq. Rahul and Rohan have been sent by Nandini with medicines for Saeeda. While Rahul is entranced by Anjali, Rohan is having a run in with Pooja (Pooja Ruparel), Anjali's sister.
S: I'm trying to understand what SRK is supposed to find irresistable about Kajol.  She's so irritating. While Anjali is celebrating her father's birthday, Yashvardhan is grooving to the beat at his own party. 

S: AB just owns every room he's in, doesn't he?
A: He does! But I love Jaya saying ' Bas keejiye, bahut ho gaya.' 
[We decide that Rahul has bad taste. He could have chosen Rani.] But Rahul is besotted with Anjali. Continuous visits to Chandni Chowk increase their acquaintance and though Anjali thinks he's after her sweet shop [S: Anjali is not only irritating, she's stupid as well!], she finally realises the truth. 

[We decide that SRK did romance very well indeed, but that beige is not a great look on him. But Karan is tuned into our feelings and quickly gives us... this.]
[Better than beige! quips Shalini, though  see-through shirts are not a great look on anyone. We decide that Kajol is also styled very well in this song, but has no grace, while SRK, though no dancer himself, is very graceful.]
Back home, Rahul is confiding in his mother about his love for Anjali, and downstairs, Yashvardhan is deciding his son's fate. Because parampara dictates that the son doesn't have a choice. 
S: AB being an idiot again. 
A: Yes, he was an idiot through and through.
S: The women don't get any say in anything.
A: Yes, the women are just ciphers.  
[We are also wondering how many times Nandini has to listen to "Keh diya na, bas!" before she has enough.] While we were discussing such grave and important matters, Rohan is being packed off to boarding school. Because... parampara.  
Matters come to a head when Yashvardhan publicly announces Rahul's engagement to Naina. [We agree that AB is being an idiot but man, he looked good, and his eyes still have the same intensity. SRK gets a good line. "Socha hai kab, papa?" And it says much about AB's skills as an actor that he's able to sell his disappointment in his son so sympathetically.]
A: But what emotional blackmail, no?  
S: Oh yeah, a despicable move. I'm just admiring the actor.
The scene that follows is powerful if replete with drama - a son who doesn't want to disappoint his father, and so decides to give up the girl he loves, until he sees her again. And SRK nailed it. 
S:  I don't understand why he had to marry her right then and there? 
A: Because he will not be able to go through with it if the father says no again? 
S: True. He really sells the 'Rahul grows up and becomes a man' moment.
It doesn't end well for the young couple. 
A: Poor SRK. He looks so lost.
S: Yes.  Truly unforgivable words by AB.
A: AB being a bastard. And he does it so well...
S: Indeed.
A: I like SRK's "Pal mein paraya kar diya" line.  So few words but they say so much.
S: Yes, they were powerful! But I like that the film places the blame squarely on AB.
[We both like that Nandini gives her son the comfort of knowing that he did the right thing.]
Rohan, learning the truth for the first time, makes a promise. He will bring his brother and sister-in-law back into the family fold. He successfully uses his father's parampara argument against him, and having found out from Rukhsar where his brother and family are right now, leaves for London. Where it appears London rolls out the red carpet for him.  [We get a nice masala scene where Rahul brushes past Rohan on a crowded London street. It had a very Manmohan Desai feel about it.] While Rohan is searching for his brother's on the Internet, we are about to get the classic 'heroine introduction scene'. But before that, we are distracted by the lovely sari Nandini is wearing in the huge portrait of hers hanging in Rahul's London home.
S: That does it. I'm going to blow up pics of myself and put hang them all around the house!
But... enter 'Poo'.

We like her attitude. She's sassy. And hilarious. And very mean-girl-ish. So when she runs into Rohan in college, she's curious - who's this guy who ignores her? [Shalini has a different question  - what is Hrithik wearing? And why?]

[There's so many things about the men's styling that made me wonder exactly that! I'm also wondering how their outfits change. Magic costume fairy, quips Shalini. We like that Poo is interested in Rohan because of how he looks. We are also glad that Karan Johar is an equal-opportunity objectifier.]

Rohan reveals his identity to Pooja, asking her to help him reunite his family. Poo does that by manipulating her sister into agreeing to let Rohan stay with them. Poor Rahul has no choice, though it is Rohan's pseudonym that persuades him - Yash. And so, willy nilly, Rohan is ensconced in his brother's house. 
It is a perfect masala scene to stop at... [Not to mention that we are only two hours into the movie, and this review is already over long.]

