KABHI ALVIDA NAA KEHNA (2006, d. Karan Johar)
Mush master Karan Johar’s latest three hour-plus opulent extravaganza is a rather embarrassing attempt at a serious subject matter - in this case, infidelity. A topic rarely covered in mainstream Hindi cinema, but nonetheless treated with far more sensitivity and maturity in past films (such as 1981’s Silsila - ‘The Affair’) than Johar has seen fit to unleash upon the public here. Johar’s previous movies have been accused of being too ‘candyfloss’ and featuring insufferably nice and all-too-perfect characters. This moodier drama is presumably his retort, but Johar seems to equate imperfection with downright nastiness rather than simple shades of grey. You’d be hard pressed to find a single sympathetic character in Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (’Never Say Farewell’), what with everyone wallowing in their own self-pity as their respective relationships crumble inside their swanky New York apartments that even the cast of Friends would struggle to afford.
The darker narrative is equally as difficult to take seriously thanks to the frequent undercutting of some truly cringe-worthy comedy sequences – mostly involving Amitabh Bachchan as ‘Sexy Sam’, a shag-mad pensioner whose favourite pastime is bedding prostitutes (all non-Asian, of course). The rest of the cast have a hard time escaping this one with any dignity also – in particular Shah Rukh Khan, who reaches an all-time hamming high, and Preity Zinta, who is as vapid as ever. Only Rani Mukerji manages to salvage some empathy with a typically restrained and heartfelt performance. Karan Johar’s earlier films may have been frivolous fluff all right, but they were at least entertaining and full of heart. KANK is just painful, self-indulgent and pretentious claptrap. Stick to the candyfloss next time, Karan – for all our sakes.
“Wish I wasn’t here”: Rani cringes alongside the Big and Little B in KANK
For fans of KANK (and there’s plenty despite my take on it), the DVD on offer from distributor Yash Raj Films provides excellent audio, a fair selection of extras and adequate subtitles. Unfortunately though, the video has been subjected to the dreaded Blue Tint Effect that’s been marring Indian DVD releases over the past couple of years (see ‘Bollywood’s Got The Blues’ in DVD Info). Still, for once it’s appropriate - it’s a colour that reflected my mood upon viewing the film.