K3G worked because of the actors. And the silly humour, especially the dialogues between SRK and Hrithik, or Kareena and Kaajol, SRK, and Hrithik.

Amitabh Bachchan had another thankless role after Mohabbatein where, if the character had been any stiffer, he would have been a statue. It says much for his immense talent that he humanises a proud, arrogant man who cannot express his feelings for his son, or even admit he was wrong. And it is the mark of a great actor that he elevates the scenes he is in, making us feel for him despite his douche-baggery. 
In that final scene, he expresses his guilt and his repentance. [We like that he apologises to Rohan as well for separating him from his brother.] His apology to his wife is wordless, but so satisfying.

Jaya’s is a thankless role as well because all she had to do was play ‘Mother'.  But she brings out a mother's anguish at being separated from her son. She especially comes into her own in her scenes with SRK. Both are good actors and perhaps it helps that they are very close to each other in real life – Jaya has often said she would like to adopt SRK. 

If nothing else, Karan gets the mother-son bond very well indeed.
However cheesy and emotionally manipulative it is, works because there is a great ‘chemistry’ (an overused word, but it fits here) between the Jaya and Shah Rukh. As there is between her and Amitabh. 

Jaya also gets two very powerful scenes. The first, when Rohan comes home after learning the truth. It is clear that Rahul's absence has affected her marriage. Where before she stands on a stool so she can tie her husband's tie, or put a tikka on his forehead, she now silently waits until he bows his head towards her. You can see the steel in her expression. The second, in the final scene with her husband where she finds the courage to stand up to him. "Phir pati parmeshwar kaise ban gaya?" It's all the more effective because she's remained silent for so long.

It was impressive to see both SRK and a young Hrithik be able to hold their own in their scenes with Amitabh. SRK was, in our considered opinion, at the peak of his attractiveness here. 

This role is his forté - there's drama, there's emotion, there's romance, and there's humour. There's no one (except perhaps Aamir Khan) who can do the self-deprecating humour or romance the way SRK does. But we both agreed that despite the fact that the Kajol-SRK pairing is considered the greatest romantic pairing of this era, we both prefer him with Juhi or Rani. Despite the overdose of glycerine, especially for the men, he was equally effective in the emotional scenes. Specifically in the engagement announcement scene, which both Shalini and I agreed that Karan had blocked very well indeed. The reaction, the emotions, the staging were all pitch perfect. 

Kareena was a revelation – I had hated ‘Poo’ when I first watched K3G, but on this viewing, I warmed to her. Shalini agrees, "I know it's an unpopular choice, but I like Kareena the best in this movie. She seems to really "get" KJo and his style."  Poo is as much OTT as Anjali is, but Kareena carries it off better. Perhaps because she buys into that world, and therefore, makes it believable. Poo is so unabashedly sexy, so unapologetically shallow, and so direct in following her desires. 
She is also feminine, feminist, has a good heart and cares about her family. I have a greater respect for this character now than I did when I first watched the film. I can also see Poo grow into Geet or perhaps vice versa.
We also think it was good casting with little Pooja. She does resemble Kareena.   

Hrithik was so young, and trying so hard to emote. He kept flaring his nostrils which made us giggle but he was so earnest and so good looking.

But there is one scene where he leaves a mark - the one where he promises his mother that he will bring the laughter back. It's a son's promise, he says, and a brother's. That scene was very effective because he was so sincere. 
Kajol was the weakest link in this film - we don't know whether it was a combination of the writing and the way she perceived her character, but she was simply over the top in most scenes, a caricature of the 'fiesty Punjabi kudi.
S: Her clothes were the only good things about her in this movie. 

Karan Johar does old school masala very well; in that, he might be the true successor of Manmohan Desai. He is honest about the emotional manipulation in his films and is not afraid to go all out on the big emotions. What he needs however, is the services of a ruthless editor, who will trim the length (this films runs to a whopping 3.5 hours) and control some of his excessive tear duct manipulation. In the final reckoning, because I was watching this with Shalini and we were having so much fun commenting on everything from nostrils to glycerine, and the women’s saris and jewellery and why Amitabh always needed his screen wives to tie his ties for him (a.k.a all the important points), neither of us minded the length (much).

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